Japanese Food Facts: 40 Interesting Facts About Japanese Cuisine

Whether you’re a Japanophile or someone who likes to indulge in sushi and ramen from time to time, you’re likely intrigued by the intrinsic appeal of Japanese cuisine. Well, my friend, things are bound to get even more interesting as we lay down some of the most fascinating and amazing Japanese food facts.

A platter of sushi

Like most things Japanese, Japanese food culture is distinct and well-developed, a result of the nation’s 200-year isolation from the world. It is during this time that Japan established a unique identity without intervention from other countries.

Below are some of the most remarkable Japanese food facts, from history to cooking traditions, eating culture, and fun trivia about some of the most popular Japanese foods and drinks. さあ、行きましょう!

Historical Japanese food facts

Apart from the influences of neighboring country China, Japanese cuisine was largely unaffected by other cuisines until the Meiji Restoration.

Centuries of political, economic, and social changes, and influences of other cuisines in the modern era, led to the unforgettable, rich, and mostly healthy cuisine we know today.

These historical Japanese food facts trace the surprising stories behind some of the most loved Japanese dishes.

1. Sushi was originally a way to preserve food.

colorful sushi on a plate

Narezushi, Japan’s original sushi, traces its origins to China. When it was introduced to Japan in the 8th century, it consisted of fermented rice and salted fish. It was mixed with rice vinegar and sake, and laid under a large stone to prevent the growth of bacteria and microorganisms and to keep it fresh longer.

Unlike present-day sushi, the rice in narezushi was used only for fermentation and was thrown out so that only the fish was eaten.

2. Fortune cookies originated in Japan.

fortune cookies

Most of us associate fortune cookies, those crispy, vanilla-flavored cookies that contain a small strip of paper printed with a “fortune”, with the Chinese. But contrary to popular belief, this cracker didn’t originate from China.

As far back as the 1870s, some confectionary shops in Kyoto made and sold tsujiura senbei or “fortune cracker” — larger and darker than the Chinese variation and flavored with sesame and miso. The slip of paper was wedged into the bend of the cookie, instead of being placed inside the hollow portion.

It is said that the fortune cookies, once produced by Japanese Americans, wound up in the hands of Chinese Americans during World War II. When over 100,000 Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps, Chinese Americans started producing the cookies.

3. But ramen originated from China.

ramen noodles

Ramen is a globally famous Japanese noodle soup. But like most noodle dishes, it traces its roots to China.

The word ramen is a Japanese transcription of the Chinese lamian, a type of soft wheat flour Chinese noodle. It was introduced by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th or early 20th century in Yokohama Chinatown.

In 1910, the first ramen shop opened in Asukasa, Tokyo. It employed Cantonese cooks from Yokohama Chinatown and serve ramen that matched the Japanese palate, using Japanese-style soup.

4. Matcha used to be a status symbol among samurai.

whipping matcha

Matcha is one of Japan’s representative beverages.

More than 1,000 years ago, Japanese Buddhist monk Eisai returned from China and introduced the tea preparation called tencha where powdered matcha was whipped with hot water. The ceremony was part of religious rituals in Buddhist monasteries.

Matcha eventually got into the hands of nobles during the Kamakura Shogunate. Because it was produced in limited quantities, it became a status symbol among the warrior class. It was so expensive that only monks and samurai could afford it.

5. Sake can be made by chewing and spitting out rice.

bottles of sake

If you’ve watched the animated movie Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), you probably remember the scene where Mitsuha, a young Shinto priestess chews rice and spits it out, letting it ferment to create the ceremonial drink called kuchikamizake.

It may sound gross but human saliva contains amylase, an enzyme that breaks down starches into glucose. There are also bacteria in our mouths that break down starches into simple sugars and kick off yeast fermentation.

Kuchikamizake was one of the earliest types of Japanese alcoholic drinks. Few Shinto shrines still create this type of sake.

6. A Japanese chemist coined the term umami.

umami sign

Umami, one of the five basic tastes, is described as a meaty, savory, broth-like taste. It was coined in 1908 by Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda from the words umai (delicious) and mi (taste).

Despite being identified more than a hundred years ago, the term umami was only recognized as a scientific term to describe glutamates and nucleotides in 1985.

Then in 2002, scientists identified umami taste receptors on the human tongue. This proved that umami is an inherent taste universally enjoyed.

7. Yakumi were eaten with sushi to kill bacteria.

sushi alongside yakumi

Yakumi, which translates as “medicinal flavor”, is the Japanese term for condiments or any fruit, vegetables, or dried seafood that is added in cooking to bring out the flavor of the dish or to add a nice aroma.

