Many restaurants in Japan specialize in just one type of food.
These specialize in sushi. Usually customers can sit either at a table or at a counter (sushi bar), behind which the sushi chef is working.
Here the dishes are presented on a conveyor belt. Customers can freely pick the dishes that they like as they pass in front of them or order dishes which are not available on the belt. In the end, the number of plates is counted to determine the cost. There are usually a few kinds of plates (differing in color or pattern), each being associated with a certain price of typically 100 to 500 yen. Kaiten-zushi tends to be less expensive than usual sushi-ya.
These specialize in soba and udon noodle dishes. Most noodle dishes come either cooled with a dipping sauce or in a hot soup and with different toppings. The menu often changes slightly with the seasons, with hiyashi (cold) noodles popular in summer and nabeyaki (hot) udon popular in winter.
Ramen-ya specialize in ramen dishes, Chinese-style noodles served in a soup with various toppings. Every ramen-ya has developed its own soup, the most crucial ingredient for a restaurant's success. Several other dishes of Chinese origin, such as gyoza and fried rice, are usually also available.
These specialize in curry rice (kare raisu) dishes. There is usually at least one kare-ya and one ramen-ya inside or around any major railway station.
These serve tonkatsu, deep fried breaded pork cutlets. Korokke and other deep fried dishes are also available.
These specialize in gyudon (beef domburi). They tend to be inexpensive fast-food style restaurants.
These specialize in okonomiyaki and sometimes monjayaki. Customers usually prepare their own by themselves on a hot plate which is built into the table.
These specialize in yakitori, grilled chicken skewers. They are particularly popular among salarymen after work. Along with ramen-ya, they are also popular places to go as a late night snack after drinking.
Tempura-ya specialize in tempura dishes, such as tendon (tempura domburi) and assorted tempura.
These specialize in unagi (fresh water eel) dishes such as unajuu and unadon (unagi domburi).
These specialize in sukiyaki and shabu-shabu. They tend to be expensive and are not very numerous.
These are drinking places offering a variety of small dishes, such as robata (grilled food), salads and finger food. It is probably the most popular restaurant type among the Japanese people. Izakaya tend to be informal, and the people at one table usually share all dishes, rather than ordering and eating individually.
Family Restaurant and Shokudo
Family restaurants (famiresu) offer a variety of Western, Chinese and Japanese dishes in order to please all family members. Shokudo also offer a variety of dishes, however, the term is not commonly used anymore, and the difference to family restaurants is small.
These sell teishoku (set menus) consisting of a main dish such as a fried fish, a bowl of cooked rice, and small side dishes. They are especially numerous in business areas and popular during lunch time. Many restaurants in Japan specialize in a foreign cuisine. Especially Korean, Chinese and Italian cooking, as well as American style fast food enjoys a great popularity among the Japanese.
These specialize in Korean-style barbecue, where small pieces of meat are cooked on a grill at the table. Other popular Korean dishes such as bibimba are also usually available.
There are many Chinese restaurants in Japan. Some serve slightly Japanese-style Chinese dishes, while others offer more authentic Chinese food.
Italian cuisine is very popular across Japan. Many have Japanese flavored pasta dishes on their menus besides conventional dishes.
Hamburger Fast Food
There are many hamburger restaurants across Japan. They include major American chain stores such as McDonald's, but also various Japanese chain stores such as Mos Burger and Lotteria.
These specialize in yoshoku ryori (Western Food). The dishes served at yoshoku-ya are heavily Japanese-style Western dishes, such as omuraisu and hayashiraisu.
In Japan, ethnic cuisine means South East Asian food, such as Thai, Indonesian and Vietnamese food.
Other Restaurant Types
Kissaten and Coffee Shops
Kissaten are coffee shops that offer Western style sweets, such as cakes and ice cream, besides beverages. Coffee chain stores such as Starbucks are also quite numerous.
Kaiseki Ryori and Ryotei
Kaiseki Ryori may be called "Japanese haute cuisine". It is a refined cooking style related to the tea ceremony, which emphasizes concepts such as simplicity and elegance. It can be enjoyed at special kaiseki ryori restaurants or at ryotei, expensive and exclusive Japanese restaurants for business banquets and similar events.
Yatai and Rotensho
Yatai are movable food stalls that can be found along busy streets. They sometimes include seating space inside a tent. Dishes commonly offered include oden and ramen. Rotensho are food stands that are temporarily constructed for festivals and other large events. Okonomiyaki, takoyaki, and yakisoba are just a few of the many dishes commonly sold at rotensho.
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Revised: September 30, 2011