This month, the Rugby World Cup is coming to Japan. But that’s not all we have to look forward to, with the Olympics and Paralympics also taking place in the archipelago next year. Needless to say, Japan is about to see an influx of sports’ fans from all over the world, and they’ll all be headed straight to the stadiums.
For good reasons, Japanese culture and Japanese food are intertwined in the mind of many. The Olympics Committee reminds us that “in 2013, Washoku, or Japanese traditional dietary cultures, was inscribed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.”
Japanese’s sports culture is huge, and part of it has to do with going to the stadium for a day of sporting greatness, fun and, yes, food.
Of course, you can watch the games at a Japanese stadium with a hotdog in hand, but that would be missing an opportunity to try some great Japanese stadium’s food, or what the locals call “stadium gourmet.”
First thing first. A day at the stadium might not be the best place to start counting your calories. Like everywhere around the world, stadium food tends to lean towards the heavy, fried and fast food variety. However, this is Japan, so believe us when we say that you will not regret your “cheat day.” And if you’re preparing yourself for the Olympics, know that the Committee is determined to celebrate washoku with local and healthy food that respects the environment, the local culture and tastes great.
Whilst it isn’t 2020 yet, there are still a lot of stadium gourmet to look forward to on a “normal” sport’s day in Japan.
Yakitori: the chicken skewers are one of the tastiest snacks, no matter whether you are at the stadium or out. Bonus point for not being messy to eat, so you won’t spill on your neighbours.
Karaage: if you fancy more chicken, karaage is for you. Fried boneless thighs marinated in soy sauce and breaded with potato flour, it’s every kind of delicious.
Miso katsu: more chicken! This time, the fried meat is coated in sweet miso.
Takoyaki: for something a tad different, you can’t really go wrong with takoyaki, which are fried octopus balls.
Dumplings: shumai (steamed dumplings) and gyoza (fried dumplings) are staples of stadium gourmet, so don’t feel bad and treat yourself.
Edamame: get some greens with THE snack to end all snacks. Edamame, or soybeans in the pod, are healthy, easy to eat and delicious.
Cups of sliced Japanese cucumbers: a good accompaniment to all that fried food, cups of cucumbers are widely available.
Yakisoba: moving away from snacks and into real meals, yakisoba is a noodle stir fried dish that’s popular everywhere. You can get some from food stalls on the street, or of course, at the stadium.
Bento Boxes: a full meal in a box! Options are endless, so there really isn’t any excuse to not eat properly, even at the stadium. Interestingly enough, this is also where Japanese marketers are hitting the fans. Star players from local teams might have “designed” some of the options on the menu, so go ahead and eat like a champion.
Curry Rice: rice, curry sauce, potatoes and carrots. It might sound messy, but it can’t be worse than eating a burger whilst queuing for a drink at most Western stadiums.
Donburi: rice bowl dishes, donburi come in all variety. If a bento box isn’t what you’re after but you still want a meal instead of a snack, this is the perfect alternative.
Kakigori: want dessert? Or you might just be too hot during the Japanese summer. You can bet kakigori will hit the spot. It’s basically shaved ice, with all the toppings, if you want them.
Now that you know what you can get from the stadiums all over the country, it is worth mentioning that the best food to actually get are local specialities. When in Kobe, look for Kobe beef croquettes (they sell out regularly so be ready to jump in the queue the moment you arrive), and when in Osaka, you won’t go wrong with okonomiyaki, the signature “pancake,” filled with octopus, cabbage and bacon.
With so many foodie possibilities, it will be hard to focus on the game. However, you can save yourself a trip away from the action by getting your drinks from the many “beer girls” that run up and down with kegs on their backs, ready to serve you all types of refreshments, beers being the most obvious choice, but not the only one.
Going to the stadium in Japan is an experience that would not be complete without food, and with options galore and even healthy alternatives to the traditional junk food, you will not regret going in hungry.