Most countries are familiar with a food court, a food bazaar, or simply a bunch of food stores in a communal area in a mall. Besides malls, there are food courts at rest stops too which are semi-malls where long distance buses stop en route to their destinations. In addition to the normal grub at food courts, these rest stops are unique because they showcase the local food products to visitors. So, what can you expect to see at a typical Japanese food court?
This mega chain has seen much success and has even expanded overseas. Takoyaki is grilled octopus flour balls with a chunk of terntacle in the middle. They are cooked in half-spherical molds and are the quintessential go-to food when in need of a snack. There are several toppings such as spring onion (negi ねぎ) and roe mayonnaise (mentaiko 明太子マヨ).
These are the Japanese equivalents of mega fast food chains such as McDonalds. Beef bowls and curry rice are resident items of a typical quick meal in Japan. Omori (大盛) or extra big portions, as well as sets with miso soup, are also available. They are extremely affordable but don’t expect too much.
This chain of stores by the fast food giant Ringer Hut has outlets all over Japan and spreads the cuisine of the port city of Nagasaki in a cheap and fast manner. Champon is a noodle dish with Chinese origins that has a signature heap of lard-fried vegetables atop thick yellow noodles. The noodles are thicker than typical ramen noodles and are cooked in the broth itself, unlike ramen where the noodles are boiled separately.
Mister Donut is very popular in Japan and may be seen everywhere. Krispy Kreme has penetrated the Japanese market but is more upscale and has flagship stores as opposed to chain outlets. Mister Donut is seen as the everyday, affordable donut that is just one step above donuts from the convenience store. The diversity in Japanese donut shapes and flavors is amazing.
These are soupy noodles on the cheap fly. The usual toppings are sweetened beancurd skin or tempura batter bits.
This chain restaurant is reminiscent of a Denny’s, serving up affordable Japanese fusion fare. Think the likes of omu-rice, shrimp gratin, and Japanese hamburger steaks. It also has a low-end patisserie that sells cakes such as strawberry shortcake and chocolate truffle.
These packs are made for people on the go and are simple and delicious. Pickled vegetables and grilled fish are common fillings in the triangular rice ball wrapped in crisp nori seaweed. It is also a great filler after a long bus ride.
Some other common sights are Starbucks, soft serve ice cream machines, and local product souvenir (omiyage) shops. Stores in the food court at rest stops may vary depending on the area and its specialty foods. Enjoy, the Japanese food courts are great for grabbing a quick, cheap and delicious bite to eat on your travels.