Experience Japanese Food Culture: How to Enjoy Tempura



Japanese food culture attracts food lovers from all over the world with its delicacy and uniqueness. Among them, tempura is particularly popular and is one of the essential experiences for visitors to Japan. Tempura is a simple dish of fresh ingredients wrapped in a light batter and deep fried, but its technique and taste are unforgettable once tasted.

Tempura became popular among the common people in the Edo period (1603-1867) and is now enjoyed in a wide variety of styles, from upscale restaurants to casual set menus. Its appeal is, above all, its crispy texture and light flavor that makes the most of the flavors of the ingredients. By using seasonal ingredients, mainly vegetables and seafood, one can enjoy the flavors of the four seasons.

In this article, we will introduce all the fascinating aspects of tempura, including its history, types, recommended ways to eat tempura, and famous restaurants you should visit. We will provide you with information to help you gain a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture and enjoy the best tempura experience possible. We hope you will enjoy the richness of Japan’s food culture through tempura to the fullest.


The history of tempura is said to have been introduced to Japan by Portuguese missionaries in the 16th century. The Portuguese cuisine of “peixe frito” (fried fish) is considered to be the prototype of today’s tempura. This culinary technique was introduced to Japan as a simple way to fry fish and vegetables.

During the Edo period (1603-1867), tempura became popular among the common people as a yatai (food stall) dish. At that time, tempura was a popular dish consisting of fish and vegetables wrapped in a batter made of flour and water and deep-fried in oil. Especially in Edo (present-day Tokyo), tempura gained popularity as an easy-to-eat fast food, and food stalls and restaurants specializing in tempura appeared one after another.

In the Meiji period (1868-1912), tempura evolved further and began to be served in restaurants and high-class ryotei (Japanese-style restaurants). During this period, improvements were made to the frying method and batter, resulting in the light and crispy tempura we know today. In addition, the quality and temperature control of oil was emphasized, establishing tempura as a dish where craftsmanship shines through.

Today, tempura has become a beloved dish throughout Japan, and there are many tempura specialty restaurants and eateries. Using seasonal ingredients, tempura is a dish that evokes the four seasons in Japan and is a popular choice for tourists. Tempura has also gained recognition abroad for its delicious taste, and many countries have incorporated it into the menus of Japanese restaurants.

By learning about the history of tempura, you will understand its depth and skill, and enjoy it even more. When you visit Japan, be sure to taste authentic tempura and experience its history and charm.


There are many different types of tempura, depending on the variety of ingredients and cooking methods used. Here are some typical types of tempura.

Seafood Tempura

Shrimp Tempura.
Shrimp tempura is one of the most popular types of tempura. Fresh shrimp is wrapped in a light batter and deep-fried until crispy, giving shrimp tempura a crunchy outside and juicy inside. The “Jumbo Shrimp Tempura,” made with large shrimp, is especially loved by many people.

Kiss Tempura.
Kiss is a type of white fish whose light flavor is perfect for tempura. Kiss Tempura is deep-fried in a thin batter and is characterized by its light texture and refreshing flavor. It is popular as a simple dish that takes full advantage of the fish’s flavor.

Anago Tempura.
Conger eel is a fish with a texture and flavor similar to eel, and is very tasty when tempura is used. Anago Tempura is a dish with a fluffy texture and rich flavor.

Vegetable Tempura

Eggplant Tempura.
Eggplant has a high moisture content and becomes moist when fried. Eggplant tempura is characterized by its softness and sweetness, and is best enjoyed with a simple salt or tempura sauce.

Kabocha Tempura.
Kabocha is a vegetable with a sweet and hunky texture. Kabocha Tempura is popular among both children and adults because of the perfect balance between its natural sweetness and crispy batter.

Shishito Tempura.
Shishito is a vegetable characterized by its bell pepper-like appearance and light pungency. Shishito Tempura offers a slightly tangy taste and is a popular accent to other tempura.

Other Tempura

Chikuwa Tempura.
Chikuwa is a fish paste product made from fish paste, and when tempura is made, you can enjoy the contrast between the crispy batter and the moist filling. Chikuwa Tempura is popular as a quick and easy dish to enjoy.

