There are so many articles about Japanese food on the internet, but most of them only give you knowledge and not the actual comments by the Japanese. Have you ever seen any dishes that the Japanese actually eat every day? Here are every single detail of day to day Japanese meals with actual photos posted by the Japanese.
Typical Japanese day to day meals for all seasons
First of all, let me give you some examples of Japanese day to day meals for all seasons. As you can find on the internet, here are some popular dishes that the Japanese like to eat:
Kareraisu (Curry rice)
Kareraisu (curry rice) was introduced to Japan by the British during the era of the East India Company. The British brought back Indian curry by ship, and during their voyage they added flour to it to make the curry less fluid and it would not spill even if the ship swayed (refer to this Japanese site). The Japanese introduced this British curry instead of the original Indian curry.
The Japanese still love this curry and many of them eat it very often throughout the year. It’s both eaten at home and outside.
Ramen (Chinese noodles)
Ramen is derived from Chinese noodles. There are various theories on its origin, but one of the leading theories says that the wife of the Japanese owner of a Chinese restaurant in Sapporo (Hokkaido Prefecture) named it from the word “le” (了 – I think it means “done” in Chinese) that the Chinese cook said whenever the food was ready (refer to this Japanese site). As you might know, there is no difference in “L” and “R” in the Japanese language and the word “le” became “ra.” “Men” means noodles in general, hence “ra-men.”
This is one of the most loved food in Japan and many Japanese eat it every day. There are many different styles of ramen and most prefectures have their own styles. Ramen is usually eaten at restaurants, but you can cook it for yourself too.
Nimono (simmered vegetables)
Nimono (simmered vegetables) is one of the most typical home-style dishes in Japan. Although there are several different styles of nimono from region to region, the most popular nimono has shiitake mushrooms, potatos, carrots, lotus roots and pork, and is seasoned with soy sauce and sugar.
Some izakaya restaurants (Japanese tapas bars) serve nimono, but it’s usually cooked at home and not something you eat often at restaurants. This is another very popular food in Japan that people eat often.
Hambagu (Hamburger steak)
Hambagu is another most popular dish in Japan. Most kids love this, and parents cook it for their children. It’s derived from Hamburger steak and the Japanese eat it with rice (yes, with rice).
I think this is the least “tweaked” Western food in Japan. Other yoshoku (Western) dishes the Japanese introduced are quite different from the originals.
Soba is brown noodles made of buckwheat and popular in East Japan. Udon is thick noodles made of flour and mainly eaten in West Japan. The both noodles are usually eaten with soy sauce based broth, but there are a lot of variations such as fried udon without soup and soba with dipping sauce.
You can put various vegetables or meat in soba and udon. Popular ingredients for both soba and udon are pan-fried tofu, leek, ginger, raw egg, seaweed, fish cake etc. (If you feel it’s gross to eat raw eggs, read this article because Japanese eggs are safe to eat.)
While people eat soba and udon at restaurants, they are very easy to cook and people cook them for themselves too.
Karaage (deep fried chicken)
Karaage (pronounced like “kara-ah-gay”) is deep fried chicken and most people, from children to adults, love it. Parents serve karaage for lunch or dinner, and you cal also eat them in izakaya restaurants or normal restaurants. Usually karaage is seasoned with soy sauce and garlic, I think.
I’m getting hungry now…
Tonkatsu (pork cutlet)
Tonkatsu, pork cutlet, is another Western style Japanese food. It doesn’t look Western at all to me, but it looks like a Western style restaurant in Tokyo first served this dish as “pork cutlet” according to this article in Japanese.
There are deep fried meat dishes in Germany called “Schnitzel,” so I’m guessing that the Japanese restaurant adopted the Schnitzel or something similar as their menu.
“Ton” means pork (豚), and “katsu” is the Japanese pronunciation of “cut” of “cutlet.”
This is very popular and people cook it for themselves often.
Tempura (deep fried vegetables/shrimp/meat)
Tempura is a very traditional Japanese cuisine and is a popular homemade dish, but can also be eaten at restaurants. Tempura are usually dipped in “tentsuyu” (soy sauce based sauce) or simply eaten with salt.
You can fry whatever ingredients you like, from all sorts of vegetables, mushrooms, chicken, fish, squid to shrimp. You can even fry eggs.
