One of the street food that is typical for Japan is “taiyaki”. It is a fish-shaped cake usually filled with red bean paste (anko) made from sweetened azuki beans, but many places sell also taiyaki filled with custard, sweet potato, or chocolate. Some more fancy places might serve it with ice cream, too. It has a fluffy texture and when you buy it, it is usually taken directly from the baking form and can be too hot to eat. The filling is generally only in the body of the fish and needs some time to cool down, too.
It is frequently sold in stalls the street fair and festivals, or you might find them in small shops near shrines and temples, for example in Asakusa, or rarely in supermarkets as well. In the streets, you will see with your own eyes how are taiyaki baked into these fish molds and you can enjoy them freshly baked. It is similar to imagawayaki which is basically a cake made of same waffle or pancake-like batter, only the shape is round and much thicker than taiyaki.
The name literally translates as “baked sea breams” as it always takes the form of this fish called in Japanese tai (sparidea). It was once considered a very expensive fish and eaten only for special celebrations. Since it was so rare to have this delicacy, at some point in Meiji era bakers of imagawayaki decided to make their cakes into the form of fish and this became a huge hit that spread from Tokyo throughout Japan.
If you are not familiar with the taste of Japanese sweet beans or sweet potatoes, you might be a bit disappointed by the taste, however, I think you should try at least one piece. I am sure you will find them in many tourist spots and they are usually very cheap, so there is no excuse for you to not give it a try.
Taiyaki is a fish-shaped cake that is a very popular treat in Japan. Don’t worry though, the cake doesn’t taste like fish! Taiyaki is usually filled with a traditional red bean paste, but can be found in many different flavours such as custard, chocolate, cream and sweet potato.