More Summer Foods in Japan

Embrace the season and eat

By Sleiman Azizi    - 3 min read

Summer is sometimes seen as a tough time to be in Japan. The heat and humidity can be sapping but the best way to beat the heat is to enjoy it and that, in Japan, involves eating. Here are five more summer treats that will make you love the season.

The secret to hiyayakko is its delicacy. Found in izakaya pubs all over the country, this simple tofu dish, garnished with negi green onions and a dash of soy sauce, is cool, delightful and smooth to eat. You'll often find grated ginger and fish flakes adding to the flavour. A versatile dish, don't be surprised to find slices of ham, wakame seaweed or shiso leaf as extra toppings.

Delicately refreshing hiyayakko tofu (Photo: Edsel Little)
Delicately refreshing hiyayakko tofu (Photo: Edsel Little)

Don't be misled by the simplicity of tomorokoshi. Grilled corn brushed with a soy sauce, mirin and sugar mixture is absolutely divine during summer. The rustic aroma wafting out from a yatai food stall as the corn is being grilled is addictive and the final flavour is a beautiful blend of the sweet and the savoury.

Grilled corn in summer is a pleasure (Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol)
Grilled corn in summer is a pleasure (Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol)

Beef shabu shabu's summer cousin is rei shabu, thin strips of pork meat served cool as a salad dish. When dressed in a ponzu sauce, you are in for a treat. The amiable texture of the pork simply loves the pizazz of the ponzu citrus juice dressing. And when coupled with ginger and tofu, you have the makings of a light dish that is inexplicably refreshing to eat.

An incredibly fresh and energetic plate of rei shabu (Photo: Jun Ohwada)
An incredibly fresh and energetic plate of rei shabu (Photo: Jun Ohwada)

It may very well be that my favourite summer dish in Japan are those takoyaki balls of batter and octopus. Forget the mayonnaise, Worcestershire-like sauce or the bonito fish flakes. That's great for winter. Summer takoyaki means only two things - negi green onions and ponzu dressing. I can't even begin to describe just how delicious this dish is in summer.

The ponzu dressing is superb during summer (Photo: nekotank)
The ponzu dressing is superb during summer (Photo: nekotank)

Morioka reimen is the king of summer foods in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. The chilled noodles are chewy and almost translucent. You'll find them floating in a soup of chilled beef and chicken stock along with a dash of Korean kimchi and a slice of watermelon. Truly. The chewiness of the noodles, the kick of the kimchi and the sweetness of the watermelon just work.

Yes, watermelon is common with Morioka reimen (Photo: Satsohi KINOKUNI)
Yes, watermelon is common with Morioka reimen (Photo: Satsohi KINOKUNI)

All of these dishes are simple, refreshing and a perfect reminder to enjoy the heat.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I drool over proper soba and sushi while Japanese aesthetics ticks all the right boxes for me.With over 100 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style, I also happen enjoy writing. Funny that...I'm also the Regional Partner for Tokyo, Japan's never ending capital, so if you've anything to say about Tokyo - or Japan in general - don't be shy and contact with me via sleiman.azizi@japantravel.com

Join the discussion

Elizabeth Scally 4 weeks ago
Thanks for reminding me of chilled tofu! Handmade tofu with a dash of soy sauce and diced green onion can bring back appetite on hot, humid days.
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 weeks ago
Oh, if you can use handmade tofu you're in heaven. That stuff is just lovely.
Kim B 4 weeks ago
I'm so curious about trying the Morioka reimen with the watermelon as a topping!
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 weeks ago
I'm used to salting cut tomatoes and though I've yet to try it, I've heard that people will sometimes salt watermelon. Pretty cool, actually.
Elena Lisina 4 weeks ago
Sleiman Azizi Author 4 weeks ago
I first tried ponzu takoyaki in Osaka and absolutely fell in love with it.