Winter is about to roll around but as it is autumn in Japan now, I better introduce you 10 best traditional Japanese autumn foods that you could try. At this time of year, people go outside and enjoy the views of stunning autumn leaves at different fall foliage spots across the country.

They feel a great joy in their mind when both things happen at the same time. What are those “both things” then? You know, I heard people saying that Japan is a foodie country. Do you think the same? I think they are absolutely right! In autumn, Japanese have a tendency to go outside and have some famous autumn dishes alongside viewing fall foliage. So, both eating and hunting momiji (red leaf) bring them a lot of joys.

Nabe – Japanese hot pot dishes. Photo Credit: t-mizo at Flickr.

I took a simple survey about the best fall dishes of Japan that locals really like to eat. I had to ask few questions to my family members, friends and some relatives and neighbors I personally know to complete this survey. In fact, they were my only samples!

That survey has given me an idea to know some famous fall dishes that Japanese people like to have in the fall. Today, I am well prepared to introduce them all in this post. You won’t find sushi there though.  In general, Japanese have many mouthwatering dishes except having sushi. Can’t wait to know them all? Please be patient until I reveal them one by one.

1) Salt-Grilled Sanma (Pacific Saury)

Grilled Pacific Saury or Sanma. Photo Credit: pelican at Flickr.

Sanma is a small fish that resembles a long blade. The word “Sanma” refers Autumn Knife Fish – I think you can imagine it once you look at the photograph shown above. A large numbers of Sanma are caught in northeastern coast of Hokkaido during autumn season. In fact, Hokkaido region imports a lot of this species of fishes to entire Japan. One statistic has revealed that, northeastern coast of Hokkaido’s Sanmas look bigger than we usually find them other parts of Japan.

Sanma no Shioyaki (salt-grilled Sanma) is one of the famous fall dishes in Japan. It is fatty and greasy as a result, when it is grilled it makes you so hungry. Usually, salt-grilled sanma is served with either soya sauce, daikon radishes (daikon oroshi), or adding drizzle of lime juice. As it is grilled, it becomes so crispy that you can eat everything until you find its bones. So, if you want to have a barbecue party then Sanma could be one of your options than grilling some meat. Here, you can check a great little grill for making Sanma no Shioyaki.

2) Matsutake Mushroom Soup

Matsutake Dobin Mushi Recipe. Photo Credit: T.Tseng at Flickr.

There is an old saying in Japan that “fall is the season for eating”. It is 100% true as I grew up in Japanese family. I saw my mother used to make some mushroom soup (matsutake dobin mushi) when it was autumn season.

Needless to say many people believe that it is the number one dish that draws our attention first in autumn. The rainy season has passed away; the weather is getting colder day by day. Therefore, having mushroom soup at this time of year is the perfect time, no doubt about that.

A Nice Looking Dobin.

Japan is not well known for mushroom cultivation though few people grow it here. Domestic grown mushroom is costly to buy than imported ones. In this regard, price of Matsutake (aromatic pine mushroom) Mushroom Soup could vary from restaurant to restaurant in Japan. The soup is served in a teapot (dobin) which is smaller than the usual teapots you find in Japan.

Please check this dobin out, indeed you need one to serve this delicious recipe! It consists of seasonal vegetables, slice of chicken, shrimps, mitsuba and of course the main ingredient mushroom. The soup itself is poured into traditional looking Japanese bowl and the ingredients are picked from the teapot by chopsticks. Learn this recipe here: how to make matsutake dobin mushi.

3) Japanese Chestnuts (Kuri)

Kuri Manju! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Japan abounds with many chestnut plants. In Japan, it is known as Kuri which is a versatile autumn fruit. It can be used in many dishes. One of the famous autumn dishes is made of Kuri which is called Japanese Chestnut Rice (Kurigohan). The recipe can be done using regular Japanese rice and by adding some small chestnuts with other ingredients such as sake and soya sauce.

Yellow color chestnuts and white color of rice make the dish colorful just like fall foliage makes our nature colorful in autumn. Kuri also makes a favorite dessert called “Kuri Manju” or so called Japanese chestnuts cake. Please love eating Kuri when you are in Japan during fall. Want to know its recipe, please visit here. Learn how to make Kuri Manju watching this video.

4) Japanese Persimmon (Kaki)

Japanese Persimmon – Kaki. Photo Credit: Yumi Kimura at Flickr.

Kaki is the most popular fall fruit in Japan. You can eat it raw or when they are fully dried. When you are going to eat it raw just make sure you peel it properly and slice into some pieces. In the fall, this fruit is seen almost everywhere in Japan mostly in countryside.

I prefer to eat it dried that is why we are hanging them outside making them to be dried well before we could enjoy its taste. Kaki is not that much costly to buy, just head to a store and you will find them at a cheap price.