Common yakumi served with sushi and sashimi are wasabi, pickled ginger, shiso (perilla leaf), and myoga (Japanese ginger). These condiments were used not just to enhance the flavor of the food but also to disinfect the food before refrigeration was invented.

8. Eating meat was forbidden.

man grilling meat in japan

One of the most mind-blowing Japanese food facts is meat being a relatively new thing in Japan.

Japanese cuisine was heavily influenced by Buddhist traditions. Because the Buddhists forbid the killing of animals for meat, eating meat aside from seafood was almost unheard of.

But when Japan opened up to Western countries after 200 years of isolation, they started adapting Western practices, which include the consumption of meat.

9. Food models became popular in Japan in the late 1920s.

food models outside a japanese restaurant

Before food photography became common, the Japanese came up with an ingenious way to help customers choose their food in advance at busy restaurants.

In the late 1920s, Japanese artisans and candle makers made food models or shokuhin sampuru from paraffin wax. Later on, plastic models were used. The samples looked like the actual dishes and can be custom-made for individual restaurants.

10. Bento boxes were portable lunch boxes for workers.

colorful bento boxes

Historical accounts say that in the 5th century, Japanese farmers, hunters, and warriors packed their lunches in sacks or boxes to make their meals portable while working outside. The boxes usually feature multiple compartments for different dishes, such as rice, fish, and vegetables.

The materials and styles of bento boxes developed over the years. These lunch boxes regained popularity in the 1980s, along with microwaves and convenience stores. Today, bento meals remain a convenient choice for meals.

Interesting facts about Japanese cooking

Japanese cuisine has unique qualities that stem from the way food is cooked and prepared. These Japanese food facts delve into the cooking philosophies, styles, ingredients, and subtleties that make Japanese cuisine truly one of a kind.

11. Japanese cuisine is all about simplicity, presentation, and seasonality.

simple small plate of japanese food

Washoku is the Japanese name for traditional Japanese cuisine. Like Korean cuisine, it is characterized by balance, harmony, and naturalness.

In Japan, food is about the experience as much as it is about sustenance. The Japanese eat with their eyes first, which is why most Japanese dishes look like works of art. They also follow the go shiki principle that says meals should include five colors (red, green, yellow, black, and white) and indulge the five senses.

Japanese food is also known for its simplicity, refraining from complex combinations of ingredients and using simple cooking techniques that highlight the natural flavors of the ingredients.

More importantly, the Japanese consider the seasons and use ingredients that are in their prime quality to bring out as much flavor and color as possible.

12. Japanese cuisine is ruled by geographic and regional influences.

Japan is an island nation with different topography, weather, and historical influences. This results in distinctive styles and dishes.

For example, northern islands like Hokkaido have harsh winters and cold sea waters. Its traditional dishes include seafood and hotpots.  The Kansai region specializes in various tofu dishes, takoyaki (octopus balls), and funazushi (pickled carp).

Kyushu Island, Japan’s southernmost island, enjoys a subtropical climate and therefore has fruits not found in other parts of Japan, like the golden miyazaki mangoes and bittersweet hyuganatsu, a yellow citrus fruit.

13. The Japanese eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

bowl of rice

Like in many Asian countries, rice is a staple food in Japan.

No meal is complete without rice, whether in a bowl or as the base of dishes like sushi or onigiri. Ramen shops even offer a bowl of rice along with ramen with their lunch or dinner sets.

Carb overload? Not for the Japanese.

Popular rice dishes include donburi (fish, meat, or vegetables served over rice), kayu (rice porridge), and mochi (rice cakes).

14. Garlic, chili, and oil are used sparingly.

Japanese food shares a lot of similarities with the cuisines of neighboring East Asian countries China and Korea. But when it comes to seasoning, Japan tends to be on the minimalist side.

A lot of Japanese dishes are seared, boiled, or eaten raw, and often minimally seasoned. The flavor is enhanced by using a few ingredients like miso, soy sauce, seaweed, or bonito flakes. Fried foods in Japan also often feature thin batter and absorb little oil.

15. Teppanyaki is where Japanese cooking meets performance art.

fire on teppanyaki

Teppanyaki comes from the words teppan (iron plate) and yaki (grilled, boiled, or pan-fried). This style of cooking means, as you may have guessed, grilling or frying on an iron plate.

