Celebrating Tanabata with Japanese Festival Foods

Tanabata is an important Japanese festival held on the 7th day of the 7th month and represents the legend of Orihime and Hikoboshi; lovers who only have a chance to meet once a year.
As with many Japanese festivals (or matsuri as they are called in Japan), there are lots of traditional customs for Tanabata. The most popular is the custom of writing wishes onto a small strip of paper and hanging them on a piece of bamboo which is then set afloat down a river so that the wishes can be taken away, and hopefully come true.
Like many Japanese festivals, Tanabata is a time for celebrating with friends and family and eating delicious festival foods. The streets are alive with small stalls selling tasty sweet and savoury snacks. Here are four of our favourite festival foods to get you in the mood for summer, along with some easy to follow recipes, so you can try your hand at making them at home!



Takoyaki is a hugely popular Japanese food made by from fried round dough balls with small pieces of octopus inside. This is a classic festival food and so popular in Japan that they have fast food chains similar to McDonalds that specialise just in this delicious delicacy.

We have a great recipe for takoyaki, but if octopus isn’t your thing, you can try making our sweet, sugary dough ball version!



Yakisoba is a delicious dish of fried noodles, usually mixed with cabbage and pork, all topped with lashings of yakisoba sauce and Japanese mayonnaise. This is a classic festival snack food that you can guarantee will be available at nearly any Japanese festival.

Have a look at our recipe for yakisoba, we have pre-cooked yakisoba noodles and the great tasting yakisoba sauce for an authentic taste.



Okonomiyaki is a sort of Japanese savoury pancake that is made with batter and a variety of different ingredients. Okonomiyaki literally means ‘grilled as you like it’ due to the huge number of variations you can have. The most common ingredients are cabbage, spring onion and meat or seafood.

Our okonomiyaki recipe shows you how you can make this fantastic dish easily using our specially selected ingredients here.



Yakitori is a common sight both at Japanese festivals and roadside ‘yatai’ stalls. Yakitori is usually grilled chicken on a skewer, but can also be made with chicken liver, chicken hearts, chicken skin or even chicken bone cartilage.

Luckily, our yakitori recipe is for the most common type of grilled chicken mixed with spring onions and served with yakitori sauce.

Make sure to check Japan Centre website or visit one of our stores for more ingredients to accompany these great tasting summer festival foods. Have you tried any Japanese festival foods? Let us know in the comments below!

Header image by Yuki Yaginuma