Photo by GusbellSStudio
Breakfast in Tokyo isn’t like your usual breakfast: Most of what you’ll find on your plate in the morning is savory enough to make an excellent lunch or dinner dish. And the meals aren’t only delicious, but they’re also healthier than something like cereal or pancakes.
Break your fast the way locals do with these seven breakfast staples:
1. Steamed Rice (Gohan)
Gohan means “meal.” And how appropriate—steamed white rice (hakumai) or brown rice (genmai) are staples for almost every meal in Japan, so you’re guaranteed to have this for breakfast at least once. The rice comes out a bit stickier than you might be used to, making it easier to pick up with chopsticks. Try it with pickled vegetables (tsukemono) or seasoned dried seaweed (nori).
Photo by Charles "Zun" Barkley/Flickr
2. Rice Porridge (Okayu)
Okayu is a great substitute for steamed rice, and many people prefer it for breakfast. The porridge is made by boiling the rice until the grains begin to break down and the starch thickens the water. Okayu is easily digestible, and although porridge is naturally bland, the dish is often spiced up with soy sauce, dried seasonings, or shredded meat.
3. Miso Soup (Miso Shiru)
Miso soup is highly popular in Japan and abroad, and most meals served in Tokyo include a small bowl of the stuff. It’s made by fermenting soybeans with salt and cultured grains (koji), and the soup consists of miso and a dashi broth. Miso soup varies in saltiness, depending on how much miso is added, and yours can include tofu, fresh veggies, seafood, and other seasonal ingredients.
Photo by ukmari/Flickr
4. Fermented Soybeans (Natto)
Natto is a protein-packed dish of steamed, fermented soybeans typically served over a bed of steamed rice. Natto is light brown with a slightly slick texture, and its scent and flavor are notably strong from the fermenting process. It’s a bit of an acquired taste, but it’s one worth acquiring.
5. Grilled Fish (Yakizakana)
Grilled or broiled fish is common for breakfast in Tokyo—delicious and a great source of protein to get you through the day. The fish are usually small and sometimes grilled whole, so be careful not to swallow any bones!
Photo by Jessica Spengler/Flickr
6. Rolled Omelet (Tamagoyaki)
Tamagoyaki is a popular egg roulade (or omelet-like dish) made of thin layers of egg, sliced into small pieces. It’s a typical breakfast protein that serves as an excellent complement to steamed rice or rice porridge and a bowl of miso soup. In case breakfast alone won’t satisfy your craving, tamagoyaki also serves as a popular lunch, snack, or evening appetizer.
7. Vegetable Side Dishes (Kobachi)
Vegetables should be a staple for every meal no matter where you are in the world, but in Japan, they’re a must-have for your favorite breakfast dish. Unlike in a salad, the vegetables are typically cut into smaller portions known as kobachi (though kobachi-type dishes aren’t limited to just vegetables).
If you want to splurge on breakfast, don’t miss the Park Hyatt Tokyo’s plush brasserie Girandole or the Yakumo Saryo teahouse, where you’ll be able to drink coffee with your meal (most restaurants in Tokyo serve only tea). For a more traditional Tokyo dining experience, look to local restaurants and chains or try a bowl of udon while you wait for the train. Next to rice, noodles are one of the most common staples of a Tokyo meal.
Whatever you’re eating and wherever in Tokyo you’re eating it, you’ll have plenty of tasty Japanese breakfasts to choose from. And you won’t miss your bacon and eggs one bit.
About the author: Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. Connect with Tony on Twitter @tonytie.