Some of the most common Japanese dishes cooked in teppanyaki style include steak, shrimp, okonomiyaki (savory pancake), finely chopped vegetables, and yakisoba (fried noodles).

Teppanyaki is especially famous among foreigners because of its performance aspect. Chefs show cooking acrobatics, sometimes juggling utensils, flipping shrimp tails, or tossing an egg up in the air and splitting it with a spatula.

16. Cherry blossom flowers are edible.

japanese cherry blossoms

Spring is a great time to visit Japan as blooming cherry blossom trees color the streets. But did you know that the Japanese also eat these pink beauties?

Cherry blossom petals and leaves are edible and used in many traditional Japanese sweets and tea.

The blossoms are pickled in salt and ume (plum) vinegar and used in recipes for mochi, candies, and baked goods. Sakura blossom tea and cocktails are also common during springtime.

Facts about Japanese food culture and eating traditions

Politeness is very important in Japanese culture and more so when eating. It may seem intimidating but these interesting Japanese food facts will answer some of your questions about eating culture and customs.

17. There are a few ramen etiquette and rules.

Even if you think a ramen-ya (ramen shop) is just a noodle shop, as a customer, you’re expected to follow an unspoken code of conduct as a way to honor the chef and the food.

ramen shop in japan

Here are some of the rules you have to remember:

Take your photos quickly

Unless it’s stated that photography is prohibited, taking photos of the ramen and the exterior of the shop is fine. But if you wish to take photos of the interiors, especially the kitchen, it’s best to ask the staff first.

While it’s okay to take photos of your food, you should make it quick. The noodles might become soggy and the broth will turn cold the longer you spend time taking photos.

Don’t add seasoning right away.

Ramen shops offer toppings, spices, and additional sauces so that you can customize your bowl to your preference.

But you don’t add these until you’ve had a few sips of the broth. The chef will take it as an insult as if you’re saying that the plain broth is not good enough.

No sharing

The turnover in ramen shops is high so sharing a bowl of ramen is frowned upon. Every person must order a bowl. If you think you can’t finish a bowl, look for a smaller size or ask for fewer noodles by saying men sukuname.

And nope, you can’t take your leftovers to go.

To slurp or not to slurp?

While most cultures consider slurping rude, Japan doesn’t. Slurping is fine but rather than etiquette, it’s a matter of eating technique.

Slurping noodles is done to cool them down while eating quickly. It also allows you to taste the noodles and the broth at the same time. it’s also believed to enhance the aroma as it aerates the noodles and broth.

Eat it fast.

Ramen is fast food… literally.

One of the most important rules in eating ramen in Japan is to not dawdle. Ramen is meant to be quickly enjoyed while it’s still hot.

And because seats are at a premium, you’re expected to finish your meal quickly, pay your tab, and give your seat as quickly as possible to the next customer.

18. There’s a proper way of eating sushi.

We can’t go into the rules of eating ramen and not dive into the etiquette of eating sushi. While the Japanese can extend understanding if you’re a foreigner, knowing the right way to eat sushi can enhance the experience.

use hand to eat sushi

Eat sushi with your hands.

One of the most interesting facts about sushi, particularly nigiri sushi (a thin slice of raw or cooked fish on top of a mound of vinegared rice), is that it’s meant to be eaten with your hands, not chopsticks.

Sushi restaurants provide wet towels for cleaning your hands. Picking up the sushi with clean hands ensures that you don’t ruin the perfect form of the sushi.

Dip only the fish in soy sauce.

Preparing the vinegared rice is just as important as the quality of the fish in nigiri sushi. When dipping in soy sauce, make sure that only the fish, never the rice, touches the soy sauce.

This is so that the rice doesn’t absorb soy sauce, which will change the taste and texture of the rice.

Don’t add wasabi to the soy sauce.

If adding wasabi, take your chopsticks and put only the smallest amount needed on top of the fish.

The chef will have already added small amounts of wasabi to each piece to bring out flavors. Adding too much wasabi masks the natural taste of the sushi and is offensive to the chef.

Eat the sushi all in one bite.

Splitting sushi in half is not only rude to the chef, but it also results in it falling apart. This is also why it should be eaten by hand, so you can hold everything together.

In addition, the sushi piece should be placed on your tongue face-down so that the fish is against your tongue. This way, you can taste the full flavors and freshness of the fish.

Eat ginger in between sushi pieces.

Ginger serves as a palate cleanser. Hence, it should be taken between bites and not at the same time as a piece of sushi.