Well, there are too many fish dishes to describe them all, but fish are very popular in Japan as you can imagine. Especially boiled fish like in the above photo, baked fish and fried fish are popular. The above photo is “buri daikon,” which means “Japanese amberjack (buri) radish (daikon).”
As for the kinds of fish, the following is popular:
Sashimi is popular for regular diet too.
Typical Japanese meals for summer
Summer in Japan is HOT. It’s like 35ºC (95ºF) every day, so people crave cold, light food that are easy to digest. Here are some typical summer dishes.
Somen/Hiyamugi (cold noodles)
Somen and hiyamugi are the most popular Japanese summer cuisines I think. They are both made of flour, and the biggest difference between them is their thickness. While somen is very thin, hiyamugi is as thick as spaghetti (or slightly thinner).
Hiyamugi comprises of two words: Hiya and mugi. Hiya means cold, and mugi I think means flour (komugiko). I’m not sure what somen means. “Men” obviously means noodles, but what about “so”…? The Chinese character for “so” is “素” which means plain, so maybe somen means “plain noodles.”
There are many variations of somen and hiyamugi, but simple somen/hiyamugi like in the above picture is the most popular. You can simply put boiled noodles in a bowl, pour water into it, add ice and dip the noodles in the cold soy sauce based broth. Why add water? Because noodles get dry and warm while eating. Once you pick up some of the noodles, you should hold your chopstick over the bowl and wait until the water stops dripping.
You can add vegetables, raw/boiled egg, pork or anything you like.
Hiyashi chuka (cold Chinese noodles)
Hiyashi chuka is another cold noodle dish for summer. Hiyashi means chilled, and chuka means Chinese. As the name suggests, Chinese noodles are used for this dish and thus it tastes different from somen or hiyamugi. Chinese noodles are the same kind of noodles that are used for ramen.
Unlike somen and hiyamugi, you don’t pour water into the bowl. Instead, the sauce (soy sauce and oil based sauce) is already poured over the noodles, and ingredients such as cucumber, ham, tomato and baked egg are put on them.
You can cook it at home, but it’s popular at many restaurants in summer.
Typical Japanese meals for winter
Although winter in Japan isn’t as severe as summer in many regions, there are more warm foods than cold foods.
Here are five popular winter dishes in Japan.
Oden is the most popular Japanese winter dish and you can even buy freshly cooked oden in most convenient stores. There are several hotpot dishes and it’s hard to describe the differences between each of them, but oden is seasoned during the course of cooking and you don’t add any extra sauces when you eat (you can add mustard though). Oden also uses bigger ingredients like whole eggs, thick-cut radish, fish cakes etc. compared to other hotpot dishes.
There are many nabe (hotpot) dishes, but they are collectively referred to as “nabe.” Unlike oden, you can use smaller ingredients such as sliced leek, enokidake mushroom (thin mushroom), Chinece chive etc., and you are to dip them in a small bowl with soy sauce and vinegar based sauce when you eat.
You can use whatever ingredients you like for nabe. Some people even use sausage and cheeze!
Shabu shabu (boiled meat and hotpot)
I think shabu shabu has grown popular throughout the world, but this is another traditional hotpot style winter dish in Japan. Each country has its own hotpot dishes I think, but what makes shabu shabu unique is that you cook pieces of meat in a boiling pot on the table for yourself and eat each piece once it’s done. It’s not someone cooks and serves the completed dish. The one who serves only cuts the ingredients (vegetables and meat) and puts them on the table so that everyone can pick up what they like and boil it for themselves.
Once the meat or the vegetable is cooked, you will dip it in various sauces. Usually shabu shabu sauces are based on soy sauce.
Japanese people eat Western style stews in winter too. Usually it’s either hashed beef or milk stew (they call it “kuriimu sichu” – cream stew) and people pour them over rice. Yes, over rice. I’m not lying because the above picture was taken by a Japanese. The Japanese basically eat everything with rice. They eat Western steak with rice. They eat omelet with rice. They eat Hamburger steak with rice too. Well, it might be tasty, but it’s not for me…
Sukiyaki is similar to nabe or shabu shabu, but the biggest difference is you soak cooked meat and vegetable in stirred raw egg. The ingredients are cooked in the pot all together, and the broth is seasoned with soy sauce and sugar. The thick salty-sweet broth will become milder when you dip the vegetable/meat in egg.
