What your favourite Japanese summer festival food says about you

japan festival food yakisoba

During the hot months of July and August, summer festivals (夏祭り natsu matsuri) are held all around Japan where celebrations take shape in the form of mesmerising dances (Awa Odori, Hanagasa Festival), impressive decorations (Nebuta Festival, Tanabata Festival), and spectacular fireworks (Sumida River Fireworks Festival, Nagaoka Fireworks Festival).

 

Japan summer festival
Photo by Pakutaso

 

Apart from donning the yukata (浴衣) to celebrate the festivities, the next best thing about these summer festivals is the stretch of food stalls called yatai (屋台) available at the festival grounds. These yatai offer a wide variety of delicious traditional foods and snacks that are perfect for the season, from popular classics like yakisoba and kakigori, to modern twists like cotton candy and hotdogs. Ever wondered what your favourite Japanese summer festival food says about you? Read on to find out what these 10 popular matsuri foods are all about!


1. Yakisoba (焼きそば)

japan festival food yakisoba
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Traditional, practical

Yakisoba are stir-fried wheat noodles with vegetables, meat (usually pork), and typically sweet and savoury sauce such as worcestershire sauce. This is a classic matsuri food that will hardly go wrong. If yakisoba is your favourite, you are someone who values tradition and enjoys comfort foods. You are also practical, seeing as you would lean towards a meal that will be both filling and satisfying.

 

2. Kakigori (かき氷)

japan festival food kakigori
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Cool-headed, Sweet tooth

Did you really step foot into a matsuri without having had kakigori? Kakigori is a shaved ice dessert that is served with various flavoured syrups and even condensed milk, and sometimes sweet toppings like red bean paste or fruit. If kakigori is your favourite, you have a sweet tooth and enjoy indulging in the sweet treats in life. You're likely someone who knows how to keep their cool when the heat is on, especially in Japan’s sweltering summer.

 

3. Takoyaki (たこ焼き)

japan festival food takoyaki
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Adventurous, curious

Originating from Osaka in West Japan, takoyaki are savoury, round-shaped batter balls filled with pieces of octopus, ginger, and green onion. They're topped with takoyaki sauce (typically worcestershire sauce), mayonnaise, seaweed, and bonito flakes. Outside of Japan, takoyaki is seen as a unique and distinct snack, so takoyaki fans are known to be adventurous and curious individuals, especially when it comes to exploring different cultures and cuisines.

 

4. Yakitori (焼き鳥)

japan festival food yakitori
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Sociable

Yakitori are grilled skewers of chicken, often seasoned with tare sauce or salt, and sometimes accompanied by vegetables, and is best paired with a glass of ice cold beer. Yakitori shops are abundant all across the country, so if you fancy some yakitori during a summer festival, you are someone who is sociable, most likely the life of the party, and enjoys the company of family and friends.

 

5. Taiyaki (たい焼き)

japan festival food taiyaki
Photo by 写真AC

What it says bout you: Nostalgic with a playful side

Taiyaki is another classic in Japanese summer festivals. They are fish-shaped (tai is sea bream in Japanese) pastries filled with sweet fillings like red bean paste, custard, chocolate, or sweet potato. If taiyaki is your favourite summer festival food, you are nostalgic and are likely to have a playful side.

 

 

6. Wataame (綿飴) / Cotton Candy

japan festival food cotton candy
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Whimsical, carefree

Wataame, or cotton candy, are large fluffy clouds of spun sugar that are a common sight in festivals not just in Japan, but also all around the world! Available in various flavours, colours, wataame also comes packaged in your favourite cartoon or anime characters. Similar to those who enjoy taiyaki, wataame lovers are not afraid to embrace their inner child. You are a little whimsical, with a joyful and carefree spirit that appreciates a balance of fun and sweetness in life.

 

7. Dango (団子)

japan festival food dango
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Easily contented

Dango are chewy rice flour dumplings coated in sweet soy sauce (typically mitarashi sauce) or kinako (roasted soybean flour) powder. As a dango lover, you are likely to enjoy things that have a comforting familiarity. You appreciate life’s simple pleasures and have a taste for traditional treats that have a soft spot in your heart.

 

8. Tomorokoshi (とうもろこし) / Corn on the Cob

japan festival food corn
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Down-to-earth

There is nothing quite as satisfying as the crunch of a sweet summer corn on the cob. Tomorokoshi is corn that is typically steamed, grilled, or roasted and then brushed with either soy sauce or butter for flavour. A classic summer festival snack that could never go wrong. If you’re a corn on the cob fan, you have a down-to-earth attitude. As someone who appreciates the authentic flavours, you find joy in life’s natural offerings.

 

9. Karaage (唐揚げ)

japan festival food karaage
Photo by Pakutaso

What it says about you: Easy-going, likeable

Karaage are deep-fried chicken pieces that have been seasoned and marinated in soy sauce, ginger, and garlic, resulting in flavourful and crispy bites. As a festival snack, karaage is easily a crowd-pleaser—it is delicious, versatile, and easy to consume. Similarly, if karaage is your favourite matsuri snack, apart from being a fan of bold flavours, you are someone who is easy-going, sociable, and likeable amongst your peers.