There are endless variations of tempura, depending on the choice of ingredients and the frying method. Tempura restaurants throughout Japan offer tempura made with ingredients unique to each region. We hope you will enjoy the depth of Japanese food culture as you savor the many varieties of tempura.

Manners and How to Eat

When enjoying tempura, knowing a few basic manners and the proper way to eat it will help you appreciate its taste even more. Here are some tips on how to eat tempura and the proper manners.

Proper way to eat

  1. Tempura Temperature.
    Tempura tastes best when it is freshly fried. Freshly fried tempura allows you to enjoy the crispy batter and fluffy texture of the ingredients inside. Try to eat it as soon as it is served.
  2. Tare and salt usage.
    Tempura is usually served with tempura sauce or salt. Tentsuyu is a mixture of dashi broth with soy sauce and mirin (sweet cooking rice wine), in which the tempura is lightly dipped. When served with salt, the tempura is lightly sprinkled with salt to enhance the natural flavor of the ingredients. The type of salt varies from restaurant to restaurant, and you can enjoy a variety of flavors such as green tea salt and yuzu salt.

Pay attention to the order in which you eat tempura. It is common to start with vegetable tempura, which has a light flavor, and then move on to seafood and hearty ingredients. This allows your palate to gradually become accustomed to the flavors of each ingredient, allowing you to fully enjoy the taste of each.

  1. Chopstick usage for tempura.
    The use of chopsticks is also important when eating tempura. Be sure to lift the tempura gently so that the batter does not crumble. Large pieces of tempura are easier to eat if you use chopsticks to cut the tempura into appropriate sizes before eating.

Etiquette and Manners at Mealtime

  1. Eat quietly.
    Japanese dining culture expects people to speak quietly while eating. It is especially important to maintain a quiet environment in upscale tempura restaurants. When conversing, speak in a whisper and remember to be considerate of the customers around you.
  2. Words of thanks.
    After the meal is over, it is common to say “Gochisoso sama desu” (thank you for the meal). This is an important manner of expressing gratitude to the artisan who prepared the food and to the restaurant staff.
  3. Use of Cell Phones.
    Cell phone use during a meal is discouraged. Especially in upscale restaurants, it is considered good manners to concentrate on your meal and enjoy the food and conversation. When taking pictures, please be considerate so as not to disturb the people around you.

By observing these manners and eating styles, you will be able to enjoy tempura even more. It will be a valuable experience for you to feel the true flavor of tempura and to gain a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture.

Recommended restaurants

There are many tempura specialty restaurants throughout Japan, each offering its own unique charm and flavor. Here are some recommended tempura restaurants that visitors to Japan should definitely visit.

Recommended restaurants in Tokyo

Tempura Miyakoshi*.
Tempura Miyakoshi is a high-end tempura restaurant located in Ginza, Tokyo. Each tempura dish, made with fresh seafood and seasonal vegetables, is deep-fried with the skill of a chef, giving it a light texture and rich flavor. The tempura is especially beautiful when served at the counter, where the chefs fry the tempura right in front of your eyes, doubling the pleasure of your meal.

Ten-Ichi is a long-established tempura restaurant established in 1930, with its main branch in Ginza, Tokyo. Tempura is deep-fried using traditional techniques to maximize the flavor of the ingredients, especially the shrimp tempura. A wide variety of menus are available, from tempura set menus to course meals.

Recommended restaurants in Kyoto

Tempura Yasaka Endo*.
Located near Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, Tempura Yasaka Endo is a restaurant where you can enjoy high quality tempura in a historic building. Fresh ingredients and elegant flavors are the hallmarks of this restaurant, and the seasonal special menus are especially popular. Enjoy a luxurious moment while experiencing the atmosphere of Kyoto.

Tempura Matsu*.
Tempura Matsu is a popular tempura restaurant in Kyoto City. The restaurant offers a wide variety of tempura using seasonal ingredients, and each dish is carefully deep-fried. Tempura enjoyed at the counter is especially worth a visit as you can see the craftsmanship up close.

Recommended restaurants in Osaka

Tempura Daikichi*.
Located in Namba, Osaka, Tempura Daikichi is a casual tempura restaurant loved by locals. It is popular among many tourists for its fresh tempura at reasonable prices. The style of enjoying freshly fried tempura with beer is especially popular.