I know, many of you can’t take it, but read this article about eating raw egg in Japan. Raw eggs in Japan are safe to eat as long as you buy them at proper stores (I wouldn’t recommend to eat eggs raw if they were laid by domestic chickens and not properly sterilized).
Do the Japanese really eat sushi every day?
Now, what about sushi? Do the Japanese people eat sushi every day?
No, they DON’T.
Think about it… Do you eat roast turkey every day? Do French eat full course dinner every day? I bet not because these are no regular diet but they are special meals. The same goes for sushi. Sushi is not regular diet and the Japanese don’t eat it every day.
Sushi is expensive and usually eaten on special occasions. The Japanese hardly make sushi for themselves at home nor eat it at restaurants every day.
Here are some tweets from the Japanese about foreigners assuming that the Japanese eat sushi every day:
「日本人は毎日寿司を食べているのか？」という今じゃアメリカ人にもバカにされそうな昔あったステレオタイプ。けど近所のインド人家庭から毎日美味しそうなカレーの匂いがしてくると「まぁそう思う人が居たのも不思議じゃないかも」と最近思う。ていうか毎日食べたいよ寿司。— ヨーヘイ/Animator (@YoheiKoike) May 18, 2021
Quick translation: “It’s such an outdated stereotype like ‘do the Japanese eat sushi every day?’ which even Americans laugh at today, but when my neighboring Indian cooks delicious smelling curry, I feel like ‘well it’s no wonder people used to think that way.’ I want to eat sushi every day.”
フランス人「毎日フランス料理食ってねーよ」— ねくまろコピペ改変bot (@nekumarobot) May 13, 2021
Quick translation: “French: ‘I don’t eat French dish every day’
Japanese: ‘I don’t eat sushi every day’
Tokyo: ‘I don’t eat soba every day’
Aomori: ‘I don’t eat apple every day’
*It looks like this is an internet meme and people add stereotyped regional foods after the fifth line. Soba (buckwheat noodles) is popular in Tokyo and apples are mostly produced in Aomori Prefecture.
初対面でイタリア人に「日本人ってクジラ食べるの本当？」「福島は今どうなってるの？」などの質問をもらうことが多々あって面食らう。— marie（聖絵） (@aie1488) May 12, 2021
Quick translation: “I’m stumped by complete Italian strangers who keep asking me ‘do the Japanese really eat whale?’, ‘what’s going on in Fukushima now?’ and ‘do you eat sushi every day?'”
「日本人は全員、朝・昼・晩、毎日寿司食ってる」と思い込んでるアメリカ人を見たら、想像力貧困なひとだなぁ、こいつバカだなぁ・・・と思うことないんだろうか。— TrinityNYC (@TrinityNYC) July 25, 2011
Quick translation: “If you saw Americans who assumed that every single Japanese would eat sushi three times a day… wouldn’t you think they are stupid and don’t have any imaginative power?”
まあ日本人だってそんなに寿司食べないしな… いや食べられるものなら毎日のように食べたいけども— 右渓 (@migitani) March 16, 2021
Quick translation: “Well even the Japanese don’t eat sushi often… Of course I want to eat it every day if I can”
So most Japanese want to eat sushi every day, but they can’t because sushi is expensive and it’s not something you can eat at home every day.
Japanese meal photos on Twitter
Now, what do the Japanese people really eat every day then? I have already given examples of popular foods, but I’m going to give some more convincing examples–actual meal photos posted by the Japanese on Twitter.
Here is the link to a Google image search results page for “today’s meal twitter (今日のご飯 twitter).” It shows pictures of Japanese people’s meals posted on Twitter recently. The results differ depending on when you clicked the link.
Did you see any pictures of sushi on this page? I didn’t when I searched for the above keywords. Well, there might have been some photos of sushi, but as I explained, sushi is special meal and people post photos of it rather often to show off to others.
So how was it? I showed you what Japanese people would eat as part of their regular diet and that they wouldn’t eat sushi every day. I hope this post helped you understand the Japanese diet.