Staple Foods (Shushoku)

Find out about Japan's main staples, with information about rice, noodles, fish and seafood...

Rice (gohan)

Japanese rice differs from other types of rice as it is sticky when cooked. The majority of rice is white rice (hakumai), but mocha rice is also very popular and stickier. Uncooked rice is known as kome. Rice is also used to cook rice cakes (mocha), rice crackers (senbei) and rice wine (sake). A popular snack made of rice is onigri rice balls, which are stuffed with vegetables and are used for packed lunches and can be bought from convenience stores.

Noodles (men-rui)

Noodles are popular in Japanese cuisine. There are a number of different types of noodles:

  • Udon noodles are usually made from wheat flour and normally served in a soup or broth, but can also be served cold
  • Soba noodles are made from buckwheat and are thinner and darker than udon noodles. This type of noodle is usually served cold with a dipping sauce, but they can also be served warm in soups
  • Ramen noodles are thin egg noodles and are almost always served warm in soups
  • Bread (pan): while bread is not a traditional Japanese native food, it is becoming more common and is readily available

Seafood and meat

Seafood is very popular in Japan. It is eaten pretty much everywhere and prepared in many different ways. Raw seafood (sushi) is very popular, but fish is also commonly grilled and used in other Japanese hot dishes. Meat is now popular in Japan and has been increasingly incorporated into the Japanese diet. Meats such as grilled chicken (yakitori), Korean barbeque (yakiniku) and the beef bowl (gyudon), consisting of rice topped with simmered beef, are popular Japanese meat dishes.


Soya products are used in a variety of dishes in Japan. For example, soybeans and rice are used to make miso, which is a paste used in much Japanese cooking. Soybean curd is also used to make tofu, which is used in many vegetarian dishes, as well as some desserts. Natto is another popular soya bean dish made from fermented soya beans.