It’s hard to label which country invented which food. Japan actually took a lot of inspiration for its food from other countries! Here are some surprising food items that originated outside of Japan:

Drain Pasta
Alex Frank / Spoon

Ok, this one needs a bit of history. Japan adopted a lot of its culture from China, including Chinese characters and inspiration for the famous anime Dragon Ball. One of the things they adopted is ramen.

True, Japanese and Chinese noodles are a bit different now — they use different kinds of sauce/soup and noodles. Nonetheless, it’s important to remember that Japanese “ramen” was originally inspired by Chinese noodles!


Surprise: tempura actually came from Europe! For those of you who don’t know, tempura is deep-fried fish, shellfish or vegetables. The Portuguese navy introduced the dish to Japan in the 16th century with its deep-fry cooking techniques.


Nikujaga, Japanese meat and potato stew, is Japan’s top comfort food. All Japanese moms make this dish for their children, and all children love it! The idea of nikujaga actually came from England, where meat and potato stews were common. Japanese people tweaked it a bit, introducing Japanese sauce and konjac.

CREAM croquette

Another inspiration from France! You may have seen potato-filled croquettes in European dishes. When a French navy visited Japan, they introduced the croquettes to Japan. Japanese people loved the dish and decided to customize it a bit — they put crab cream inside! It became one of the most loved dishes of all time in Japan. It was even featured in From Up On Poppy Hill in Studio Ghibli.

These were a few of the “Japanese” dishes that actually originated outside of Japan! Although they were invented elsewhere, they were integrated to become one of the most loved foods in Japan. Who knows, the food you’re eating right now might actually not be from where you thought it would be. I encourage you to do some quick research, it’s a great way to learn about different cultures around the world!