Due to modern city regulations pertaining to hygiene and health, yatai are quite the rarity nowadays. In big cities, they can mostly be found during a matsuri (festival). And well, summer in Japan is the time of the year when people flock to the streets to watch fun and exotic festivals, whilst ravishing upon a plethora of yatai street foods! That's all the more reason you simply can't miss all they've got to offer during this season.

For starters, here are 6 summer street foods you definitely must try when in Japan.


1. Kyuri sticks

Kyuri is the Japanese word for cucumber. This refreshing street snack is simply a fresh cucumber with a hint of salty kombu (kelp) mounted on a stick. When you buy from a yatai, they will serve the kyuri sticks with savoury miso paste as a dip. It's a staple of summer street foods for the cucumber's cooling properties. The Japanese all love their cucumbers and you can find many other varieties of cucumber snacks during the humidly hot summer season.


2. Ramune

Ramune is the ultimate summer soft drink in Japan. You can easily spot it being sold at food stalls or small shops by its vintage glass bottle. It's a nation favourite with a history dating back to the 1800s when a Scottish pharmacist created this drink and began selling it as marble soda. The name refers to the marble on the top of the bottle that is used to seal it. The bottle design for this drink hasn't changed much since then and as a result, has a very nostalgic feeling to it when enjoyed in the summer.

The name ramune is a Japanese pronunciation of the word 'lemonade', which is the original light-lime flavour of it. Nowadays, ramune has developed a variety of classic flavours such as blueberry and strawberry. For the more adventurous foodies, you might want to get your hand on fancier flavours, such as wasabi, coconut curry, even takoyaki!


3. Kakigori

What would the summer be without a bowl of kakigori or shaved ice? Surely every Japanese thinks this way. When the heat and humidity become too unforgiving, it's time to hit a food stall and enjoy a bowl of delightful colorful shaved ice, the Japanese style.

Kakigori is traditionally a bunch of shaved ice topped with colorful syrup and condensed milk. But nowadays, you can find a gazillion new types of delicate and fanciful kakigori topped with wafer sticks or cookies and sprinkled with colorful dried condiments or fruits. Many kakigori specialty shops can be found throughout Japan's big cities. But if you find a seat at a traditional yatai present at festivals, you might as well enjoy simple kakigori that takes you down the memory lane.


4. Ichigo ame

'Ichigo' means strawberry and 'ame' means candy; this delightful sweet is a row of candied strawberries mounted on a stick. The Japanese love their candied fruits, so in Japan you can find not only candied apples (ringo ame), but also candied mandarin (mikan ame), and even candied apricot (anzu ame). As you've probably heard, the Japanese produce such high-quality fruits that they're often found as luxury gifts wrapped in expensive boxes.

But even their street snack candied fruits are a delight you simply won't find at home country. Especially so, because Japanese strawberries are regarded as very high quality and they're often so much bigger in size than most strawberries in other parts of the world. In the late spring throughout early summer, ichigo ame can still be found on some occasions. You might feel like being on a rare food hunt if you're after this favorite snack during your summer vacation in Japan!


5. Choco banana

As the name suggests, it can't get any simpler than a sweet indulgence that is banana popsicle coated in frozen chocolate. Choco bananas are a pleasant sight when you're wandering the streets of Japan for their distinctly contrasting colors. Half the banana will be coated with either dark or white chocolate, then topped with colorful sprinkles, and mounted on a stick. It's a summer’s favorite with children for its sweet, yet refreshing flavors.

There are also fancier alternatives in which the bananas are completely soaked in colored chocolates, with colors such as blue, pink, even purple and green. Still, they are coated in crunched peanuts or powdered matcha on top that gives off a very festive mood. Choco banana is a good snacking option if you're watching your figure because, despite the chocolate, bananas are comparatively low in calorie whilst can be quite fulfilling.


6. Wataame

Clouds of colorful cotton candy, or wataame and sometimes watagashi, are definitely a sight even the newest tourists of Japan will find hard to miss. Wataame is a staple when it comes to matsuri street snacks. They come in various colors and dreamy shapes that are attractive to children all over Japan. Often, you can watch the wataame maker spin the sprinkles of candy into clouds and clouds of edible puff and it's really fun to watch. Even when you're in a hurry, they also sell premade wataame wrapped in plastic that is decorated with popular anime characters.

Leave it to the Japanese to make festivals feel super festive and joyous. Summer street snacks in Japan are really one of a kind and often can only be found within Japan alone. Although many varieties of street foods have now turned into specialty shops that boast fancy decorations, still, they can't beat discovering the simplest forms of these street snacks whilst enjoying traditional festivals with friends or family as you stroll the beautiful streets of Japan.