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TokyoTreat Japanese Snacks BlogTaiyaki Time: Discovering the Best Five Spots in Japan!

Taiyaki Time: Discovering the Best Five Spots in Japan!

Anna AyvazyanAnna Ayvazyan
Published Time
Posted on 
July 06, 2023
Modified Time
Updated last 
May 16, 2024
A bunch of taiyaki with strawberry daifuku in the background.

In Japan, there are a lot of desserts to try! One of the most popular desserts is hard to miss, a fish-shaped dessert, taiyaki! You can find this dessert during festivals or convenience stores, but there are also several specialty stores where you can enjoy it!

What is taiyaki?

Taiyaki is a straightforward Japanese dessert. The dessert’s name is derived from the fish shape it is cooked in. Tai refers to the sea bream, whereas yaki means cooked or fried. While it is named after a fish, it contains no fishy ingredients. The fish design is a unique differentiator for another dessert called imagawayaki

They are cooked the same; the only difference is that taiyaki is shaped like a fish, whereas imagawayaki is round. In 1909, Seijiro Kanbei, a businessman from Osaka in Tokyo, noticed he needed help selling his imagawayaki. So he decided to come up with a new way to sell it by reinventing the shape of the dessert. He created a fish mold and cooked the batter, changing the course of the imigawayaki industry! 

A hand holding a taiyaki.
It’s a fish-shaped pastry with a sweet filling. Image via Shutterstock

The reasons why Seijiro Kanbei decided on the fish shape are still unknown. However, many confectionery historians believe he chose the fish shape because the tai fish represents luxury and is “the king of fish.” Moreover, people eat fish during special occasions like New Year’s Day, which means good luck.

The fish shape could make the customer feel like they are eating a luxurious dessert for cheap. Regardless of theories, the fish shape won customers’ hearts and quickly became a favorite dessert amongst locals. Another reason why it became popular is due to its fillings. While imagawayaki typically had a red bean filling, this treat became associated with several different fillings.

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Top five places to try taiyaki!

You can find taiyaki at most convenience stores and during major festivals. But if you want the best flavor experience, visit a specialty store! Here are the top five specialty stores according to online rankings.

Naniwaya Sōhonten Azabu Juban (Tokyo)

Naniwaya Sōhonten holds the reputation as the top place in Tokyo to try taiyaki. Seijiro Kanbei opened this shop, and people regard it as the oldest stand in Tokyo. It was founded in 1909 and has remained in business for 114 years! They make it the authentic way, and there is a rumor that the red bean paste takes eight hours to make daily!

The storefront of Naniwaya Sohonten.
This delicious pastry shop also serves yakisoba! Image via Wikicommons

It is famous for its old-school vibes and has been mentioned in some Showa-era songs. In addition, you can also eat other Japanese sweets such as anmitsu and kakigori. It is a one-minute walk from Azabu-Juban Metro Station. Its opening hours are 11 am to 7 pm, and it is open every day except Tuesdays. 

Yanagiya (Tokyo)

Yanagiya Taiyaki is another famous Tokyo destination known for its delicious offerings. Many people line up for 30 minutes to savor taiyaki from this store. People attribute Yanagiya Taiyaki’s unique taste to the way they make it.

Unlike most stands nowadays, which typically use a waffle iron, Yanagiya Taiyaki employs a distinct method in creating their delectable treats. However, this restaurant makes it using molds attached to a long handle. The molds are then put directly onto an open flame.

The storefront of Yanagiya Taiyaki.
Yanagiya is down in Ningyocho, a central Tokyo neighborhood. Image via Old Tokyo

The open flame gives the taiyaki a more crisper and smoky flavor. Many people say the crispiness is worth lining up for and that it is something you can’t typically taste in normal taiyaki.! It is a 1-minute walk from Ningyocho Station. Its opening hours are 12:30 pm to 6 pm, and it is open every day except for 6 pm. 

Yonezawa (Tottori)

Yonezawa Taiyaki is one of the best taiyaki stores in Tottori Prefecture. It is located nearby the popular tourist destination – the Kurayoshi White Wall Warehouses. The taiyaki here is unique for two reasons: the taiyaki’s color is white, and the second is its cooking method. Typically, most taiyaki is a golden brown with a white mix to fit the warehouse’s theme. 

A plate of taiyaki and imagawayaki at Yonezawa.
Yonezawa is one of the most famous pastry shops in Tottori Prefecture. Image via Trip Advisor

At Yonezawa Taiyaki, they make them individually using a unique fish mold. They refer to this way of making it as icho-yaki. Most snack stands no longer use this method because it takes time, but you can see how they do it at Yonezawa Taiyaki!

Many people say their pastry has an exceptional nostalgic taste. There isn’t much public transport available in Tottori, so you may need to rent a bike or car to visit it! This taiyaki stand is open every day from 10 am to 6 pm. 

Naruto Taiyaki (located across major cities in Japan)

Naruto Taiyaki is located in one of the top sweet cities, Kobe, in Hyogo Prefecture. You can easily spot the store thanks to its large signboard. It is a seven-minute walk from JR Sannonmiya Station and is open every day from 11 am to 11 pm. Most cafes close around 5 pm in Japan, so this is an excellent snack if you need something sweet at night.

A bunch of fish-shaped pastry from a pastry stand called Naruto.
Naruto is a trendy pastry chain in the city. Image via JAPAN Fes

If you can’t get to Sannomiya, don’t worry. Naruto Taiyaki Honpo has a few branches throughout Japan. You can visit Naruto Taiyaki Honpo in Osaka, Kyoto, and Fukuoka. They are famous for their red bean and sweet potato flavors. Occasionally there are also seasonal flavors, such as sakura during spring and chestnut during fall. 

Amairo Cafe Taiyaki (Kyoto)

Amairo Cafe is located in Kyoto City, home of traditional Japanese sweets. The taiyaki uses the same recipe as Marukin Confectionery, a long-established shop in Amakusa, Kumamoto. You can set up a taiyaki, coffee, tea, or soda at this cafe. The taiyaki at this stand is also famous for its unique round shape – similar to Imagawayaki but retaining the fish print!

A bunch of round, fish-shaped pastry from Amairo Cafe.
It’s like two pastries in one! Image via O-share

Many people like to put the round taiyaki on their drinks for Instagrammable pictures! The shop interior is also based on traditional Kyoto architecture machiya, giving the shop a traditional, sophisticated ambiance. It is a two-minute walk from Shijo Station. Its opening hours are 12 pm to 6 pm, and it is open every day except Mondays and Tuesdays.

Indulging in the delightful world of taiyaki flavors is a must-do experience in Japan, and the options seem endless! From classic fillings like red bean paste and custard to more adventurous choices like matcha and sweet potato and even savory fillings like cheese and curry, there’s a taiyaki for every palate.

Which flavors have piqued your curiosity, and what draws you to them? Are you eager to savor the traditional taste or ready to embark on a flavor adventure? Share your taiyaki dreams in the comments below, and tell us which delightful taiyaki flavors you can’t wait to try on your next Japanese culinary journey!

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