What Japanese kids like to eat, now and then

Japanese kids' favorite foods ranking

While I was doing research for an upcoming article, I ran across this page on Gurunavi, one of the top 2 restaurant-reviewing sites in Japan, which has a cute infographic with the results of a survey of the foods kids love. The column on the left shows what kids between the ages of 6 to 12 in 2014 like, and the right column shows what people who were born in the 1950s-60s or so (or the mid-Showa era) liked when they were that age. Although there may be some 'recall errors' for the 2nd column, the results are pretty interesting.

Here's the top 10 for the kids of today:

1. Curry rice
2. Sushi
3. Chicken karaage
4. Hanbaagu (hamburger steak)
5. Ramen
6. Yakiniku
7. French fries ("potato fries")
8. Omurice (rice omelette)
9. Pizza
10. Sashimi

And here's the top 10 for kids of yesteryear:

1. Curry rice
2. Omurice and hambaagu (tie)
4. Tamagoyaki
5. Ramen
6. Korokke (croquettes)
7. Sushi
8. Sukiyaki
9. Tonkatsu (deep fried pork cutlet)
10. Chicken karaage

The rise of sushi as the second favorite kids' food is kind of surprising, but I think this can be attributed to the huge increase in inexpensive conveyor-belt sushi chains around the country. When I was a kid sushi was an occasional feast food, but these days it's become a lot more accessible. Yakiniku probably means Korean barbecue-type grilled meat, which has also seen a huge jump in popularity in the past decade or so. French fries have replaced croquettes as a favorite deep fried potato food - again, this is probably due to the increase in American-style fast food chains (the first McDonald's franchise in Japan opened in 1971 in Ginza, Tokyo). There's probably a similar story behind the rise in the popularity of pizza.

Both lists are dominated by western-style foods, with sushi and sashimi being the only "traditional" foods. This reflects how westernized Japanese food has become after WWII (and I guess maybe one reason why some people in Japan thought it was really important to get washoku or traditional Japanese cuisine UNESCO Cultural Heritage designation).

The least favorite foods are interesting too. They only list the top (or bottom) 3, but they are like this:

Today’s kids:

1. Goya champuruu
2. Celery
3. Green bell peppers

Kids of yesteryear:

1. Celery
2. Liver
3. Natto

Goya champuruu is an Okinawan dish, and Okinawa was only returned to Japan by the United States in 1972 (it was occupied by the U.S. military after WWII). Okinawan food has only become widespread in mainland Japan from the 1980s onwards. Green bell peppers have always been a food kids dislike I think (I'm not sure if this is just in Japan, or a worldwide thing). Celery is a bit surprising to me since I've always loved celery myself.

The pie charts on the bottom show the responses to the question of how parents responded when a kid didn't like a food. The parents of yesteryear were more likely to make their child finish the food regardless, while today's parents are more likely to make the child eat just a portion.

(There's a more comprehensive survey on this page. According to this, the favorite food of kids is sushi, but the least favorite food is grilled fish! The same product but cooked and presented differently.)

What do similar lists in your country look like? What do you remember liking or disliking when you were that age? As for me, I disliked seaweed a lot, especially konbu (not in dashi, but when it was used in big pieces for kobumaki (konbu and sardine rolls). I also disliked nori seaweed, and used to peel it off my mochi cakes and feed it to my little sister! Nowadays I like nori but still am not that fond of kobumaki.

Filed under:  japanese japan washoku japanese culture yoshoku

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Slight correction - the #2 disliked food for the older group looks like liver to me. Can't say that I blame them :)

Although I've grown to tolerate them, I think disliking green peppers is pretty common all over.

You are right. Corrected! (Although I like liver myself... ^_^)

I've always disliked celery but I have always liked bell peppers. As kids, my parents would often serve the mixed vegetables with dinner. We were each allowed to pick out the one type of veggie we disliked the most. I was always torn between the lima beans (eww!) and the green beans. I still don't like green beans. I think it's because the skins tend to peel and they are soggy and fuzzy.

Favorite foods as a kid: pizza, I think would score very high in the USA. Also probably hotdogs, macaroni & cheese, chicken nuggets, spaghetti...

Oh, please do try very fresh, slender green beans, tops trimmed off, sautéed with olive oil or butter or coconut oil and a sliced shallot (or some sliced mushrooms or some halved cherry tomatoes)! Toss in a few slivered almonds or chopped pecans if you like nuts. They are not fuzzy or soggy in the SLIGHTEST! I despised green beans growing up, but love them now, as do my husband and three year old daughter!

Also try roasting them on a sheet pan in the oven with just olive oil and salt, until slightly wrinkled and spotted with brown, or simmering them briefly with a bit of bacon. Seriously, it's a totally different veg than the canned or overcooked beans you may have had as a child!

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I think kids everywhere like fried things and cheesy things, right? I'm sure chicken nuggets and chips (as in, fried potato) and pizza would be near the top of an Aussie kids favourites list. Although sushi would be right up there too, these days.

I've never been a fan of celery, but I can't remember disliking too many other things as a kid! We weren't really given the option to not eat things.

Nori was so, so special in our house when I was a kid - it was so hard to get, and Mum would get tins sent from Japan and then hide them so my brother and I couldn't eat it all at once. Oh, and mochi! My Baachan would make us mochi when we visited (every couple of years), I remember being so excited about watching it puff up on the grill and then wrapping it in nori - the decadence! Now I can buy both at the corner shop :)

I was born in NZ mid-Showa(昭和27年)1952。While I love food and have few dislikes, it is quite hard recalling what I liked best as a kid. Roast chicken (it was a Christmas only luxury), mashed potatoes, asparagus, (actually vegetables & fruit in general), eggs, esp scrambled. My favourite sandwiches for school lunches were "cheese and XXX" with the absolute favourite being cheese and celery. There were quite a number of things I first ate in my teenage years simply because they were new to the market here in New Zealand, capsicum(bell pepper), yoghurt, passionfruit, olive oil, real pasta (as opposed to tinned spaghetti!) etc and of course all the various cuisines from around the world which were being introduced at that time.