Want to know more about sushi? Here are 30 fun facts about sushi that will surely entertain you.

19. There are rules regarding chopsticks.

By now you already know that Japan has a complex code of etiquette for mealtimes. This includes rules on the use of chopsticks.

holding chopsticks

Some things to remember:

  • Don’t rub your chopsticks together. This implies that you’re trying to get rid of splinters because they’re cheap.
  • Don’t pass food from one set of chopsticks to another. This is considered taboo as it is the way that the bones of the deceased are passed during Japanese funeral rituals.
  • Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically into your food, especially rice. This is done during funeral rituals and should therefore be avoided during mealtimes.
  • Don’t leave your chopsticks crossed on your bowl, plate, or table. The practice of making an X shape with your chopsticks represents death in China. While this doesn’t represent death in Japan, it is still considered rude.
  • Don’t point with your chopsticks and do not wave your chopsticks over dishes. Both are considered impolite.

20. Special foods are eaten on special days.

Every country has traditional foods that are served on important holidays and occasions such as Christmas, New Year, and other religious holidays. In Japan, the holidays call for wholesome and traditional dishes.


Here are some of the traditional foods served on Japanese holidays:

  • Toshikoshi soba or toshikoshi udon on New Year’s Eve
  • Mochi, sushi, sashimi, and Osechi-ryōri (traditional Japanese New Year foods served in special boxes called jūbako) for New Year
  • Onigiri, sakura mochi, sakura tea, and miso for Hanami or Cherry Blossom Festival

But perhaps, most surprising of all is the fact that the Japanese celebrate Christmas with Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC). The majority of the Japanese population is non-Christian. But in 1974, KFC launched the “Kentucky for Christmas” campaign in Japan and a holiday tradition was born.

21. Japanese students eat tonkatsu for good luck.


Aside from auspicious foods that are often consumed during the holidays, other foods are said to bring luck on other days. One such food is tonkatsu or pork cutlet.

The word katsu is a homonym for the verb ‘to win’ in Japanese. Because admission tests in Japan are tough and competitive, students eat tonkatsu before exams for good luck.

22. Multi-course meals exist in Japan.

Kaiseki or Kaiseki Ryori is Japan’s answer to Western haute cuisine. This style of traditional Japanese cuisine consists of a sequence of dishes, up to as many as 12 courses, in small but beautifully arranged servings.

Kaiseki is only served in select restaurants and the dishes are traditionally made from the freshest, finest local produce that is in season. Common dishes include steamed, simmered, or grilled seafood, tempura, soup, rice, pickles, and a small dessert.

Facts about popular and unique Japanese foods

The following Japanese food facts will show just how distinct and maybe even strange Japanese cuisine is.

From the ubiquitous ramen to the more unique Japanese dishes (raw horse meat and edible insects, anyone?), you’ll find that Japanese food is more varied than you ever imagined.

23. Ramen has four main flavors.

preparation of ramen

Ramen is usually classified into four categories according to its base flavor: shio (salt-based ramen), shoyu (soy sauce-based), miso (soybean paste-based), and tonkotsu (pork bone broth ramen).

However, there are many more variations that make this categorization less clear-cut. They sometimes overlap and newer flavors may not necessarily fit into any of these categories.

For instance, my favorite tantanmen usually uses sesame broth. Curry ramen, also a popular variation, can use either shio or tonkotsu as the base.

24. And there are regional variations.

Standard versions of ramen are available throughout Japan but there are many region-based versions, some of which have become known on a national level, too.

  • Tokyo style – slightly thin, curly noodles served in a shoyu-based broth. Chicken stock and dashi are used in this style of ramen.  
  • Kitikata style – thick, flat, curly noodles served in a pork and niboshi broth originating from the city of Kitikata
  • Butter corn ramen – a specialty of Hokkaido
  • Yokohama style (Iekei) – thick, straight-ish noodles in a soy-flavored pork broth similar to tonkotsu. Usually topped with spinach.
  • Hakata style – rich, milky, tonkotsu broth with thin noodles. Originated from Fukuoka’s Hakata district.

And there’s so much more! The next time you visit Japan, try to see if there’s a local variation of ramen.

25. Miso soup is the most popular soup in Japan.

miso soup with a bowl of rice

Miso is a fermented soybean paste that is used in a lot of Japanese dishes to add thickness and a rich flavor. And one of the most common dishes that use miso is misoshiru or miso soup.

Traditional miso soup uses miso paste and dashi soup stock made from dried sardines, dried kelp (a type of seaweed), and shavings of dried smoked bonito or dried shiitake mushrooms. Depending on one’s preference, various toppings may be added.

