Experience Japanese Food Culture: How to Enjoy Curry



Curry is one of the most popular dishes in Japanese food culture, especially among foreign tourists. Japanese curry has its own unique style, different from Indian and Thai curries, and is widely enjoyed from home cooking to restaurants. Its distinctive feature is the perfect combination of a mild roux, a wide variety of ingredients, and rice.

Japanese curry was introduced to Japan via England during the Meiji period (1868-1912) and evolved in its own unique way. Today, there are many variations, such as curry with pork cutlets, seafood curry, and vegetable curry, and different regions and households can enjoy different tastes.

In this article, we will introduce the appeal of Japanese curry, how to enjoy it, and our recommendations for curry restaurants. As a visitor to Japan, please enjoy Japanese curry and experience its profound taste and culture.


The history of curry in Japan dates back to the Meiji Era. Initially, curry did not come directly from India, but entered Japan via England. In England, Indian curry was arranged to become a Western-style dish, which was then brought to Japan.

In 1872 (Meiji 5), books such as “Seiyo Ryori Shinan” and “Seiyo Ryoriyotsu” introduced a cooking method using curry powder and thickening it with flour. This was the beginning of the birth of Japan’s original curry. In 1873, curry rice began to be served at schools for training officers of the Japanese army, and was adopted as a nutritious meal.

In 1876 (Meiji 9), Dr. Clark of the Sapporo Agricultural College (now Hokkaido University) introduced curry rice to improve the nutritional condition of his students. As a result, vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions became the standard ingredients for curry.

Furthermore, in 1908, the Japanese Navy, following the example of the British Navy, adopted curry. This was to provide a nutritionally balanced meal, and curry rice became popular throughout Japan during this period. In the postwar period, curry was introduced into school lunches, further spreading its popularity.

In 1950, solid curry roux was put on the market, making it easy to make curry at home. In 1969, retort-pouch curry was introduced, and curry became an established part of the daily diet. Today, curry is enjoyed by many households as Japan’s national dish.

Throughout this history, Japanese curry has evolved in its own unique way and is loved by a wide range of people, from home cooks to restaurant diners. When you visit Japan, please taste Japanese curry and enjoy its history and charm.


There are many different types of Japanese curry, each with its own unique characteristics and flavor. Below are some of the typical types of Japanese curry.

Curry Rice

Curry rice is a typical Japanese curry dish, and is widely enjoyed as a home-style dish. It is served over cooked rice with curry sauce.


  • Ingredients: Potatoes, carrots, onions, and meat (mostly chicken, pork, and beef) are commonly used.
  • Taste: Mild and sweet, it is suitable for both children and adults.

Curry with pork cutlet

A luxurious dish of curry rice topped with tonkatsu. The crispy pork cutlet and curry are a perfect match.


  • Ingredients: Curry rice topped with tonkatsu.
  • Features: Hearty and satisfying.

Dry Curry

Instead of curry sauce, this dish uses stir-fried minced meat and vegetables with spices. It has little liquid and is mixed with rice.


  • Ingredients: ground meat, onions, green peppers, tomatoes, etc.
  • Taste: Spicy and dry.

Soup Curry

Originating in Hokkaido, Soup Curry is a style of eating by dipping ingredients into a soup-like curry. It is filled with vegetables and meat.


  • Ingredients: Generally large vegetables and chicken legs.
  • Taste: Soupy and spicy with a hint of spice.

Keema Curry

This curry is made with ground meat and is influenced by Indian cuisine. Often served with rice or naan.


  • Ingredients: ground meat, onions, tomatoes and spices.
  • Taste: Spicy and rich with the flavor of minced meat.

Navy Curry

This curry was served by the Japanese Navy and originated in Yokosuka City. Today, there are still many restaurants specializing in Navy Curry.


  • Ingredients: Basically the same as curry rice.
  • History: Traditionally served every Friday, and its vestiges can be enjoyed today.

Curry Bread

Curry is wrapped in bread dough and deep fried. Unique to Japan, curry bread is popular as a delicatessen bread.


  • Ingredients: Curry sauce and bread dough.
  • Texture: Crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.

Curry in Japan can be enjoyed in a wide range of restaurants, from home-style cooking to specialty restaurants. Each curry has its own unique characteristics, and you can enjoy different tastes depending on the region or restaurant you visit. When you visit Japan, be sure to try different types of curry and enjoy its diversity.

Manners and how to eat

When enjoying Japanese curry, it helps to know a few basic manners and the proper way to eat it. Here are some of the key points on manners and eating Japanese curry.

Proper way to eat

  1. How to use a spoon
    Curry is generally eaten with a spoon. Balance the rice and curry sauce on the spoon and bring it to your mouth. Hold the spoon with your right hand and lightly support the plate with your left hand for stability.

2.How to pour the curry sauce.
It is good manners to pour the curry sauce over the rice a little at a time, rather than pouring it over the rice first. This prevents the rice from becoming soggy and allows you to enjoy the dish to the end.

3.How to enjoy garnishes.
Garnishes such as fukujinzuke and rakkyo play a role in enhancing the flavor of curry. Eating a little bit of these garnishes in between servings of curry allows you to enjoy the change in flavor.


  1. Eat quietly.
    Japanese food culture requires quiet conversation during meals. Avoid talking loudly and enjoy your meal while conversing pleasantly with others.
  2. Words of Gratitude.
    It is Japanese etiquette to say “Itadakimasu” before eating and “Gochisosama desu” after eating. By using these words, you can express your gratitude to the person who prepared the food and to the ingredients.
  3. Manners during meals.
    When bringing food to your mouth, hold the spoon firmly and be careful not to spill it. Also, if you put the spoon down in the middle of eating, it is better to put it on the edge of the plate.