I first lived in Japan 1976~1980 (昭和51~55). While I loved 'proper' Italian, French etc etc food in Japan, I wasn't much impressed with Japanese western food back then (potato salad sandwich -eww) , but loved the Japanese meals at my Kyoto homestay. I got more used to the Japanese version of western food over the years and even today I do make korokke, kariraisu, tonkatsu. For my small nieces & nephew I make these as well as okonomiyaki, sushi, onigiri, yakisoba, nabe, chahan, karagae, oyakodon and they really like them all. I think their favourite meals are pasta, pizza, sushi, curry and chahan. They do not like green pepper/capsicum.

My own 'rather not eats' in Japan are Narazuke, oshizushi and I'm not fond of konbumaki either.

My favorite dinner as a really little kid was pork chops and peas with pearl onions. I didn't like onions generally, so the novelty was onions that I had no trouble popping into my mouth whole.

There were a few things it took me a while to grow into (anchovies, green olives, the aforementioned onions) but otherwise I wasn't very picky -- I remember liking mushrooms and Lima beans and braunschweiger. I don't think I encountered bitter greens as a kid, but since I still don't like them much, I probably wouldn't have then, either!

A lot of things that I absolutely refused to eat when I was little, I actually enjoy now. I love spinach, eggplant, Brussels sprouts and onions (not necessarily in the same dish), but back then I would have rather gone to bed hungry than finish a single bit. (Understandably, my mother was very frustrated. If only she could see me now ^^) On the other hand, there are some things that I never learned to like, for example I really don't enjoy any organ meat such as liver, kidneys or beef tongue.

I've always hated celery and green peppers, so I can definitely feel where kids are coming from there. The other two things I can remember hating as a kid were raisins and peanut butter. The ultimate snack trifecta of horrors was "ants on a log", which combined celery, peanut butter, and raisins, and was often used as a snack at school or on trips. Some people would replace the peanut butter with cream cheese and omit the raisins. I would lick out the cream cheese and throw the celery away...

My favorite foods were macaroni and cheese, peas (good frozen, cooked by themselves, or in the aforementioned mac and cheese), cream of wheat, and lasagna. I remember coming home from school and eating handfuls of frozen peas as a snack. I did the same thing in college when I was studying.

It's funny that what kids like yesteryear in Japan is most of the Japanese food that I love right now! I don't know what that says about me.

I had to laugh when I read both the likes and dislikes. My husband and I are Americans, but have a three year old daughter who was born and has lived her entire life here in Japan. Her absolute favorite foods are rice (with furikake, of course) and sushi (especially ikura, unagi and tamago). But more amusing was the fact that I tried to offer her natto today (I have surprisingly become a fan!) and while initially enthusiastic, as soon as she got a whiff, she wanted no part of it!

I think that kids everywhere tend to crave fatty, protein-rich, and sweet foods and dislike bitterness, funkiness, and strong tastes in general (except sweetness). It's interesting to see how that's expressed through different cultures.

I dislike green bell peppers too haha! They suck - the yellow, orange and red variations are so much sweeter and juicier. In the UK, lunches are usually sandwiches, potato chips (crisps) and a sweet snack. Sandwiches can be mixed up for wraps, pasta, salad, etc. I have always liked plain ham sandwiches, I don't care much for salad. XD I always liked salt & vinegar crisps, and any sweet snack from fruit (fruit was expensive as I was growing up, so I didn't get much of it unfortunately), chocolate, cake bars, cereal bars, yoghurt, etc. For dinner I liked pasta as a kid, and still do now! Lasagne, spaghetti bolognese, macaroni cheese, pasta with tomato-based sauces, etc. We eat a lot of pasta in the UK, or chicken with some sort of potato-based side (chips/fries, mashed potatoes, baked potato sides like Smiley Faces, Potato Waffles, etc.) ...We're generally not the healthiest bunch, us Brits. XD

As a child on a small dairy farm, my staple favorites were meats, potatoes no matter how prepared, and the fish we caught seasonally. I enjoyed everything I was served, with the exception of green peas (which I still dislike) and eggplant (same). Green peppers? Always liked 'em fine while eating; after eating, less so.

From toddlerhood, oddly enough, I was begging for exotic and adult foods (earliest, my father's coffee). That fascination & delight with foreign-to-me cuisines hasn't changed either, although my begging techniques have certainly improved. ;-D

Since the States encompass so many cultures, terrains and climates for their 300+ million people, and 99% of them were entirely unknown to me back then, I hope someone else will take a stab at summarizing... at least regionally.

btw, Maki, for some reason I haven't received email notices from your sites for some time (months), so I get worried and stop in to 'check on you.' :-} Tried to sign up again but generated error "you're already subscribed." just fyi in case it's useful.

I didn't get to read the research itself, but I would think that the list of disliked foods must be strongly influenced by the foods that kids are served. I don't know about the food in schools, but surely the taste of the parents has changed, and they, in turn, change the variety of foods given to the kids.

When I was a kid, we only ever had canned spinach. If you've never had it, let me tell you...it's AWFUL. I didn't have fresh spinach until I was an adult - and was truly surprised by how wonderful it is! A few years ago, I had hourensou no gomae at a sushi place, and my desire to make it at home is what led me to justhungry.com and justbento.com