Japanese Stadium Food: 10 Typical Sporting Match Snacks
Sports have a huge following in Japan, and not just Japanese sports like sumo wrestling, but also Western sports. Baseball, for example, is wildly popular from school years all the way up to the Nippon Professional League. Soccer is the second most popular Western sport in Japan with the J1-League being among the top soccer leagues in Asia. The Japanese national rugby team has also surprised rugby fans around the world by defeating several of the top international teams at the Rugby World Cup in 2015. American football is growing in popularity in Japan, too—it’s played at college level as well as semi-professional level in the Japanese X-League.
The atmosphere at sporting events in Japan is very different than what you would find at Western sporting events. Matches can fill up with spectators even during regular season games, and Japanese fans are known for being highly active, singing rally songs, waving team-branded sports towels, and crashing together inflatable thundersticks.
If you’re going to a professional sports match in Japan, there are some other distinguishing features of a Japanese stadium experience, most notably related to food. These include, being allowed to bring your own food and drinks into the stadium, having to sort your own garbage after the match in a series of highly organized bins, beer vendors that dash up and down the stadium aisles with miniature kegs strapped to their backs ready to serve up freshly poured beer at a moment’s notice, and the selection of unique foods on offer.
For your next sports match, here’s a guide to some of the most popular stadium food, known as “stadium gourmet”, available at sporting events in Japan.
Food at Sporting Events in Japan—10 Delicious Snacks To Try
What could be better or more convenient stadium food than grilled chicken on a stick? It’s so good, you definitely won’t be able to stop at just one skewer. Enjoy yakitori seasoned with shio (salt) or dipped in tare sauce.
Bento lunch boxes are a convenient way to get a well-rounded meal of rice, protein (typically fish or chicken), and vegetables such as pickles and salad within the same container. The trays come partitioned into sections to prevent the various components of the meal from mixing together and getting messy, making them a perfect Japanese stadium food.
A popular street food from the western Japanese region of Kansai, takoyaki are food at sporting events across Japan. These fried octopus balls are topped in assorted condiments and sauce, and can be eaten with chopsticks or by skewering them with toothpicks, in case you’re worried about dropping your chopsticks under your seat.
These boiled and salted soybean pods are not only an addicting snack, but they’re also surprisingly good for you. Eat them by scraping the young soybean pod between your teeth until the soybeans pop out, and then discard the empty pod in a cup or bowl.
Yakisoba is a casual dish of seasoned fried noodles, meat, cabbage and sometimes a fried egg, that can be enjoyed anywhere from at home to a barbecue or outdoor festival—and is a popular stadium food. The savory, salty flavor of yakisoba noodles really hit the spot with a cold beer.
Sweet and mild Japanese curry is quite different to Indian curries that are full of spices, or Southeast Asian curries made with coconut milk and fresh herbs. It’s more like a stew than a curry, but is still served over a big helping of rice. This is a favorite of children and adults alike.
A simple one-dish meal that will leave you full, donburi (rice bowls) are the perfect choice if you’re looking for substantial food at sporting events that’s also easy to hold. The varieties range from gyudon (beef over rice), to oyakodon (chicken and egg over rice), to tempuradon (battered, deep-fried seafood and vegetables over rice), and much more.
Grilled sausages are a popular food at many Western sporting events, but in Japan you may be surprised to find piles of “uinaa doggu”—Japanese wiener dogs-—being sold coated in ketchup and/or mustard.
Noodles (Ramen, Udon, Soba)
Japan is a country that loves its noodles so don’t be surprised to find steaming hot bowls of ramen, udon flour noodles, and soba buckwheat noodles at Japanese sporting events. If the weather’s warm, you may also come across “hayashi” style chilled noodles.
This summer treat of fluffy shaved ice and syrup piled with flavored syrup and other toppings is sure to hit the spot during sporting events in summer. Expect your kakigori to be served in a bowl with a spoon and to be much bigger than the little snow cones you’re used to back home.
“Stadium Gourmet” Is an Unforgettably Delicious and Unique Japanese Food Experience
Sports culture in Japan is a sight not to be missed, from the sounds of rally cries and cheer songs to the vision of thousands of Japanese fans waving their team’s colors. And while you’re there, you can’t miss trying some of Japan’s unique stadium foods, which are guaranteed to be unlike the stadium food you’ve had in any other country. Don’t forget to wash it down with a cold draft beer conveniently poured chair-side. Itadakimasu!