What do Japanese people eat?

Japanese food

When I am in Japan, I can eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and maybe have a bowl of ramen and some mochi for dessert, but I am quite certain that this is not what a typical Japanese diet looks like. So what do Japanese people eat? I asked my Japanese friend Rieko to tell me about what she would normally eat on a weekday:


For breakfast, my husband and I eat rice, miso soup, natto, which are fermented beans, and tsukemono, which is pickled cabbage. I would also usually make an egg dish that we eat together with the rice. My 4-year-old daughter Saki prefers to eat bread in the morning. 

Pickled cabbage, tsukemono, breakfast in Japan
Japanese breakfast dish
Breakfast dish with egg
Japanese breakfast
Rice, clam miso soup, fried egg roll, pumpkin boiled with mirin, bean sprouts with salted kelp, broccoli, pickled cabbage, honey pickled plum, green tea, natto


I often eat ramen or udon for lunch, but I also like curries and pasta. In Japan we like Italian food and there are many good Italian restaurants. I make a bento (lunch box) for my daughter Saki with two small rice balls, some fruit and some vegetables. Saki also likes pumpkin, which I cook with mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine for cooking) and water.

Food in Japan
Butter chicken soup curry, lunch in Japan
Butter chicken soup curry for lunch today
Bento box for children in Japan
Saki’s bento box: Rice balls and grapes for dessert

Dinner, dessert and snacks?

These days I have this thing for smoked salmon, which Saki also likes a lot. Though my husband does not like smoked salmon at all, so we usually eat it for dinner when he is away on business trips. After dinner I like to eat something sweet for dessert such as apples or frozen blueberries. Saki loves mochi, so I sometimes cook mochi for her. I buy them ready-made in the grocery store and keep them in the freezer, so I just need to boil them and sprinkle them with kinako (roasted sesame flour) powder, sugar and salt. For snacking, I like the Pocky chocolate-coated biscuit sticks, which have been popular in Japan for many many years, but I also eat other snacks, such as senbei, which are traditional Japanese rice crackers.

Smoked salmon in Japan
Smoked salmon – my favorite right now

Who does the cooking?

In Japan, it is usually the wife who does the cooking, because when you get married most women quit their job to stay at home with the kids. It is very rare that the husband cooks, but instead, he will be working long hours to support the family.

Bento box
Another one of Saki’s bento
Eel with rice and noodles, Japanese food
When we were living in Hamamatsu, my mom used to cook eel with rice and noodles for Saki

What I always stock in my kitchen

In my fridge I always have cabbage, vegetables, cucumber and 4-5 different kinds of mushrooms. I also make sure to have onions and garlic readily available, as I use it a lot when I am cooking. In Japan we also use a lot of condiments, and some of my favorites are different soy sauces, dashi (fish stock) and mirin (a kind of rice wine used for cooking). Right now, I have this thing for kaki shoyu, which is oyster soy sauce. So tasty!  

Rieko from Japan

My friend Rieko in Japan

I met Rieko when I was doing an internship at a Danish company in Hamamatsu. Because her English is so good, she was assigned the task of showing me around, and we immediately clicked. Together, we went to aerobics classes and visited an onsen, and I even got to join her for her calligraphy lessons. After my internship was done, we stayed in touch, and Rieko also came to visit me in Dubai. Today Rieko lives in Yokohama with her husband and she has the cutest little daughter, Saki, who surprised me with a birthday song on Line last time I had my birthday. When Rieko was younger she used to work in Tokyo for many years, so she really knows the city well. Rieko writes a blog (in Japanese) which you can read here.

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