Manners after eating

  1. Clean up the table.
    When you have finished eating, it is important to pack up your dishes neatly. Especially in restaurants, make it easy for the staff to clean up.
  2. Tipping culture
    Tipping is generally not customary in Japan, but if you receive good service, you can express your appreciation by thanking the staff directly.

By observing these manners and eating etiquette, you will be able to enjoy a richer dining experience when enjoying Japanese curry. When you visit Japan, be sure to experience the delicious taste of curry and the culture behind it.

Recommended restaurants

There are many famous curry restaurants in Japan, each offering its own unique flavor. Here are some major curry restaurants recommended especially for foreign tourists.

Gogo Curry (Nationwide)

Gogo Curry is a curry chain that originated in Kanazawa and is known for its distinctive thick roux, shredded cabbage, and variety of toppings. Stores are located throughout Japan, and you can enjoy curry of consistent quality wherever you go.


  • The company operates nationwide, with many stores located near train stations in major cities.

CoCo Ichibanya (nationwide)

CoCo Ichibanya is one of the most famous curry chains in Japan. It offers a wide variety of toppings, allowing you to customize your curry to your liking. The spiciness and the amount of rice can also be adjusted, making it a good choice for first-time customers.


  • There are over 1,300 stores nationwide, with outlets in most major cities.

Curry House San Marco (Shinjuku, Tokyo)

Curry House San Marco is a popular curry restaurant in Shinjuku. Its beef curry is especially popular, with a rich roux. You can enjoy your curry in a relaxed atmosphere.


  • Address: Isetan Shinjuku B1F, 3-14-1 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
  • Closest station: 1 minute walk from Shinjuku Sanchome station

Nodaiwa (Azabu-juban, Tokyo)

Nodaiwa is famous for its eel dishes, but its curry is also excellent, with a special curry made with eel extract. It is a restaurant where you can enjoy unique flavors.


  • Address: 1-5-10 Azabu-juban, Minato-ku, Tokyo
  • Closest Station: 3 minutes walk from Azabu-juban Station

Ethiopia (Kanda, Tokyo)

Ethiopia is a specialty restaurant in Kanda that specializes in spiced curry and is popular for its unique use of spices. The spiciness can be adjusted, making it a must for spicy curry lovers.


  • Address: 3-10-6 Kanda Ogawamachi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
  • Nearest station: 5-minute walk from Jimbocho Station

Each of these restaurants offers distinctive curry dishes, allowing you to enjoy Japanese curry culture from multiple perspectives. When you visit, be sure to taste the unique characteristics of each restaurant and enjoy the depth of curry.

Specialties of each region

Each region of Japan has its own unique curry that makes use of local specialties. These curries reflect the flavors and culture of the region and are a great opportunity for travelers to taste what the area has to offer. Below are some typical curries that use local specialties from different regions.

Hokkaido: Soup Curry

Originating in Hokkaido, soup curry is a soup-like curry with lots of spices. Featuring large vegetables and chicken on the bone, it is a healthy dish with a good nutritional balance.


  • Ingredients: Large vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and squash, and chicken on the bone.
  • Taste: Spicy yet light like a soup.

Nagoya (Aichi): Miso Curry

This curry is made with Nagoya’s famous miso, and the rich miso flavor adds depth to the curry. In particular, the use of Hatcho miso gives it a unique richness and sweetness.


  • Ingredients: Hatcho miso is used in addition to the usual curry ingredients.
  • Taste: The richness of the miso and the spiciness of the curry are a perfect match.

Kagoshima Prefecture: Kurobuta Curry

This curry uses Kurobuta pork, a specialty of Kagoshima Prefecture. The sweet fat and tender meat of Kurobuta pork enhances the flavor of the curry.


  • Ingredients: Kurobuta pork, local vegetables.
  • Taste: Luxurious fusion of the sweetness of Kurobuta pork and the spiciness of curry.

Kyoto: Kyoto Vegetable Curry

This curry is made with an abundance of Kyoto’s traditional vegetables, kyo yasai. Different kyo yasai are used in each season, so you can enjoy different tastes depending on the time of year you visit.


  • Ingredients: Kyoto vegetables (kujo leeks, Kamo eggplants, Fushimi peppers, etc.)
  • Taste: The sweetness of fresh vegetables harmonizes with the spiciness of the curry.

Okinawa: Agu Curry

This curry is made with Agu pork, a specialty of Okinawa. Agu pork has sweet fat and very tender meat.


  • Ingredients: Agu pork and Okinawan specialty vegetables.
  • Taste: A perfect balance of sweet fat and spicy curry.

Curry made with local specialties from each region offers a unique local flavor and is a must-try when visiting any part of Japan. Special curry that can only be tasted in each region will surely enrich the enjoyment of your trip.


Japanese curry has evolved in a unique way that differs from Indian and Thai curries, and is now widely loved as part of Japan’s food culture. Its history began in the Meiji era (1868-1912), and through various innovations and improvements, it has spread widely from home cooking to the food service industry.

Japanese curry comes in many variations, including curry rice with a mild roux and a variety of ingredients, curry with pork cutlets, soup curry, and keema curry. This ensures that everyone will find a curry to their liking. There are also curries that make use of regional specialties, allowing visitors to enjoy different flavors depending on the region they visit.

It is also important to remember the manners and ways of eating when enjoying curry. For example, basic manners such as how to use a spoon, how to pour the sauce, and how to enjoy the garnish will make your mealtime even more enjoyable.

When visiting Japan, be sure to visit many curry restaurants and enjoy the diversity and depth of the cuisine. Tasting curry at a famous restaurant in each region is a special experience that allows you to feel the local climate and culture. We hope you will discover new ways to enjoy food through the Japanese curry culture.