Yakitori (焼き鳥) are grilled chicken skewers made from bite sized pieces of meat from all different parts of the chicken, such as the breasts, thighs, skin, liver and other innards. Usually made to order and cooked over charcoal, yakitori is a popular, inexpensive dish commonly enjoyed together with a glass of beer. The best yakitori is served at specialty restaurants, known as yakitori-ya, but it can also be found at many other types of restaurants across Japan, such as izakaya, and at festival food stands.

Popular Yakitori


Negima (ねぎま) is one of the most popular types of yakitori and consists of pieces of chicken (usually thigh meat) skewered with pieces of leek in between.


Momo (もも) refers to the thigh meat, so momo skewers are made up of pieces of chicken thigh.


Tsukune (つくね) are meatballs made of minced chicken, egg, vegetables and spices. They are typically formed into multiple small balls or made into one long patty.


Torikawa (とりかわ), sometimes called just kawa (かわ), are strips of fatty chicken skin, which have been grilled until crispy.


Tebasaki (手羽先) are chicken wings which have been grilled to a crispy golden brown. They are often served in pairs.


Reba (レバー) are skewered chicken livers, named after the German word for liver.


Nankotsu (なんこつ) is the cartilage taken from the keel bone between the chicken breasts. Nankotsu has very little meat attached, but the cartilage has a crunchy texture and contains lots of collagen.

Most yakitori restaurants also sell some non-chicken skewers such as skewered shishito peppers, cherry tomatoes, shiitake mushrooms, and asparagus or enoki mushrooms wrapped in bacon.

How to eat yakitori

Yakitori is an inexpensive and informal food that is easily found at specialized yakitori-ya, as well as at most izakaya and many other restaurants across Japan. At a typical yakitori-ya they are sold by the stick or a set of two sticks, and cost around 100-200 yen per stick. Many restaurants also offer combination plates with multiple types of yakitori (moriawase). Since yakitori are cooked to order and served hot off the grill, it may be better to order them in small batches rather than in a single large order.

When ordering yakitori, you usually can choose whether you want your skewers seasoned with a sweet and savory yakitori sauce (tare) or with salt (shio). Yakitori is meant to be eaten with your hands. You may directly eat them off the skewer or use your chopsticks to remove the meat from the skewer before consuming it. A small cup may be provided on the table to discard used skewers into.

Where to eat yakitori

Yakitori is widely served across Japan, and especially easily found around large stations near business districts. Some specific, popular dining areas where you can eat yakitori are:

Omoide Yokocho

Omoide Yokocho (lit. memory lane), is a small network of alleyways adjacent the train tracks northwest of Shinjuku Station. Also known under its more colorful nickname Piss Alley, Omoide Yokocho's narrow lanes are packed with eateries, and is especially popular for the tiny yakitori-ya that line the alleyways. Many of these consist of a couple of chairs lined up along a counter and a grill, and are a great place to explore the world of yakitori.


Crammed below the train tracks around Yurakucho Station are dozens of authentic izakaya and yakitori joints where one can grab a cold beer and some casual good eats. Known as Gado-shita (for under the girder), these are popular eateries and watering hole among the Tokyo businessmen who work in the area.


Yakitori along with the local noodle specialty, Hakata Ramen, are popular dishes served around the famous open air food stands (yatai) found around Fukuoka. The Nakasu district is one of the best places to check out the yatai, as about twenty of them can be found lined up along the river toward the southern end of Nakasu Island.