Tempura Makino*.
Tempura Makino is a popular restaurant located in Shinsaibashi, Osaka, and boasts tempura made with fresh ingredients. With an extensive menu and friendly service, visitors are warmly welcomed. The lunchtime set menu, in particular, can be enjoyed easily during a break from sightseeing.

Nationwide chain restaurant

Tempura Tsunahachi.
Tempura Tsunahachi is a nationwide chain restaurant based in Tokyo. Using the freshest ingredients, each tempura is carefully deep-fried one by one by artisans, and the quality is high at every restaurant. The affordability of authentic tempura makes them very popular with visitors to Japan.

Each of these tempura restaurants has its own unique charm, and they are all well known and loved throughout Japan. We encourage you to visit these restaurants during your trip and enjoy the variety of tempura flavors. You will experience the richness of Japan’s food culture.

Regional specialties

Tempura made from local specialties exists in every region of Japan, providing travelers with the perfect opportunity to enjoy the unique flavors of each region. Here are some tempura that make use of the specialties of each region.


Annago Tempura.
Tempura made with fresh sea eel caught in Tokyo Bay is a Tokyo specialty along with Edomae Sushi. Sea eel has a fluffy texture and sweet taste, which is enhanced when it is made into tempura. In particular, you can enjoy the finest sea eel tempura at tempura restaurants in the Tsukiji market area.


Kyoto vegetable tempura.
Tempura using Kyoto vegetables such as Kamo eggplant and Kujo leeks are very popular in Kyoto. These vegetables are particular about their cultivation methods and varieties, and are characterized by their flavor and texture. Tempura brings out the natural sweetness and aroma of the ingredients, giving them an elegant flavor.

Tempura of hamo.
Hamo (Japanese conger eel) is a famous summer delicacy in Kyoto. A light white fish, finely boned hamo (conger eel) is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside when it is tempura-ed. Especially when served with ume plum paste or sudachi (citrus fruit), it adds a refreshing flavor that makes it even more delicious.


Octopus Tempura.
Tempura made with fresh octopus from Osaka Bay is a dish unique to Osaka. The octopus is very resilient and the more you bite into it, the more flavorful it becomes. Tempura makes it crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. Tempura made with Akashi octopus is especially exquisite.


Oyster Tempura.
Hiroshima Prefecture is famous for its oysters, and tempura made with fresh oysters is exceptional. Oyster tempura is characterized by its crispy outside and juicy inside, and the flavor of the sea fills your mouth. You can enjoy menus featuring seasonal oysters at tempura restaurants in Hiroshima.


Hokkaido Scallop Tempura.
Tempura made with fresh scallops caught in Hokkaido is exquisite in its sweetness and flavor. The scallops are thick and crispy on the outside and moist on the inside when tempura is made. Scallops caught along the Sea of Okhotsk coast are of particularly high quality and make excellent tempura.

Tempura made from these regional specialties reflects the characteristics of each region, allowing you to enjoy the unique flavor of each region. When you travel, be sure to try tempura from different regions to experience the diversity of Japan’s food culture.


What you can gain through your experience at a restaurant

The experience of dining at a tempura restaurant is more than just a meal; it is a special moment. Using the freshest ingredients and deep-fried by skilled chefs, tempura brings out the best flavor of the ingredients. The restaurant’s relaxed atmosphere and dialogue with the chefs further enhances the appeal of tempura. The temperature and texture of tempura at the moment of eating are important, and you will feel the pleasure of tasting freshly fried tempura.

A step toward a deeper understanding of Japanese food culture

Through tempura, you can experience the depth of Japanese food culture. Tempura, which makes use of local specialties of each region, reflects the local climate and culture. Whether it is kyoyasai tempura, hamo (pike conger) tempura, or sea eel tempura, the ability to enjoy the unique characteristics of each region is a uniquely Japanese attraction. Also, by learning the proper way and manner of eating tempura, you will be able to enjoy its deliciousness even more.

Through tempura, you can experience the diversity and depth of Japanese food culture. We encourage you to visit a tempura restaurant during your trip to Japan and experience its rich flavor and culture. Along with the delicious taste of tempura, it will be a valuable experience to deeply understand a part of Japanese food culture.