 

10. Somen (そうめん)

japan festival food somen
Photo by 写真AC

What it says about you: Optimistic

Last on our list, somen are t​​hin wheat noodles served cold that is best enjoyed during the hottest of summers. Nagashi somen is a popular summer activity, where somen noodles are placed on bamboo poles with flowing water, and you would have to catch them with chopsticks. As a fan of somen, when everyone else around you is complaining about the unbearable heat, you are someone who sees the refreshing and light side of summer. You enjoy experiences that are both comforting and invigorating!

 

omiyage snack box
Photo by JAPAN RAIL CLUB

Did we at least get some of these right? Of course, these light-hearted interpretations are just for fun—ultimately, how you enjoy various festival foods doesn’t necessarily define your personality! In any case, these are just a few examples of the delicious foods you might encounter at Japanese summer festivals. Each prefecture and festival might have its own specialties, so it’s worth exploring the local offerings for a culinary adventure!

Speaking of exploring, how about subscribing to a monthly snack box with JAPAN RAIL CLUB? Every month, a box of omiyage from Japan will be shipped to your doorstep, and that’s just one of the many ways to find out what your new favourite Japanese snack might be!

Meet the author

Sue Lynn

Currently based in Tokyo, Sue Lynn first came to Japan as a university exchange student. With 6 years of experience in Japan's inbound tourism, she is familiar with Japan, particularly on rail passes and East Japan spots, and has a passion for travelling.

Sue is also passionate about Japan's thrifting culture, and is keen to uncover more hidden gems while visiting all 47 prefectures during her stay in Japan.

Sue's 5Cs are cats, cameras, cinema, climbing, and city pop. Ask her about how her favourite JR Pass (JR TOKYO Wide Pass) saved her life (and wallet).

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Sue Lynn Maker's Story

製茶故事:京都舞妓之茶本舖

當提到日本的綠茶,大家都知道日本京都是茶文化的中心。 綠茶一開始是在西元9世紀,由幾個佛教僧侶從中國引進到日本的。在日本人的生活中,綠茶已經成為一種有著許多用途而且對人體健康的飲品。 作為日本文化的一部分,抹茶、煎茶和玉露等的綠茶品種也提供了多樣的口味選擇和體驗。例如傳統的日本茶道,不僅喝茶能帶來健康,茶道更成為了日本獨一無二的文化。

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikonocha Honpo
Sue Lynn

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikon...

When it comes to green tea from Japan, Kyoto stands as the hub of tea culture. Originally introduced by returning Buddhist monks from their travels in China in the 9th...

Sue Lynn Food

Maker's Story: Gyokuro Tea from Kyoto by Maikon...

When it comes to green tea from Japan, Kyoto stands as the hub of tea...

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji, Kyoto by Kyoeiseicha
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji...

This May, JAPAN RAIL CLUB celebrates the joy that matcha brings to our lives with the special “So Much Matcha” Omiyage Snack Box. May marks the start of the traditional...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Premium Matcha Products from Uji...

This May, JAPAN RAIL CLUB celebrates the joy that matcha brings to our lives with...

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點
Sue Lynn

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點

在日本眾多節慶與珍貴傳統之中,有一個特別關於自然崇敬的慶典——綠之日。這個國定假日訂於每年五月四日,見證了日本與自然的深厚連結,也提醒人們欣賞這個70%都是山區的島國上,那些美麗的綠色景觀。

Carissa Loh Culture

綠之日快樂!一起來探索日本新綠季節中五個不能錯過的景點

在日本眾多節慶與珍貴傳統之中,有一個特別關於自然崇敬的慶典——綠之日。這個國定假日訂於每年五月四日,見證了日本與自然的深厚連結,也提醒人們欣賞這個70%都是山區的島國上,那些美麗的綠色景觀。

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Explore During Japan's Shinryoku Season
Sue Lynn

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Expl...

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for nature―Midori-no-Hi (みどりの日 Greenery Day). Observed annually on 4 May, this national holiday is a testament...

Carissa Loh Culture

Happy Greenery Day: 5 Must-Visit Places to Expl...

Nestled amongst Japan’s vibrant festivities and cherished traditions lies a celebration rooted in reverence for...

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central Wholesale Market
Sue Lynn

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central...

Hokkaido is Japan’s food paradise as the northernmost part of the country is the top producer of agricultural products and seafood: the vast lands covering Japan’s second largest island and...

Wendy Ng

Fresh From Hokkaido: A Guide to Sapporo Central...

Hokkaido is Japan’s food paradise as the northernmost part of the country is the top...

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of Japan
Sue Lynn

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of ...

Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes but even amongst these, there are three locations that rise above the others and are...

