Are you a sweet tooth? Here are 10 sweet Japanese street food you must try!
1. Dango 団子（だんご）
Dango are sweet bite-sized balls made from rice. It’s said that Dango originated from Kyoto, the historical city in Japan. The texture of dango is chewy, sticky and soft. There are quite a few types of dango but the two common types of skewered dango are: plain white dango come with a various of toppings such as matcha (a type of green tea), sweet soy sauce, red bean paste, kinako (soy bean powder) and so on, and colourful dango which the iconic colours are green, pink and white.
Dango are popular among children and adults. They are very popular as a festival food although it’s easy to find them in supermarkets and café throughout the year. Enjoy this wonderful Japanese dessert in Japan or you can easily make them at home yourself too!
2. Kakigori かき氷（かきごおり）
Kakigori literally means shaved ice. It is one of the favourite sweet treats during summer in Japan. Kakigori is traditionally made of pure ice which is tasteless, and is then flavoured with colourful syrups. Generally traditional kakigori is flavoured with one type of syrup, but nowadays there are also shops providing more than one type of syrup. The specialized kakigori shops usually provide high quality kakigori with hand-made syrup made from fruits and a vatiety of choices of additional toppings.
Although kakigori is most popular during summer, it’s also available all year round even during winter time. No matter in what season, you will not be able to resist a kakigori treat!
3. Ichigo Daifuku いちご大福（いちごだいふく）
Ichigo means strawberry. Daifuku is a small round mochi (glutinous rice cake) stuffed with red bean paste. Ichigo daifuku is one of the varieties of daifuku which a whole fresh strawberry is covered with red bean paste and wrapped by a mochi. The exterior, mochi has a chewy and soft texture; the middle layer, red bean paste is sweet and moist; and the inside, the strawberry is so juicy with its natural sweetness.
This seasonal sweet is only available during strawberry season in Japan and is usually sold in street food stalls or carts. But no worries, if you missed the winter season you can still enjoy a varieties of daifuku which are available all year round. Indulge yourself with this delicate traditional Japanese sweet!
4. Taiyaki 鯛焼き（たいやき）
Tai means Japanese seabream and yaki means grill (cooked over direct heat). However, taiyaki does not mean grilled seabream! It’s called taiyaki only because of the fish-like appearance, but its ingredients have nothing to do with a fish. Taiyaki is a waffle-like cake generally filled with anko (red bean paste). Anko is one of the most commonly used and popular fillings in Japanese desserts and sweets. The way to make taiyaki is through grilling on a kind of waffle-like mould specialized for making Taiyaki.
Don’t worry if you are not a big fan of red bean paste, some shops provide a variety of fillings such as chocolate, custard cream and so on. Although taiyaki can be easily found in convenience stores and supermarkets, those freshly baked from the street food stalls or carts are the best!
5. Anpan アンパン
Anko means red bean paste and pan means bread. The combination of the words anko and pan makes the name anpan. Anpan is a sweet and fluffy bread with sweet red bean paste filling. Anpan is a combination of traditional and modern sweet food. Anpan can be found in bakeries, supermarkets and convenience stores. It makes simple yet delicious breakfast or afternoon snack. It’s not a super special food but it’s very popular among the children and adults. There is even a cartoon character, Anpanman , who is named after anpan!
6. Dorayaki どら焼き（どらやき）
Dorayaki is a traditional Japanese sweet made from anko (red bean paste) sandwiched between two small pancakes. Why is dorayaki called this way? Dora means the musical instrument, gong. Some say it’s because its appearance looks like gong, and some say it’s because people used to use gong to make it.
Dorayaki can be found in street food stalls, convenience stores and supermarket all year round. It’s very popular among Japanese. Dorayaki is also one of the anime character, Doraemon’s favourite. If you love pancakes, you should give it a try!
7. Yakiimo 焼き芋（やきいも）
Yaki means cooked over direct heat, and imo can mean yam (yamaimo), potato (jyagaimo) and sweet potato (satsumaimo). But yakiimo generally means baked or roasted sweet potato. In Japan, sweet potatoes are harvested in autumn, so when winter comes you can see yakiimo almost everywhere, especially street food carts and stalls. They can be baked with hot stones or pebbles, or on a grill. Yakiimo is usually sold by its weight.
Yakiimo is usually enjoyed as a snack rather than a dish. It is such a healthy and comfort snack that can warm you up in the winter.
8．Choco Banana チョコバナナ
Choco banana is basically banana in a stick coated with a layer of chocolate and sprinkled with some chocolate rice. The colourful chocolate coatings and sprinkles make them so eye-catching.
Choco banana is a festival food especially in summer, it’s very yummy but it’s not something you can get everywhere like supermarkets or convenience stores. This is probably the reason people are willing to queue up for it at summer festivals. If you see choco banana, please don’t miss it out!
9. Furutsu Ame フルーツ飴 (ふるーつあめ)
Furutsu means fruit and ame means candy, so furutsu ame literally means fruit candy or candied fruit. Furutsu ame is a fruit coated in a transparent glaze of syrup which is hardened and set after it’s cooled. They are made with a varieties of fruits such as apples, strawberries, mikan (a type of citrus fruit), kiwis, grapes and so on.
They are usually only available at summer festivals in Japan but in recent years I have heard there is specialized candied fruit shop opened in Tokyo! If you go to Japan in the summer, do try out this special little sweet treat!
10. Wataame わたあめ
Wata means cotton and ame means candy, so watame literally means cotton candy. It’s so light and fluffy that the moment you taste it, without taking a second it melts right away into your mouth.
Wataame is very popular among children even adults in Japan. They are always available at summer festivals. It’s so fun to see wataame maker spins the sugar into colourful clouds of dreamy candy. But if you are in a hurry, you can always grab a pack of ready-made wataame wrapped in a bag with printed anime!
You might want to read: 10 SAVOURY Japanese Street Food You Must Try
Japanese Vocabularies in this article
- matcha 抹茶（まっちゃ）
Matcha is a finely ground green tea powder
- kinako きな粉（きなこ）= soy bean powder
- anko あんこ = red bean paste
- Yamaimo 山芋（やまいも）= yam
- Jyagaimo じゃがいも = potato
- Satsumaimo さつまいも = sweet potato
- Mikan みかん = a type of citrus fruit