Street foods are just as important to a city’s cultural identity as the finest downtown restaurants. Keep an eye out for these Tokyo street food favorites during your next trip to the city.
Ikayaki (grilled squid) is a Tokyo street food staple. Whole or partially whole squid are doused with sweet soy sauce and seasonings, skewered and grilled. It’s popular at fairs and local festivals, but you can also find ikayaki year round at places like the Outer Market of Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo’s Chūō Ward.
You’ll find taiyaki stands throughout the city. They are fish-shaped cakes traditionally filled with red bean paste (anko), but these days are stuffed with everything from cheese to custard. Try the famous Kurikoan brand taiyaki stand—there’s one in Akihabara.
Dango are dumplings made from rice flour and bear similarities to mochi. They are very common and can be purchased at convenience stores, but homemade versions can be bought on the street, particularly during festivals. Try special hanami dango at the Meguro River Cherry Blossom Festival or the famous charcoal dango of Mount Takao.
Takoyaki are round cakes cooked on a special griddle and stuffed with octopus pieces. Also known as octopus balls or octopus dumplings, takoyaki can always be found at festivals and even in some grocery stores, but is also available year round from specialty stands. Try the famous recipe at Gindaco takoyaki shops.
Cute and colorful crepes have become a symbol of the Harajuku area. Stroll down Takeshita Street and find the vendor with the longest line—in Japan, that means the food must be good.
Okonomiyaki are savory pancakes held together with a batter and bulked up with meat and vegetables (usually lots of cabbage), and topped with sauce and mayonnaise. They are easily customized and have many regional variances. You can find street-style okonomiyaki at local festivals, but it is also sold in specialty restaurants.
Chestnuts are a fall and winter favorite in Tokyo. Ōkunitama Shrine even hosts the Chestnut Festival each September to celebrate them. In season, you can pick up freshly roasted chestnuts from vendors around busy pedestrian areas like Asakusa’s Sensō-ji and Ueno Park.
Kasutera are light and simple sponge cakes, and the street food variety are usually small and sold by the handful. The recipe was brought to Japan in the 16th century by the Portuguese, so it’s long-lasting popularity is a testament to its deliciousness. Find them at local festivals and casual food fairs.
From skewered hearts and livers to gizzards and necks, this popular bar snack ensures no part of the animal is wasted. Yakitori skewers are a staple of izakaya (a type of pub) menus but are also enjoyed as a street food during festivals. Memory Lane (Omoide Yokochō), also known as Piss Alley, is famous for its many small yakitori bars.
Kakigōri is a street food best enjoyed in summer. It is shaved ice topped with fruit flavored syrups or more modern creations like caramel and chocolate. Kakigōri is sold at summer festivals and fireworks displays (hanabi).