Yatai are very friendly stands that offer local culinary specialties. Rooted in the Japanese culture, they exist since the Edo era. To be discovered! Presentation:
The yatai, Japanese street stalls
The yatai 屋台 is a small walking stall usually for fast food or snacks in the open air in Japan. Whether it’s windy or rainy, yatai will always be there. They are closed only if the weather is too bad. They are mobile and dismountable stalls very small. Generally they offer about ten seats, where you sit at the counter to eat “street food” and Japanese alcohol. A unique experience because you will find authentic local specialties and above all you will be immersed immediately in the Japanese atmosphere. Usually open from 6pm to 2am you will find salarymen, locals and Japanese tourists.
The small stalls selling masks for example in front of the shrines, the small stalls selling games for children during the holidays are also called yatai. They are usually short-lived. Other yatai are open all day and do not offer any seating. They are usually takoyaki stalls, or other pastries.
Description and appearance of a yatai
You should not expect padded seats but rather small wooden benches or high stools. The comfort is very basic, but that doesn’t matter because all the comfort is in your plate. When it rains or snows, you will have the right to plastic tarps to protect you. Yatai is a way to taste Japanese street food, fast, cheap, greedy, it allows you to warm up after a hard day of work, a festival, a party like the hanami for example or to eat a dish on the go if you have a hunger. Generally made of wood, you will recognize them thanks to their noren (small slit curtains) and their red lanterns. They exist everywhere in Japan, mostly in cities.
In Fukuoka (in the south of Japan) yatai swarm next to each other, we advise you to go there if you want to discover them. To get there we recommend the website of Japan Guide.
Japanese cuisine in a yatai
In a yatai, you will find fast food as well as salty and sweet dishes:
Okonomiyaki The okonomiyaki are round, thick, salty pancakes filled with vegetables and meat or fish and covered with very tasty sauces.
Takoyaki The takoyaki taste quite similar to okonomiyaki, they are shaped like small 3cm balls filled exclusively with octopus. They are eaten with a toothpick called tsumayoji
Ramen The yatai stands of ramen are mostly located near the business districts, serving large bowls of soup noodles topped with meats and vegetables. Some even stay open until 3 or 4 am!
Yakitori Yakitori are chicken skewers cooked on a grill, but there are many kinds of skewers! With chicken skin, particularly crispy and delicious, with giblets etc.
Kushikatsu and korokke The kushikatsu is a skewer of breaded and fried meats and vegetables. The korokke is similar, but its composition differs. For example, there is meat / onion / mashed potato… And everything is breaded and fried. These two dishes are eaten by hand.
Tomorokoshi Tomorokoshi is corn on the cob grilled on a grill
Wataame Wataame is a kind of cotton candy that Japanese children like a lot!
Ishiyaki imo Ishiyaki imo are sweet fried sweet potatoes
Kakigori The kakigori is a crushed ice that you can only find in the summer in Japan to refresh yourself.
Imagawayaki The Imagawayaki is a waffle with a filling of anko similar to taiyaki, but bigger and thicker.
Momiji manju Momiji manju is a small waffle with a maple filling anko in the shape of a maple tree, which you can find in autumn in Japan.
Japanese beers are widely consumed in yatai, quite common, Asahi and Kirin brands are very well known.
Shochu is a Japanese alcohol distilled from rice, barley, buckwheat etc.
We have mentioned a number of dishes but you will be able to see many others in Japan, with the yatai you will be quickly immersed in the animated Japanese atmosphere.