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Local foods are somewhat a source of pride, especially in Japan. Nagoya is in Aichi Prefecture – located in Central Japan – and has arguably some of the best food in the country. While Japanese food is usually known for its subtleties in flavor, Nagoya-meshi — local Nagoya food — is known for its strong, bold flavors. If you’re a foodie visiting Japan, you won’t want to miss trying food from Nagoya.
Is this your first time to Japan?
If you are headed into Japan for the first time and are unfamiliar with the culture, customs, and etiquette, we recommend quickly preparing yourself with the Japan - Culture Smart book. Some people experience a fairly strong culture shock when they arrive in Japan, something that a tour guide - or this affordable book - could could help help you navigate, by keeping your expectations in check, and increase the chances that your experience in Japan is a positive one. It’s worth it, it really can be a life saver!
Additionally, you can avoid paying for so many other tour guides - and still having all the intricate details of each location - by getting a Lonely Planet: Japan guide book. It’s packed with in-depth expert information on just about every place that we can think of, checked and vetted many times over, including Nagoya. So, it’s like having a tour guide in your pocket at all times for a fraction of the price. While it’s nice to see the sights on your own, your experience of these locations will much more rewarding with the details that an expert tour guide could provide - especially when it’s all in English and easy to understand. We recommend choosing this book.
These books - coupled with this amazing top 10 list for food in Nagoya - should come in quite handy! (Pro Tip: Wait until Lonely Planet has their 3 for 2 deals - which happens a couple times per year - to save extra money!). Without further ado, here are the top 10 famous foods in Nagoya AND where to try them!
Top 10 Dishes for Japan Foodies in Nagoya
This is my personal number one pick for the best Nagoya food. Grilled eel served in 3 mini courses.
First, eat is as is. Scoop out a portion from the wooden bowl into the smaller bowl provided.
Second, scoop out another portion and add the toppings like nori (seaweed flakes), green onions, and wasabi.
Third, prepare your bowl just like the second round, but this time add the tea they bring for this course into your bowl too.
My favorite is the 2nd way because the flavor is enhanced by the toppings, and the eel doesn’t lose its grilled crispness like it tends to do in the tea. After you’ve tried the three different ways of eating hitsumabushi, you can try all 3 ways again or just finish it up choosing your favorite style of enjoying this savory dish.
Where to get it: The most famous place to get hitsumabushi in Nagoya is Horaiken near Atsuta Jingu Shrine. However, my favorite hitsumabushi restaurant is Shirakawa Joshin-Honten near Joshin Station on the Tsurumai (blue) subway line.
Japanese noodles are popular around the world. You’ve probably tried or at least heard of ramen, udon, or soba. They are fairly easy to find in Japanese restaurants worldwide. But kishimen is a Nagoya food specialty and it is not common to find it in other areas of Japan. Kishimen is a flat noodle similar to fettuccine. If you are a noodle lover, you MUST try kishimen!
3. Miso Nikomi Udon
A thick noodle dish with a strong broth. Udon usually comes in a clear broth, but miso nikomi is hearty and filling. The miso used is the red miso and it usually has toppings like egg, green onions, chicken, and shiitake mushrooms. It’s a wonderful dish to eat in winter.
Spiced peppered chicken wings.
Yama-chan is a favorite especially among foreigners as they have a picture menu and serve a variety of items found at izakayas–Japanese-style bars. The picture menu makes it easy to communicate with the staff by just pointing at what you want and holding up your fingers with how many you would like to order.
The Yama-chan logo is also easy to spot around Nagoya Station with a colorful image of a man dressed in a chicken suit. Additionally, if the restaurant is full (very common on a weekend night) – the staff will often point you in the direction of another Yama-chan that may have openings (usually about a 5 minute walk away).
Furaibo locations are also near major stations in Naogya, but are usually tucked away down side-streets. Their menu has no photos and is written in only Japanese. Don’t be discouraged if you can’t speak the language. The first question they ask you when you sit down is how many servings of tebasaki you want. Get at least one serving per person! They also have some salad and rice ball sides, but their menu is mostly focused on the tebasaki. Definitely give both Furaibo and Yama-chan a try!
A triangle-shaped rice ball with a tempura shrimp in the middle.
Where to get it: You can get these at convenience stores or at supermarkets in Nagoya. Some shops at Nagoya station will have them as well in packets of 6, but they are pretty small rice balls. There’s a great little shop near Joshin station (exit 6) that sells LARGE rice balls for about 100yen, and the sauce they dip the tempura shrimp in before wrapping it with the rice is delicious. Go before 11am though because they only make a certain amount each day. The shop is just past the cultural center, and the sign above the shop says" “おにぎり” (onigiri).
6. Taiwan Ramen
Don't let the name fool you! This noodle soup dish was created in Nagoya. Usually Japanese food isn't very spicy, but Taiwan ramen can really kick up the heat. As with many of the famous Nagoya foods, taiwan ramen has lots of flavor. I usually get a side of gyoza to eat with my taiwan ramen.
Where to get it: Misen is known to be the original restaurant that started serving taiwan ramen. They have shops all over Nagoya, but the main shop that started it all is in Chikusa.
7. Miso Katsu
This dish is usually the first one mentioned when asking about Nagoya food specialties. Tonkatsu is a breaded, deep-fried pork cutlet served with tonkatsu sauce (Worcestershire-style) that can be found all over Japan. Nagoya serves tonkatsu with a red miso sauce instead. The miso sauce has a strong flavor kind of like a BBQ sauce and is popular among visitors and locals alike.
If you end up really loving it, you can pick up bottles of miso katsu sauce at supermarkets in Nagoya and make the tonkatsu at home. If you decide to make it yourself and end up having leftovers, miso katsu sandwiches are a great way to eat it the next day.
The Nagoya Dome, home of the local Nagoya baseball team - the Dragons, serves an exclusive miso katsu dog. If you’re into baseball, they are featured in the movie “Mr. Baseball” starring Tom Selleck.
Where to get it: Yabaton is the most famous shop to serve this dish and has locations all around the city.
8. Ankake Spaghetti
This Nagoya-Italian-Chinese fusion food dish. The noodles are pan-fried and covered in a sticky red sauce with vegetables and sliced hot-dog style sausages. The sauce is flavorful and a little spicy. Italian restaurants in Japan often cater to Japanese tastes with shoyu (soy sauce) based sauces or toppings with natto (fermented soybeans) and nori (seaweed flakes). Ankake spaghetti was designed to cater to the bold, flavorful palates of Nagoya locals.
Where to get it: Ankake spaghetti can be found at some Chinese or Italian restaurants.
9. Morning Set
If you order a coffee in the morning at a cafe in Aichi prefecture, it will usually come with a slice of toast as well. Sometimes it might include a hard-boiled egg and/or banana. Other cities are starting to do this as well, but “Morning Set” started in Nagoya. Some friends who visited from Fukuoka or Tokyo were surprised when they ordered their coffee and toast came with it!
Where to get it: Komeda Coffee was founded in Nagoya and is a popular place to get morning set. When I lived in Nagoya, I would often get morning set from Vie de France if I was in a hurry. I also loved going to Hoshino coffee with my roommate and getting their French toast morning set.
10. Ogura toast
Sweet red bean paste on toast. KitKat even made a Nagoya edition Ogura Toast flavor that can be found at the gift shops in Nagoya station or at the airport. This simple Nagoya food is a great midday snack.
Where to get it: You can substitute the regular toast during morning set for the ogura toast at some cafes.
Have you tried any of these Nagoya food specialties? Which ones do you want to try? Let us know in the comments below!
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