In Japanese culture, miso soup is commonly served with a bowl of rice. It’s one of the most frequently consumed foods in Japan and it’s said that over 75% of people in Japan eat miso soup at least once a day.

26. Suffering from a hangover? Eat clam-based miso soup.

Just how prevalent is miso soup in Japan? You can ask sloshed salarymen.

While some of us drink coffee or take supplements after a night of drinking, the Japanese soothe their hangover with shijimi (clam) miso soup instead.

The Japanese have been using clams as a hangover cure for centuries. This is because clams contain an amino acid called ornithine which aids detoxification in the liver.

This cure is so popular among the Japanese that it’s even sold in soup packets and heated cans from vending machines and convenience stores.

27. Sashimi is NOT sushi.

sashimi seafood

While both are popular Japanese dishes and often listed together on menus, sushi and sashimi are not the same. In fact, sashimi is not considered a type of sushi.

Unlike what most of us think, the key ingredient of sushi is not fish (and there are types of sushi that don’t use seafood at all), but vinegared rice. If there’s no rice, it’s not sushi.

Sashimi is fresh raw fish or meat sliced into thin pieces and often eaten with soy sauce. It’s served without rice.

28. And salmon isn’t traditionally used for sushi.

slice of raw salmon

I have a confession to make: my favorite sushi is salmon sushi.

But as it turns out, salmon was not widely accepted and consumed in Japan until the 1990s.

The Japanese have eaten salmon for centuries, but it had to be cooked because it was considered unsafe to eat raw. But in the 70s, Norwegian entrepreneurs started experimenting with aquaculture, raising salmons in net pens in the sea. They were successful in raising fatty, parasite-free salmons.

A Norwegian businessman introduced the use of salmon as a sushi ingredient to Japan in the 1980s but the Japanese only took to eating it raw in the 1990s. With the introduction of refrigeration, controlled farming, and Norwegian imports, salmon sushi became more common in Japan.

29. Most of the world’s wasabi is fake.

wasabi plant

Most people who think they know wasabi have probably never tasted the real stuff. That’s because most of the wasabi served in restaurants and sold in supermarkets do not contain real wasabi.

Wasabia japonica, the plant species used to produce wasabi paste, is the world’s most difficult crop to cultivate. It’s a highly sensitive plant that requires a lot of attention and very specific climates and geographic conditions. In Japan, the crop grows in the Izu and Shizuoka regions.

Consequently, real wasabi is very expensive. Fake wasabi, the ones we see in restaurants, is actually made from horseradish, mustard flour, cornstarch, and green food coloring.

Real wasabi is fragrant and has herbal scents that don’t assault the nasal gland. It also has a sweetness to it, something fake wasabi cannot replicate. But it loses its punch around 15 minutes after being grated, making fresh wasabi even more precious.

30. The Japanese eat 10,000 tons of fugu, a poisonous fish, annually.

fugu or pufferfish

Fugu or Japanese pufferfish contains one of the world’s most potent toxins, tetrodotoxin, which is more poisonous than cyanide. Despite the risk, over 10,000 tons of fugu are consumed in Japan every year.

It takes a lot of skill and training to know which parts are poisonous and chefs must be licensed to serve the fish. This tight control makes fugu safe for eating (more people die from eating oysters) but it also makes the fish expensive.

31. The Japanese eat raw horse meat…

raw horse meat

And the list of bizarre Japanese food facts goes on.

Basashi or raw horse meat is a specialty of Kyushu and is said to taste like sashimi. Horse meat is usually leaner than other meat types and has a slightly sweet flavor. It is served near-frozen to prevent the growth of bacteria.

If you can around to the idea of eating a little pony raw, you should dip it in soy sauce and pair it with sake.

32. …and ready-to-eat insects.

Countries like Brazil, Colombia, Thailand, and Cambodia have long had edible bugs in their cuisines. But did you know that the land of sushi and ramen also enjoy eating insects?

This insect-eating tradition is most common in Gifu and Nagano prefectures. World-famous insect chef Shoichi Uchiyama, who’s from Nagano, has even published many insect cookbooks and has held bug cooking workshops in Tokyo.

Not up for hunting and cooking bugs? There are vending machines, like the one in Tokyo’s Inokashira Park, that dish out canned edible insects.

