5 scary Japanese foods for you to try

By Audrey Foo

I once thought natto (fermented soybeans) was Japan’s worst culinary bogeyman, but much nastier, nightmarish foods exist in the archipelago to tempt foreign fates. I’m from Australia, where the Japanese dining landscape is mostly dried seabeds of sushi and tempura bound by rivers of teriyaki sauce. The truly alien encounters await in Japan’s gastronomic world, from surreal sea creatures to pod-like akebi fruit.

There are 400 Japanese words just to describe food texture. Many are a charming onomatopoeia, like fuwa fuwa (fluffy) or mochi mochi (chewy). This, then, is my onomatopoeic eating journey.

Warning: These foods might confound your taste buds and mess with your psyche.

With that obligatory message out of the way, like a lightweight Anthony Bourdain, I’ll start with the mildly disconcerting and finish with the fully terrifying.

1. Beta beta yokan


I love pastries and buns. Too bad in Japan they’re often pumped with anko (also called an) most commonly, an azuki (red bean) and sugar paste. From manju (steamed bread) to mochi (rice flour cakes), Japan abounds in anko stealth bombs disguised as dessert.

Yokan are bouncy anko and kanten (algae jelly) blocks. It’s the specialty of Toraya, a wagashi (traditional sweets) empire founded in Kyoto circa the early 1500s and a purveyor to the Imperial Palace. You can buy yokan at Toraya department store outlets or cafés across Japan.

Yokan is rich, dense and (as the Japanese call it) beta beta (cloyingly sticky). As with peanut butter, anko fans like to debate the merits of smooth versus chunky, but for this Westerner, legumes as candy are weird because I think of chili con carne. It’s not unpleasant but won’t replace Pocky as my go-to snack.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

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How are any of these "scary"?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

It’s unfortunate when an author is so immature as to feel the need to ridicule and denigrate foods from another culture. This is one article where I won’t bother to “click to read more”. The first part here was ridiculous enough.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Whaaat? I LOVE yokan - and there are many kinds of yokan, including imo-yokan, made from sweet potatoes.

I also like tororo just fine.

The others, well... it all depends on what you grow up eating. For some people shiokara would be no problem. I think these lists are really just kind of arbitrary and silly, since what a person likes is subjective and personal.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yokan is not really my favorite but why will this be fully terrifying?? the author is a picky eater!!!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tororo in itself is hardly scary, but I recently had it with chunks of raw chicken topped with a raw egg. Beautiful, but don't expect many Westerners to go near it....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It’s unfortunate when an author is so immature as to feel the need to ridicule and denigrate foods from another culture.

Well, I "clicked to read more" and I didn't get the impression the author was ridiculing the foods in the article. The author is presumably from a Chinese background, where (as any Chinese friends you have will tell you) they will eat pretty much anything, especially if they're from a peasant background where nothing gets wasted. My Polish in-laws were much the same - all kinds of offal, chicken feet, etcetera.

I turned down the opportunity to eat shiokara for breakfast in Nagasaki, which I think of now as a failure of nerve. I have got used to natto, though, and really the only problem with natto is it's so strongly flavoured that anything you eat with natto is also going to taste of natto.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Okay, I get the idea that Americans can't stand yokan, those sweet beans mashed up, but pork and beans in tomato sauce is more palatable?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

0 percent scary

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The worst ones mentioned in the full article are the locusts and the fish sperm sacs.

I would eat those only if I was actually starving to death and there was nothing else to eat.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Shirako is "fully terrifying?" I love the stuff. This author is a gastronomic goof.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

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