More Summer Foods in Japan

Embrace the season and eat

By Sleiman Azizi    - 3 min read

The Japanese answer to the question of the summer heat is to enjoy it. And this means food. Masters of adapting to the seasons, Japanese summer cuisine is light and easy on the palate. 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, expect slices of ham, wakame seaweed or shiso leaf as extra toppings.

Delicately refreshing hiyayakko tofu (Photo: <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Edsel Little / CC BY-SA 2.0</a>)
Delicately refreshing hiyayakko tofu (Photo: Edsel Little / CC BY-SA 2.0)

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: <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Emilian Robert Vicol / CC BY 2.0</a>)
Grilled corn in summer is a pleasure (Photo: Emilian Robert Vicol / CC BY 2.0)

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 as 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: <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Jun Ohwada / CC BY 2.0</a>)
An incredibly fresh and energetic plate of rei shabu (Photo: Jun Ohwada / CC BY 2.0)

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, though. That's great for winter. Summer takoyaki means negipon - 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: <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">nekotank / CC BY-ND 2.0</a>)
The ponzu dressing is superb during summer (Photo: nekotank / CC BY-ND 2.0)

Morioka reimen is the king of summer foods in Morioka, Iwate Prefecture. These 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: <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener nofollow">Satsohi KINOKUNI / CC BY-SA 2.0</a>)
Yes, watermelon is common with Morioka reimen (Photo: Satsohi KINOKUNI / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Simple and surprisingly refreshing, these summer dishes are the perfect taste of an enjoyable season.

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Sleiman Azizi

Sleiman Azizi @sleiman.azizi

A Japanese Permanent Resident, I have over 400 published articles on Japan as well as 5 English language books written in a traditional Japanese style. I 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

Join the discussion

Elizabeth S a year 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 a year ago
Oh, if you can use handmade tofu you're in heaven. That stuff is just lovely.
Kim B a year ago
I'm so curious about trying the Morioka reimen with the watermelon as a topping!
Sleiman Azizi Author a year 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 a year ago
Sleiman Azizi Author a year ago
I first tried ponzu takoyaki in Osaka and absolutely fell in love with it.