33. One can make donburi from any ingredient.

homemade donburi

Donburi (mixed rice bowl) is a classic Japanese comfort meal. It typically includes fish or meat (pork, beef, or chicken), vegetables, and other ingredients simmered together in dashi stock and served over rice.

It’s a complete and wholesome meal that’s also easy to prepare at home. You can even use leftover ingredients.

Common varieties of donburi include gyudon (beef bowl), katsudon (pork cutlet), chicken katsudon (chicken cutlet), tendon (tempura), unadon (unagi or eel), oyakodon (chicken and egg), and tekkadon (raw tuna)

34. Perfect fruits exist.

cubic watermelon
Image credit: Jazreel Chan

Giving fruits as a gift is common in Japan. Not just any fruit though, but “perfect fruits”.

Sembikiya in Tokyo is a luxury store. But instead of jewelry, bags, or shoes, it sells perfect fruits, meticulously packed and displayed like precious artwork.

These fruits are of the best quality, thanks to the labor-intensive process of growing them. They’re also perfect in shape and size and command exorbitant prices.

35. To meet strict calorie requirements, sumo wrestlers eat chankonabe.

Chankonabe is a popular hotpot dish in Japan that contains chicken balls, vegetables, and a dashi or chicken broth seasoned with soy sauce, sake, or mirin. Sometimes, thin slices of pork beef, tofu, or fish are added.

This dish doesn’t use oil and the ingredients are cooked in the broth. It’s healthy and protein-rich and can be served in massive quantities, which is why it’s popular among sumo wrestlers.

It’s so strongly associated with sumo wrestlers, that wrestlers often open chankonabe restaurants upon retirement.

36. Japanese curry rice is sweeter than Indian curry.

japanese curry with rice

The word “curry” came from the Tamil word kari which means sauce or spiced dish. In India and Sri Lanka, this pertains to a lot of saucy, spicy dishes like korma, palak paneer, and vindaloo.

The British colonizers created their own take and invented the curry powder — a mix of turmeric, ginger, cumin, chili, and ground coriander. When Japan opened its borders to Western traders, the British curry powder made its way to Japan. The Japanese in turn altered the recipe to match the local taste preference.

Compared to the Indian curry, Japanese curry has a more gravy-like texture, is sweeter and has more umami, and often has mild to medium spice levels. It is often used in dishes like curry rice, katsu curry, and curry udon.

More amazing Japanese food facts

Need more proof of how extraordinary and intricate Japanese cuisine is?

The following Japanese food facts will show you that food (and drinks) is very serious business in Japan.

37. Japanese cuisine is a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.

If you need any more convincing as to how sublime Japanese cuisine is, let UNESCO confirm it for you.

Washoku, or traditional Japanese cuisine, is one of only three national cuisines (the other two are French and Mexican) in the world that has been recognized by UNESCO for its cultural significance.

In December 2013, UNESCO registered washoku in its Intangible Cultural Heritage list because of its diversity, freshness, healthy composition, seasonality, and close links with annual events. Being on the list also means that the preservation of this traditional way of cooking and eating is vital to Japanese culture.

38. Tokyo is one of the cities in the world with the highest number of restaurants

japanese restaurant

You will never be hungry in Tokyo.

The city has been consistently one of the cities in the world with the highest density of restaurants. In 2016, Tokyo had an estimated 150,000 restaurants. For comparison, New York had around 27,000.

39. Japan has the most number of Michelin stars…

With so many restaurants in and outside Tokyo and such attention to detail and quality, it’s almost no wonder that Japan is also the country with the most number of Michelin stars.

As of 2020, there are 668 Michelin-starred restaurants in Japan, with over 200 of those found in Tokyo alone. Outside of Tokyo, the cities of Nara, Osaka, and Kyoto also boast Michelin-starred venues.

40. … and the highest number of vending machines per capita.

japan vending machines

It is said that in 2020, Japan had over five million vending machines. That’s like one vending machine for every 25 people. Let that sink in…

Truly the land of convenience, vending machines have kept the Japanese well-hydrated and well-fed for decades. From beverages like soda and coffee to snacks and soups and yes, even edible insects, Japan’s vending machines offer the quickest, most convenient way to grab a drink or a bite.


That’s a wrap! I hope this list of Japanese food facts somehow helped you get to know more about the fascinating culture of Japan. And maybe even inspired you to try more Japanese foods.

If you’re interested in more Japan-related things, check out this list of books about Japan, Japanese chocolates, candies, snacks, drinks, and gift ideas! And if you’re learning the Japanese language, you’ll find these apps and books helpful.

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Japanese food facts
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