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Do Japanese eat spicy?


Japan is famous for its unique cuisine, which includes sushi, ramen, and teriyaki. However, when it comes to spicy food, many people wonder if Japanese cuisine includes spicy dishes. In this article, we will explore whether Japanese people like spicy food, what are the common spicy ingredients used in Japanese cuisine, and how spicy food is perceived in Japan.

Japanese cuisine and spices

Japanese cuisine is based on simplicity and using fresh ingredients. Traditionally, Japanese food is not known for being spicy. However, over time, spices like chili pepper (tōgarashi) and wasabi have been incorporated into Japanese dishes to add heat and flavor. These spices are typically used sparingly to maintain the balance of flavors in a dish.

Japanese Snack Box

Perceptions of spice

In Japan, the perception of spice differs from other countries. Spices are often associated with foreign cuisine, particularly Indian and Thai food. Some Japanese people enjoy the heat of spicy food, while others find it overwhelming or uncomfortable. The amount of spice used in a dish can also vary depending on the region in Japan.

The spice tolerance of Japanese people

Generally speaking, Japanese people tend to have a lower tolerance for spice compared to other countries like India or Thailand. This is partly due to genetics and cultural factors. Historically, Japan has not had a strong tradition of using spices in its cuisine, so people’s palates may be less accustomed to spicy flavors.

Popular spicy dishes in Japan

While Japanese cuisine is not known for being particularly spicy, there are some popular dishes that incorporate chili peppers or other spices. One example is “karē raisu,” or Japanese curry rice, which has a mild spiciness due to the addition of curry powder or paste. Another example is “shichimi togarashi,” a blend of seven spices that is often sprinkled on top of noodles or rice dishes for added heat.

Regional differences in spice

As with many aspects of Japanese culture and cuisine, there are regional differences when it comes to spice. For example, the northern region of Hokkaido is known for its use of “ishiri,” a salty and spicy condiment made from fermented squid. In contrast, the southern region of Kyushu has a reputation for using more chili peppers in its dishes.

The influence of foreign cuisine

As Japan has become more globalized and diverse, there has been an increase in the popularity of foreign cuisines like Korean or Mexican food that include spicy flavors. This has led to more Japanese people being exposed to and enjoying spicier foods.

The health benefits of spices

While some people may avoid spicy food due to discomfort or intolerance, there are many health benefits associated with consuming spices like chili peppers or ginger. These include boosting metabolism, reducing inflammation, and improving digestion.

Challenges for foreigners visiting Japan

If you are a foreigner visiting Japan who enjoys spicy food, you may find it challenging to find restaurants that cater to your preferences. While many restaurants offer some level of customization for their dishes (such as adding extra wasabi or chili oil), it can be difficult to find restaurants that specialize in very spicy foods.

The role of personal preference

Ultimately, whether someone enjoys spicy food or not comes down to personal preference. While some Japanese people may avoid spice altogether, others may enjoy it in moderation or seek out spicier dishes from foreign cuisines.


In conclusion, while Japanese cuisine is not typically known for being particularly spicy, there are still many instances where spices like chili peppers or wasabi are used to add flavor and heat. The perception of spice differs from person to person and region to region in Japan, but overall there is a growing appreciation for spicier foods as part of global culinary trends.


Why is Japanese food so spicy?

Japan is home to many distinctive spices that provide a unique type of spiciness to food that differs from more commonly used spices like chili and pepper. Wasabi, seven spice, yuzu kosho, and sansho (Japanese pepper) are the main spices used in Japanese cuisine, with some individuals also incorporating karashi (mustard).

Which country doesn t like spicy food?

According to a report from August 18, 2020, Denmark is known for having the least spicy cuisine in the world.

Is Japanese food spicier than Korean?

Korean cuisine commonly uses chili pepper for flavoring, while Japanese food typically does not. Compared to Korean cuisine, Japanese dishes are generally less spicy in taste.

What is Japanese most spicy food?

A study in Japan conducted in May 2022 found that mapo tofu was the top spicy dish among participants, with nearly 72% selecting it. The second most popular spicy food was Chinese noodle dish tantanmen, with 63.6% of respondents choosing it. This information was reported on November 14, 2022.

Does Japanese food use spices?

In Japanese cuisine, common spices include wasabi, togarashi, and shoga. It is possible for herbs and spices to come from the same plant, such as cilantro producing coriander seeds and shiso leaves producing shiso seeds.

Can Japanese handle spicy?

Although many Japanese people claim they cannot handle even the slightest bit of spiciness, spicy food is indeed a part of Japanese cuisine, especially in the southern region, due to the influence of Chinese and Korean cuisine throughout history.

The rise of spicy ramen

One recent trend in Japan is the popularity of spicy ramen. Ramen is a beloved Japanese dish that typically consists of noodles in a savory broth topped with various ingredients like pork, egg, and seaweed. In recent years, many ramen shops have begun offering spicy versions of their dishes, often featuring chili oil or paste as an ingredient. These spicy ramen dishes have become quite popular among younger generations and those who enjoy a bit of heat in their meals.

The use of wasabi

Wasabi is a well-known Japanese condiment that is usually served with sushi. It has a distinct flavor and a sharp, sinus-clearing heat. While wasabi is not traditionally used in large quantities in Japanese cuisine, it is still considered a staple condiment and can add a nice kick to sushi or other dishes. Some restaurants also offer wasabi-flavored snacks or drinks, such as wasabi-flavored ice cream.

Japanese hot pot dishes

Another type of dish that can incorporate spice in Japanese cuisine is hot pot dishes, such as shabu-shabu or sukiyaki. These dishes involve cooking thinly sliced meat and vegetables in a pot of boiling broth at the table. Often, diners can customize the broth to their liking by adding spices like chili peppers or garlic. This allows for a personalized level of heat and flavor in each person’s portion.

The role of umami

While spice is not always a prominent aspect of Japanese cuisine, umami is a flavor profile that is highly valued. Umami refers to a savory taste that can be found in foods like mushrooms, soy sauce, and miso paste. Umami can complement spicy flavors by balancing out the heat with a rich, savory taste. This balance of flavors is often sought after in Japanese dishes to create a harmonious and satisfying meal.

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