Ueno Park is well-known for its rows of cherry blossom trees which turn the entire park into a canopy of white and pink petals during the Sakura season. I visited Ueno park in peak cherry blossom season and truly it’s one of the most beautiful scenes to behold despite the crowd.
Sakura-Hanami, a tradition of having a picnic under the cherry blossom tree, was in full swing. Rows and rows of blue colored tarp were spread under the cherry blossoms and people were having a merry time sipping Sake and consuming delicious food with their family. One look at all the food on display and my stomach rumbled. There are a few food stalls in the park, but the long lines discouraged me from joining them. I promised myself I would stand in line after the boat ride on the Shinobazu Pond at the other end of the park.
Street Food Stalls At Shinobazu Pond near Ueno Park
What I didn’t know was beside the pond, there was a street food heaven waiting for me. This was truly unexpected and a pleasant surprise to my hungry stomach. I wasted no time in exploring the delicious food in yellow colored stalls.
If you visit Ueno Park, here is some of the Japanese street food you should try:
Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake/crêpe. The pancake flour is cooked on a griddle and topped with cabbage, veggies, pork belly, bacon or other toppings just like a pizza. The toppings differ across the different regions in Japan. Usually, the pancake is topped off by a sunny-side up egg. This is one of Japan’s famous street food.
Dango – Sticky Rice Cake/Balls
Dango is a sweet sticky rice dessert made from a special rice flour called mochiko. Here, three types of Dangos are being sold – the original (plain sweet dumplings with no additional flavor), a green-tea flavored rice ball (called Chadango ) and a cherry flavored Dango. Typically, 3 to 5 dumplings are loaded on a single-stick.
Deep Fried Seafood
One thing you have to try in Japan is obviously the seafood. This was the first time I tried fried octopus. Initially, I felt weird eating the octopus. Especially, I didn’t like to see the suckers on the arms/legs up close before eating it. I was very reluctant to feel the texture of the suckers against my tongue. However, once I got over the texture issue, It was actually not that bad. It had a strong sea flavour which I am not a huge fan but the soy sauce on top it reduces that a bit.
Chocolate Covered Banana With Sprinkles
I have a sweet tooth. Naturally, I ran straight to a stall selling bananas covered in chocolate and sprinkles when I spotted it. I was so excited when I got it, that I balanced a coke can, which I had previously opened, on a slightly unsteady ledge on a bridge nearby. Lo and behold! I committed my worst faux pas in Japan… the coke can fell from the ledge, spilling juice on the ground. Yikes! Several people around me audibly gasped. I didn’t dare meet anyone’s eye. I quickly picked up the can and escaped with my chocolate covered banana.
Pork and Chicken Skewers
These pork and chicken skewers were delicious and very cheap at 200 Yen( approx. $2). I had one of each. On a side note, don’t you think this video is kind of hypnotizing? I could watch that man turn over the skewers for hours!
One of my favorite food of all time is Noodles and I had a variety of it in Japan. I, especially, love the noodles fried on a griddle oozing with soy and oyster sauce. They are so yummy.
Can you believe how huge those crabs are! I think they may be artificial and not real crab shells. Stores in Japan usually use plastic food samples on their storefronts. May be this is one of those.
Corn On A Cob
There are also standard American street food favorites such as hotdog on a stick and corn on the cob if you don’t feel like trying new Japanese street food. The corn on the cob is also an excellent vegetarian option.
Unknown yet delicious looking food
One thing that was difficult for me was that most stalls didn’t have the name of the food in English. So half the time I didn’t recognize some unfamiliar foods. I wish I knew how to read Japanese or it would have been nice to have a Japanese local to help me out. Also, the food stall owners knew limited English, so they were no help either.
Some stalls like chicken/pork stalls had picture of a chicken and pig beside the Japanese lettering so I knew immediately what they were. I am not at all saying that people in every country should use English. However, using pictures to show what the food was, was immensely helpful. If I visit Japan again, I am planning to learn some basic Japanese sentences like What food is this? , Is this Chicken or Pork? and names of the different foods. I suggest everyone visiting Japan do the same, especially if they have some diet restrictions.
These white balls heaped on the frying pan look like small fried potatoes with some seasoning. They may also have been dough balls but less likely.
I assume that this is Tofu Fry. If it is, it’s a another option for vegetarians. I am not a big fan of Tofu so I skipped that.
What do you think of these Japanese street food? Which one would you try if you visited Ueno Park, Tokyo? Let me know in the comments.
I will leave you with one last video of Okonomiyaki to tempt you..
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