Top 10 Foods From the Japanese Obon Festival

Obon, also called, Bon, is a festival that is celebrated annually during the summer in Japan and also in the West. Obon festivals take place at Buddhist temples during the months of July and August to honor ancestors who have passed. 

In Japan, Obon is also considered a time for families to reunite, pay homage to familial altars, and visit tombs of ancestors past. From a spiritual perspective, it is also a time to celebrate with dancing, or bon odori, which is the highlight of Obon festivals. Dancing represents joy and appreciation for the sacrifices of ancestors and loved ones who have passed on.

At the Obon celebration, both dancers and festival patrons alike wear light summer kimono, known as yukata. Many types of Japanese foods are available for sale at the festival, and there are games for children as well. Today, especially in the West, there are a number of traditional Japanese foods found at the festival, as well as Hawaiian, Chinese, American, and other Asian-fusion dishes. Try these dishes at an Obon festival near you or try making them at home.

  • 01 of 10

    Takoyaki

    Takoyaki

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    Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack food made of a type of light Japanese pancake batter. It is a round, bite-sized ball filled with a small piece of cooked octopus (tako) and pan-fried in a special takoyaki pan. It is topped with okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancake) sauce, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes), and aonori (dried green seaweed). Optional toppings include Japanese mayonnaise and beni shoga (red pickled ginger).

  • 02 of 10

    Futomaki or Maki Sushi

    Futomaki

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    Futomaki, literally translates to "thick" or "fat" roll. It is a very traditional sushi roll that is filled with vegetables such as kanpyo (dried daikon cooked in dashi), cucumber slices, or cooked spinach, tamagoyaki (egg roulade), and a sweet dried fish that is dyed a beautiful pink known in Japanese as sakura denbu. All the ingredients are wrapped in sushi rice and seaweed.

  • 03 of 10

    Chirashi Sushi

    Chirashi Sushi

    Hideki Ueha

    Chirashi sushi is also known as bara sushi or scattered sushi. Sushi rice is served in a bowl and topped with various cooked and fresh vegetables, fish, seafood, and egg.

  • 04 of 10

    Inari Sushi

    Inari Sushi
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    Inari sushi is sushi rice wrapped in ageh or fried tofu, which is cooked in a sweet dashi. Sometimes the sushi rice used for this is mixed with five types of vegetables and is known as gomoku sushi. These are often a favorite among kids and sometimes referred to as “footballs”. 

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  • 05 of 10

    Teriyaki Chicken

    Teriyaki Chicken
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    Teriyaki chicken is a favorite festival food. Chicken is marinated in sweet and savory teriyaki sauce. Then, it is grilled and served on a plate with rice and tsukemono (pickled cucumbers) or side salad.

  • 06 of 10

    Yakisoba

    Yaki Soba
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    Yakisoba is a popular Japanese pan fried noodle with chicken or beef and stir-fried vegetables such as cabbage, celery, and carrots. It is often topped with dried green seaweed or aonori.

  • 07 of 10

    Grilled Corn

    Grilled Corn
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    Grilled corn, known as yaki tomorokoshi, is a popular item and is either served whole in the husk or halved and skewered. The preparation is the same as standard grilled corn, but with additional flavors. Toppings such as teriyaki glaze are most popular, but garnishes such as butter, salt, and furikake (dried rice seasoning), garlic seasoning, and chili powder might also be available.

  • 08 of 10

    Mitarashi Dango

    Mitarashi Kushi Dango
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    Mitarashi dango are small balls of dense rice cake made of glutinous rice flour and skewered on a bamboo stick. It is served with a sweet soy sauce glaze. It is considered a type of dessert or snack.

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  • 09 of 10

    Uji-Kintoki

    Green Tea Shaved Ice

    A uniquely Japanese summer dessert is uji-kintoki. It is shaved ice topped with kintoki (sweet red beans) and garnished with rennyu (sweetened condensed milk) and a sweet green tea syrup (uji).

  • 10 of 10

    Curry Rice

    Japanese Curry Rice. MIXA/Getty Images

    Curry rice is a popular dish in Japan and in the West and can often be found in both restaurants and at the family dinner table. These days, it's not uncommon to find curry rice available at Obon festivals.