Summer has arrived in Japan and with it comes a whole lot of amazing food and flavors perfect for the warm and sunny weather.
We’re talking about not only cold foods to help you chill out in the summer heat, but also lots of nostalgic favorites unique to the Natsu Matsuri (summer festival) season.
Snacking in summer is so delicious - convenience stores and supermarkets are stocked with popular treats in new and summery flavors, like watermelon, mango, or peach. These flavors are limited edition, which means you have to try them now or not at all!
We love summertime in Japan so much, that each of our August ZenPop packs are inspired by this amazing season! Check out our new packs for yourself - Ramen, Sweets, Ramen + Sweets Mix and Stationery.
We hope you're hungry...here are our favorite 5 Japanese summer foods!
One of our favourite things to eat to escape the heat is shaved ice, also known as kakigōri! It’s similar to a snowcone, or other desserts like Korean bingsu.
The mountain of fluffy shaved ice is usually flavored with sweet syrups, condensed milk and various toppings, like fruit or mochi (rice cake).
This dessert is an extremely popular, quintessential treat for the summer. It also traces its origins all the way back to the Heian period (794-1185)!
It’s easy to find kakigori suited to everyone’s tastes: there are simple ones only consisting of vanilla flavoring and condensed milk, and others capitalizing on seasonal fruits like mangoes or cherries. You can even get matcha flavored kakigori with red bean toppings, called Ujikintoki.
Did you know? People often designate July 25th as Kakigori Day, because the numbers (7/25) can be read as na-tsu-go, or “summer ice!”
Try these cute Shaved Ice Gummies in August's Summer Festival Sweets Pack
Image credit: Sanda no Umesan (Japanese)
No beach trip (or beach episode in anime) is complete without a cool slice of watermelon! Watermelons are one of the summer fruits in Japan.
The tradition of splitting watermelons, called suikawari, is a piñata-like experience where blindfolded people take turns trying to hit a watermelon with a stick or bat, hoping to split it. After the watermelon breaks, everyone can take pieces of it and enjoy a nice treat!
You may have also heard of Japan’s special square watermelon, which may look quite funny. They’re actually grown in special containers so that they take the shape of a cube. They were originally engineered to save space in small refrigerators and make stacking and storage easier.
Enjoy these Watermelon and Melon Soda Candy in August's Summer Festival Sweets Pack
Ever wanted to try your hand at catching your own food?
Somen (そうめん) refers to very, very thin noodles that are often served cold, sometimes even on top of ice, with a dipping sauce called tsuyu.
The best part about eating somen in the summer is the popular nagashi-somen, or “flowing noodles” that restaurants offer as the weather gets warmer.
The noodles shoot down a long bamboo water slide, and diners try to catch the noodles as they slide by and then dip them in the tsuyu sauce! Not only is it fun, the cool water helps the noodles stay fresh, too.
Image credit: Sirogohan (Japanese)
On the topic of cold noodles, another popular summer meal is hiyashi-chuka, a cold ramen dish. This is a lighter, salad-type meal featuring a number of seasonal vegetables on top of a bed of cold noodles, drizzled with sesame sauce or vinaigrette.
Not only is this meal nice and light, the tang of the dressing coupled with the cold noodles makes for an extremely refreshing taste. This type of salad-noodle combination is perfect for a warm day, in contrast to the hot steaming soup dishes that often accompany the winter months.
Not only that, the simple ingredients make it easy to prepare and serve, too! Only a few minutes of cooking (and if you’re feeling fancy, plating) and you’ve got a full meal waiting for you.
This iconic carbonated drink is most well known for its distinctive bottle, opened by popping the seal formed by a glass marble on the top of the bottle. Typically, you’re given a little plastic piece which you push into the bottle to release the marble before enjoying your soda.
Ramune is another typical (and nostalgic) part of the Japanese summer. Often sold at festivals, shrines, and other large events, it serves as a refreshing, ice-cold drink to satisfy one’s thirst in the middle of a sunny afternoon. The heat and humidity can get pretty crazy in the height of the summer season, so a cool drink is definitely something to celebrate!
Ramune’s original flavor has a subtle lemon taste, but also comes in lots of different flavors too, such as pineapple, grape or melon! They also sometimes have limited edition packaging on their bottles, such as collaborations with Naruto, Boruto, or Pokémon.
Are you looking forward to the summer season? We sure are!
Why not get a taste of Japanese summer with one of ZenPop’s subscription boxes? Don't miss our new August packs, inspired by Japan's summer festival season!
ZenPop's Sweets Pack (August theme: Summer Festival)
This blog was written by Sam: Sam is a university student interested in everything in otaku culture, from video games to anime. Growing up, she spent several hours in front of the TV watching mahou shoujo shows, and now binges entire seasons of anime within in a few hours. She loves to attend conventions in cosplay and always stops to take pictures of stray cats.