5) Yakiimo

Here is your Yakiimo! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Yakiimo is a Japanese roasted sweet potato that we eat it as an autumn snack. It is a healthy street Japanese food. Though, we don’t forget to make it at home. When fall season arrives, my mother makes it quite often in evening time.

If you go outside and take a walk, you would probably see Yakiimo truck or cart that sales this delicious sweet potato. You could enjoy eating it while viewing colorful autumn foliage out there. It is pretty enjoying and something that you could remember for many years. Here, learn to make Yakiimo at home and it is very easy!

6) Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin Croquette)

Korokke in Soba! Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Kabocha Croquette or Korokke in Japanese is one of my favorite dishes in the fall. In fact, I like everything which is made of pumpkin. I know some of you don’t like eating pumpkin dishes while this one would be a different that you must try, at least here in Japan! It is crunchy and crispy at the same time.

As an ingredient you can have it dipping tonkatsu-style sauce or any kind of ketchup you find at departments store. You can’t never say “I don’t like it” until you taste a hot crispy Korokke here in Japan. First eat it then share your opinion somewhere else. In my opinion, having a piece of korokke is far better than having a greasy McDonald Chicken Wing.

7) Nabemono

Delicious Nabe, Japan. Photo Credit: Kikuko Nakayama at Flickr.

Nabemono or Nabe is a type of Japanese hot-pot dish which is served both in autumn and winter. I want to say something very important to visitors to Japan, that is – I request all of you to have Nabe during your visit to Japan. There are many Nabe restaurants you could find elsewhere Japan. They will serve you well and make the best effort to make a delicious one for you.

Nabe itself has got some varieties depending on how many ingredients you are going to add in it. As it is cooked in a Donabe (clay pot) in front of you, it makes you to be quite excited about when the cooking process may finish. Please find a nice made in Japan Donabe here. There are some really healthy ingredients you could add especially for vegetarians such as daikon, soya sauce, tofu, egg, hakusai, udon, soba, shrimp, and shungiku.

But if you are non vegetarian then slices of beef can be added as an ingredient. I could recommend you a great Japanese cookbook where you could find various types of hot-pot dishes including this one. Please visit here to get to know authentic Japanese clay-pot cooking and surprise your friends and family members serving yummy Nabe. 

8) Oden

Oden! Photo Credit: pelican at Flickr.

Japanese Oden comes in many varieties based on different regions of Japan. You can find different taste of Oden in the Hokkaido region while on the other hand Kansai area Oden could give you other type of taste and flavor. That’s the fact! Even though people enjoy it having in cold winter season, we start having it from mid-autumn season when weather gets colder before winter arrives.

You can find different versions of Oden served by vendors and restaurants across the country. The ingredients I like to add in are radish, soya sauce, mocha, boiled eggs, tofu, konnyaku, potato and cabbage roll. Learn how to make delicious Japanese Oden from this cookbook.

9) Shinmai

Rice with chestnuts. Photo Credit: Masako T at Flickr.

Shinmai refers new harvested rice in Japan. Having a bowl of steamed shinmai in autumn is a great experience. I usually have rice almost every day, but new harvested rice has got a unique taste. The taste can’t be expressed in words but only “delicious”. You can have it sprinkling some salt on it.

You can also spread over different type of foods to add some flavor such as gingko nuts, sweet potato, and chestnuts. I guess, every vegetarian must try this at home. And according to my knowledge, I think every Asian like eating new harvested rice as we do. For those, who don’t like eating rice could have some shinmai in Japan, I bet you will fall in love with it!

10) Hiyaoroshi and Akiagari Sake

Hiyaoroshi – Special Sake for Autumn. Photo Credit: inazakira at Flickr.

Sake (Japanese rice wine) is one of the precious things of Japanese cuisine. You just don’t eat foods here but drink too. I don’t tell you to drink a bottle of Coke in the land of the rising sun but Hiyaoroshi or Akiagari Sake. These are very popular sake types in Japan. As brewing sake techniques come in many forms, Hiyaoroshi and Akiagari have their own style of brewing techniques as well.

Usually, sake is brewed in winter, pasteurized and age in spring and summer, and fall is the prime time to drink it. Here, when it comes to Akiagari, it is pasteurized for the second time after summer aging while on the other hand, Hiyaoroshi does not follow this technique rather it is pasteurized only once. You would be surprised to know that Hiyaoroshi and Akiagari sakes are only available for autumn season. So, when you are at a restaurant or liquor shop, ask for these types of sakes, enjoy their taste separately.

You have been introduced the top 10 fall foods that we eat in autumn. Do you have any favorite Japan autumn dishes, please share with us here. I know there are other types of autumn foods that are quite popular in Japan, but these are the foods that Japanese like to have to make the autumn season unique and memorable.