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6 Alternate Styles of Restaurants to Try in Japan

Ramen and sushi are the most iconic foods of Japan. They are the face of Japanese cuisine, so to speak, and the first food that visitors of Japan try once they land. But did you know there are lots of alternate restaurants that you can visit other than Sushi-ya and Ramen-ya (restaurants specializing in sushi and ramen)? If you want to taste all that Japan has to offer while gaining a well-rounded experience, you should definitely try some of the other types of specialized cuisine restaurants in Japan. Here are six alternate styles of restaurants to try.

 

1.Okonomiyaki-ya

Okonomiyaki is a dish that, if you mention Osaka, the Japanese person that you are talking to will ask “Have you tried okonomiyaki?” This is a dish of Osaka (but there is also a Hiroshima version featuring pan-fried noodles). Okonomi means “as you like,” so it’s literally a savory pancake made however you like it. Many of the okonomiyaki-ya are styled so that the customers cook the savory pancake at their own convenience. It’s topped with cabbage, okonomiyaki sauce, mayo, seaweed (aonori), and bonito flakes. It’s like takoyaki, but with some fried noodles for those who try it Hiroshima style.

 

2.Soba-ya an Udon-ya

 

If you can’t get enough of the noodles, the Soba-ya and Udon-ya are good alternatives to Ramen-ya. As you can guess by the name. Soba-ya and Udon-ya specialize in soba noodle dishes and udon noodle dishes. Soba is a thin noodle typically made from buckwheat flour. These noodles are usually served hot and in a broth but can also be served chilled and with dipping sauce. This style of soba is called zaru soba and it’s popular during summer months. Udon is a thick noodle which is great with カレー (kare) or curry. That brings us to the next option.

 

3.Curry-ya

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Curry 1: Curry from Coco Curry. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ9s8RZnPXi/?taken-at=69406505

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Kare-ya 2: Another example of curry from CoCo Curry. Photo source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ_IYgmBXw1/

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Kare-ya 3: Two varieties of curry. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BQ_IYgmBXw1/

Kare-ya specializes in delicious curry rice and tends to be a popular style of restaurant among children and adults alike. Curry is usually made by mixing curry powder, flour, and oil along with other ingredients. Then it is added to stewed meat and/or vegetables and poured on top of rice. A popular kare-ya is Coco’s Curry. It can be found pretty much everywhere in Japan. Curry first appeared on Japanese menus as early as 1877 and has grown to be a dish that many people love almost as much as what Japanese people describe as the “soul food” of Japan–gyuudon.

 

4.Gyuudon-ya

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Sukiya Gyuudon: Gyuudon from the gyuudon-ya Sukiya. Photo Source: https://www.sukiya.jp/en/

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Matsuya Gyuudon: A bowl of gyuudon from gyuudon-ya Matsuya

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Sukiya Cheese Gyuudon: A bowl of cheese gyuudon from Sukiya.

Gyuudon one of many kinds of 丼ぶり (donburi) or rice bowls that exist in Japan. Gyuu (牛) simply means cow or beef, so gyuudon, as you may have guessed, is a beef bowl and it is absolutely delicious. There are three major gyuudon-ya that reign supreme over the gyuudon-ya market and those are Yoshinoya, Matsuya (松屋), and Sukiya (すき家). Foreigners aren’t sure if it’s the deliciousness of the cheese gyuudon or if it’s actually just the jingle brainwashing you, but Sukiya is very easy to miss once you’ve left the restaurant. You’ll surely be back for another bowl…or two.

 

5.Unagidon-ya

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Unagidon 1: Beautiful bowl of unagidon. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BcbXCManWcs/

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Unagidon 2: Unagidon from Honke Shibato. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BJrSEvQDMu8/

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Unagidon 3: Unagi close up. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BGWgyzZMK7n/

For those who’d rather not eat meat and are more of a pescatarian but also want something other than sushi or sashimi, unagidon-ya is a great option. If you guessed that it is another donburi, then you guessed right, but before you go googling what kind of fish unagi is, let’s first establish that even though the face (and thought) of this fish isn’t appetizing at all, it is actually quite delicious. Unagi is freshwater eel. It’s regarded as luxury food or is otherwise a bit on the expensive side but, it’s definitely something you should try at least once.

 

6.Teppanyaki-ya

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Teppanyaki : vegetables grilling. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BccA3XvD5-W/?tagged=teppanyaki

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Teppanyaki 3: Kobe Beef on a Teppanyaki grill. Photo Source: https://www.instagram.com/p/BcSFsNploc9/?tagged=kobebeef

The most expensive of the restaurants is the teppanyaki-style restaurant. That is because in the teppanyaki-ya category, falls the expensive but incredibly delicious Kobe Beef (which actually does melt in your mouth, by the way). Typically, customers will sit at a bar-style table surrounding a grill where the chef prepares the meat according to customer preference. The really cool ones will do fancy tricks to entertain guests. Premium beef known as wagyu is expensive, likely because there aren’t many cows in Japan. The really good stuff is rare to come by, but when you do, it’s an experience to remember.

There are plenty of other types of restaurants in Japan, some of them including sukiyaki-ya, shabu shabu-ya, and tempura-ya. It’s encouraged to look around and explore everything including the various types of restaurants in Japan and the food that they offer. Perhaps you will find a new favorite go-to food or something to switch up the pace for a little while. You’ll never know until you try. But one thing’s for sure, it starts with branching out to something totally new. So take the time to explore some of the different types of Japanese restaurants and see what pleases your palette.

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