Dawn Sim Nature

Nihon Sankei (日本三景): The Three Scenic Views of ...

Japan is an island nation that has always been known for its stunningly beautiful landscapes...

Japan celebrates Golden Week between April 29 to May 5
Sue Lynn

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of Japan's most prominent and bustling holiday periods, usually spans from late April to early May...

Dawn Sim Culture

Golden Week: Exploring Japan's Week-Long Festiv...

What is Golden Week? Golden Week (ゴールデンウィーク or 黄金週間 Ogon Shukan), recognised as one of...

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉
Sue Lynn

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Carissa Loh Nature

春暖花開:櫻花之外的六種當季花卉

賞花的樂趣之一,就是它們轉瞬即逝的特性:花期每季只有幾天,但那短暫幾天卻難忘極了。來看看六種春天當季花卉,以及賞花最佳時機!

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Than Sakura
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with spring than the beloved cherry blossom (桜 sakura). However, other than these pretty, pink blossoms,...

Carissa Loh Nature

Spring Beginnings: 6 Seasonal Flowers Other Tha...

Flowers herald the beginning of spring, and in Japan, no flower is more synonymous with...

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in April and May
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of a new beginning in many Japanese literature. | Photo by Dawn Sim   A symbol...

Dawn Sim Spring

Spring Beginnings: 7 Things to Do in Japan in A...

Cherry blossoms, or sakura, are flowers symbolic of spring, often alluded to the promise of...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other than the mesmerising cherry blossoms painting the landscape, spring is the best season to experience...

Wendy Ng Food

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Try Spring Foods in J...

Spring in Japan is a time for celebration as the season marks new beginnings. Other...

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festivals in Japan
Sue Lynn

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing with it beautiful flowers, comfortable temperatures, and a time of celebration. While most travellers head...

Carissa Loh Festival

Spring Beginnings: 6 Must-Visit Spring Festival...

Photo by cyesuta (CC BY-SA 2.0)   Spring is a season of new beginnings, bringing...

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in Japan
Sue Lynn

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich history and enduring cultural heritage, is particularly famous for its magnificent Japanese castles (お城 oshiro)....

Carissa Loh Culture

Castle Day (6 April): 10 Must-Visit Castles in ...

Matsue Castle in spring. | Photo by 島根県観光連盟 Japan, a nation celebrated for its rich...

Sakura Karinto and Marui Suzuki
Sue Lynn

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions of celebrating this season is to enjoy “ohanami” (お花見)! Ohanami means “flower-viewing”, and this is...

Sue Lynn Maker's Story

Maker’s Story: Seasonal Karinto Snacks from Tok...

April marks the official arrival of spring in Japan, and one of the cherished traditions...

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Spots in Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the start of springtime in Japan. Spring is the prettiest and most enjoyable season with radiant...

Wendy Ng Spring

A Guide to Sakura in Tohoku: Best Cherry Blosso...

Hirosaki Castle Park | Photo by Aomori Prefecture Cherry blossoms or sakura (桜) herald the...

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of Shochu Distilleries in Miyazaki
Sue Lynn

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese drink more shochu than sake. Considered to be Japan's national spirit, Shochu is gaining great...

Wendy Ng

A Guide to Japanese Shochu: A Tasting Tour of S...

Shochu (焼酎) is one of the most consumed alcoholic beverages in Japan and the Japanese...

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultural Icons
Sue Lynn

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition, Tohoku (東北), the northeastern part of Japan comprising of six prefectures – Aomori (青森), Akita...

Dawn Sim Culture

Tohoku: A Tale of Tradition through its Cultura...

Statues of the Namahage located in Oga Peninsula. | Photo by PhotoAC Steeped in tradition,...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from Northeast Japan
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you can unearth more culinary treasures spread throughout the country if you venture into the less...

Wendy Ng Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Try Food from North...

Japan is a food paradise and beyond the major cities and well-trodden travel routes, you...

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots in Tokyo for Ohanami
Sue Lynn

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you have witnessed the enchanting sight of cherry blossoms (桜 sakura) in full bloom. A cherry...

Carissa Loh Culture

Sakura 2024: 5 Must-Visit Cherry Blossom Spots ...

If you have visited Tokyo between late March and early April, then chances are you...

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from Tohoku
Sue Lynn

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six prefectures, and is a treasure trove of beautiful nature and fascinating history. It’s a wonderful...

Carissa Loh Food

Tasty Tohoku Treats: 6 Must-Buy Souvenirs from ...

Located on the north-eastern part of mainland Japan, Tohoku (東北) is made up of six...

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souvenir & Gift-Giving Culture
Sue Lynn

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably seen the colourful and beautifully packaged boxes of local confectionery filling the gift shops along...

Carissa Loh Culture

Omiyage Day (8 March): Exploring Japan's Souven...

Have you heard of omiyage (お土産)? If you’ve been to Japan, then you have probably...