Japanese street food or yatai
Japanese street food occur mostly during the many festivals that happen throughout the country at various times of the year. One of the most beautiful festivals that I visited in Japan was the fall festival at Takayama, in the Gifu province. The entire riverbank area was packed with very colorful yatai or “street food vendors” offering little bites of regional delicacies from the area.
It’s a very festive scene with the street food vendors, wonderfully festooned booths with colorful and graphic details standing out in the large procession of food offerings vying for the hungry public’s yen with vendors loudly hawking their delicious bites and delicacies to any visitor that was ready to eat!
Here are some food highlights and specialty dishes offered at the festival
This yatai vendor below is offering a large assortment of fried goodies including whole octopus, tentacles, fried fish, yakitori and large snails grilled in their large shells.
The local beef specialty called Hida beef is a high-grade Wagyu style of beef comparable to Kobe style beef. Hida beef are the black-haired Japanese cattle raised in the Gifu district and has beautiful marbling efffects and texture with grade A and B ratings for their quality and flavor. The yatai vendor below sold a lot of the Hida beef (meat kabobs next to right side griller) along with various grilled seafood and yakitori (grilled chicken and meats)
- A large grill of Taiyaiki seafood and fish grilled and yakitori chicken grilled
Many of the yatai vendors sell snack items that are popular take-aways, Japanese people love to constantly snack. Here you have a choice of rice crackers, dried fruits, salty seeds like peanuts and pumpkin in spicy flavorings or dried squid, small smoked fishes or various dried seafood. The snacks are all very interesting and flavorful with a variety of spices, soyu, ginger and wasabi based flavorings to give them a different taste.
Okonomiyaki is a regional specialty fast food of the Kansai or Hiroshima region offering a savory pancake style food filled with different meats or seafood and toppings. It can be filled cabbage and vegetables with anything from pork, chicken beef or seafood and topped with an egg or ham like the vendor display above. This all depends on the regional specialty of the area and what is grown or produced locally. Other variants include noodles or udon (yakisoba) and piled high in a layered effect.
The large pot above of boiled oden specialties are typically a winter dish typically consisting of eggs, daikon radish, tofu and different varieties of fish cakes. Different flavorings for the soup include meat broths, soyu sauce, spicy ingredients or miso are used based on regional specialties. Dipping sauces are either served on the side or added to the soup to flavor for individual taste.
Yatai’s come alive at night time
- Night time festivities at the fall harvest are in full blast and everyone is out walking all the food venues to try all the local specialties. It’s very colorful and festive with delicious foods and wonderful aromas wafting all along the riverfront areas. young and old are out enjoying the evening and visiting with friends that they see on a regular basis, it’s very nice to witness this type of Japanese comraderie and enjoying each other’s company.
- Night time with all all the vendor stalls
Night time food cravings and everyone from school children, families to seniors love to stroll down the river front and sample some of the regional specialties of the area. The yatai stalls are a visual delight in their colorful stalls and delicious looking food.
Strolling the yatai booths at night are very popular
So many yatai to try, these girls are enjoying crispy chicken wings and gooey fried egg with cod flakes.
There’s a lot of great yatai to sample local delicacies all day and night at the fall harvest festival. Whenever you visit Japan, make sure that you mark some local event that you can visit and try some of the delicious variety of street food, this usually is the only opportunity to try a lot of small bites and regional specialties offered only at these venues.
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