Golden Week Eats
While it doesn’t always not take center stage, perhaps the best part of attending festivals anywhere in the world is the food. This is especially true in Japan and Golden Week provides an excellent opportunity to gobble up some delectable traditional festival fare. Dishes typically found at festivals across Japan range from familiar at American staples, like wataame (cotton candy) and kakigori (shaved ice) to the lesser known takoyaki (octopus dumplings) and yakisoba (fried noodles). With so many options, many of which may be unfamiliar to newcomers, Japanese festival food can be intimidating. To help navigate the delicious culinary barrage you can expect to find at Golden Week celebrations, we’ve highlighted some of the more popular dishes.
While many people are familiar with staples of Japanese street cuisine like yakitori (grilled meat on a stick) and yakisoba, fewer visitors to Japan are familiar with another favorite – takoyaki. These octopus dumplings are similar to a fish or conch fritter and are balls of flour-based batter filled with octopus (tako), green onion, and pickled ginger. They are fried and can be eaten plain or topped with sauce and katsuobushi (bonito fakes). Those unfamiliar with the flavor of katsuobushi can find it overwhelming, so you can always order your takoyaki without.
These savory “as you like” pancakes are traditionally made with leftovers, so ingredients and toppings can vary significantly by location. Typically, the flour-based batter includes vegetables like cabbage and green onion and meat (usually pork or seafood). You can also find them topped off with cheese or an egg.
If Golden Week is your first jaunt into Japanese festival food, this grilled squid on a stick may seem like a daunting dish to tackle, but its deliciously chewy texture and coating of soy sauce make it a mouth-watering staple.
When you’ve had enough of the savory snacks and crave something sweet, seek out the nearest taiyaki vendor. Chances are you have seen this fish-shaped treat at food kiosks around Okinawa, but if you haven’t tried it yet, now is your chance. You can find these warm pastries filled with adzuki (sweet red bean paste), murasaki imo (purple sweet potato), custard, or chocolate.
Of course, festivals are not the only time you can enjoy these dishes. The recent arrival of festival or street food as mainstream cuisine means that you can find many of these eats year-round at kiosks and restaurants. But for the real festival food flair, be sure to give them a try them while you wander your way through the many festivals of Golden Week.