Wake up and smell the miso with a traditional Japanese breakfast full of rich, authentic flavors. Whether you sit down to a meal in a hotel or create one yourself, you'll be sure to enjoy this unique and delightful cuisine.

When you think of breakfast, you likely imagine the staples of an American morning meal: eggs, bacon, toast, coffee. Or maybe you like things a bit more continental, with a pastry and some fruit. What you may not think of is rice, soup and fish. Unless you grew up in Japan, these dishes wouldn’t seem like food to wake up to! However, a traditional Japanese breakfast is one of the most popular meals among those who have traveled to Japan. Read on to learn more about this traditional meal. You will also receive some tips on how to recreate it from the comfort of your own home.

What Is a Japanese Breakfast?

A traditional Japanese breakfast offers diners a light yet diverse array of foods to enjoy. Familiar staples such as steamed white rice and miso soup are accompanied by a protein (such as fish) and a delicious collection of sides. These sides could include anything from nori to pickles.

One of the delights of a Japanese breakfast is the immense variety of foods you can taste. This gives travelers an authentic experience. Better yet, this clean and wholesome meal is perfect after a night of too much sake. The perfect combination of carbs in the rice and protein in the fish or egg will give your body some needed energy. The miso soup gives you all the nutrition of beans first thing in the morning; boost this benefit with some fermented soybeans (natto) on the side.

Where Can I Find It?

Perhaps not surprisingly, a Japanese breakfast can be found in many restaurants in popular cities like New York. Hotels such as The Plaza, the Essex House and even the Hilton offer traditional breakfast foods for Japanese visitors and Japanophiles alike. This makes it easy to find the comforts of home when traveling, or to experience a new type of morning meal when visiting the big city. Little Tokyo, in Los Angeles, also has many options for Japanese breakfast if you find yourself on that side of the country.

How Can I Make It?

Of course, it can be easier — and cheaper — to recreate this authentic meal in your own kitchen. Begin with the basics by preparing some rice or porridge (okayu). Next, mix up some miso soup for that umami kick. If you don’t have enough time to make your own miso soup, try this easy and healthy instant miso soup packet.

Then, select a protein of your choice. This could be grilled whitefish, fermented soybeans (natto), delicate smoked salmon or even a few hard-boiled eggs to incorporate some of your favorite breakfast items. To keep it traditional, however, it is typical to serve a raw egg on top. Next, move on to the side dishes. This is where you can really have some fun! Some great options could be:

  • Japanese pickles (tsukemono)
  • Dried seaweed (nori)
  • Umeboshi plums
  • Vegetables (kobachi) (Check out our spinach recipe!)
  • Toasted mochi
  • Fish roe

Top things off with some sesame seeds, chopped green onions or soy sauce, as desired. Finally, round everything out with a mug of hot green tea for a little boost of caffeine and culture.