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Foods You Didn’t Know About But Absolutely Must Try In Tokyo

So why not venture into the crevices of this fine food city?

1. Canned Bread

Foods You Didn't Know About But Absolutely Must Try In Tokyo
Image credit: “Bread in a can” by kalleboo (CC BY 2.0)

We know, we know. You can eat bread anywhere, so why would you fly over to Tokyo just to eat bread? Well, the simple answer is that because it comes in a cool can! In typical Japanese fashion, you can get these cans of bread from select vending machines throughout Tokyo.

2. Shirako

Foods You Didn't Know About But Absolutely Must Try In Tokyo
Image credit: “Eeeep. Shirako.” by singingbeagle (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Have you ever eaten pig or monkey brains? Or perhaps even sweetbreads (no, it’s not a pastry)? If you have, then you might have an inkling of what shirako tastes like! The texture of shirako is rather curious—crisp and crunchy on the outside, and beautifully soft and buttery on the inside. But what makes this dish slightly cringe-worthy is that shirako is fish (or more specifically, cod) sperm. Shirako is best enjoyed with some soy sauce and the best place to try this delicacy is in Shibuya, where the restaurants promise the freshest shirako in Japan!

3. Habushu

Foods You Didn't Know About But Absolutely Must Try In Tokyo
Image credit: “Habushu” by mdid (CC BY 2.0)

Speaking of strange food, this particular one can be difficult to swallow! Habushu is a type of liqueur extracted from the venom of the habu snake. The habu snake is deadly venomous which begs the question: why do people even drink habushu? Apparently, it is believed that habushu has significant health benefits such as increased energy and vigour.

There are two methods in preparing habushu. The first method is where the snake is submerged in alcohol and the bottle is sealed, causing it to suffocate and die. The other method is slightly more humane — the snake is put in ice until it passes out temporarily and is subsequently gutted. But don’t let this stop you from trying it out; apparently the venom is only dangerous when injected through the skin, not when it is ingested.

4. Wasp Cookie

Foods You Didn't Know About But Absolutely Must Try In Tokyo
Image credit: “Wasp cookie” by Foodfanatic83 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

If you’re one tough cookie, you might just enjoy trying the wasp cookie. It really is just a humble cookie — supplemented by the savoury taste of wasps. The wasps are harvested, boiled in water, dried and sprinkled over the cookie or cracker (senbei) mix, and then baked!

5. Natto

Foods You Didn't Know About But Absolutely Must Try In Tokyo
Image credit: “Nattō (aka rotten soybeans)” by Kinchan1 (CC BY 2.0)

Natto is a traditional Japanese food made from fermented soybeans — which honestly doesn’t sound that strange or out of the ordinary! However, what makes natto so notorious is that it is fermented with bacteria, which makes it… rotten! It smells like food that has gone bad, and is slimy and gooey in texture. However, Tokyo natives enjoy it with some fragrant Japanese white rice, together with diced green onion to enhance its special flavour! Even though the taste of natto is an acquired one — there must be a reason why this particular delicacy is so well-loved amongst the Japanese, so why not try it for yourself!

Go against the grain and try all these foods beyond the ordinary ramen and sushi when you’re in Japan. After all, you’ll never be able to find such delicacies anywhere else!

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