You don’t need to hop a plane for amazing okonomiyaki (traditional Japanese pancakes), you can just cycle over to Japanese Pancake World in the heart of the Jordaan area. Here you can fill your belly with savoury pancakes that consist of several layers and are prepared on an iron plate (teppan). Choose from a variety of toppings, including prawns, beef and vegetarian options. Taka Japanese Kitchen is also a great place for okonomiyaki. Itadakimasu!
Amsterdammers have been crazy about ramen for a while, so it is no surprise that these Japanese noodle-soup restaurants are springing up like mushrooms (shiitake ones, actually). Close to the 9 Streets you will find a hidden gem: Men Impossible. In this cosy lounge restaurant, owner and chef Atsushi Ishida serves up heavenly ramen. Everything on the menu is vegan, organic and zero waste. Vegans and carnivores alike can also find a bowl of authentic soup at Ramen-Ya, Fou Fow Ramen, Sapporo Ramen Sora or Hakata Senpachi.
Men Impossible, Hazenstraat 19H, Amsterdam-Centrum (don't forget to book!)
Ramen-Ya, Oudezijds Voorburgwal 236, Amsterdam-Centrum
Fou Fow Ramen, Elandsgracht 2A & Van Woustraat 3, Amsterdam
Sapporo Ramen Sora, Ceintuurbaan 49H, Amsterdam-Zuid
Hakata Senpachi, Wielingenstraat 16, Amsterdam-Zuid (Saturdays and Sundays only, 12:00-15:00)
Lovers of Japanese design can indulge their passion in February at Mono Japan. This artistic and cultural exhibition takes place at the Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy and is a tribute to craftsmanship, design and food culture from Japan. Meet Japanese artisans and check out their handmade products, including pottery, washi (paper), textiles, clothing, furniture, tea and sake, or attend one of the art workshops or lectures to sharpen your own Japanese design skills.
Lloyd Hotel & Cultural Embassy, Oostelijke Handelskade 34, Amsterdam-Oost
Hop on your bike and head to the Amsterdamse Bos to celebrate spring the Japanese way: with a picnic under no less than 400 flowering cherry trees. If that does not give you the perfect Instagram picture, we don't know what will.
Amsterdamse Bos, Bosbaanweg 5, Amstelveen
Are you a fan of Japanese cinema? Then grab a red pen and put the CinemAsia Film Festival (March) and Camera Japan Festival (September) on your agenda immediately. At these annual film festivals in Amsterdam you can watch some impressive movies straight from Japan, from new feature films and anime to revered classics. Don't forget your popcorn (or dried seaweed)!
Antique Japanese furniture, kimonos, lacquered trays, folding screens and bento boxes: they sell it all at Van hier tot Tokio, a spacious shop on the edge of the Jordaan. You will also find a range of exclusive and handmade products crafted by young Japanese artists, including ceramics, calligraphy, kimonos, books and folding paper, at ‘t Japanse Winkeltje. To really deep-dive into the culture, follow their workshops; they have a Japanese-language course, an origami workshop and a tea tasting. Looking for every-day Japanese style? The Uniqlo on Kalverstraat has you covered. This Japanese retailer specialising in casual clothing and winter basics, is rapidly expanding around the world, and the Amsterdam shop just opened in September to the delight of design-savvy bargain-hunters.
Sushi, teppanyaki and finger food
When it comes to Japanese haute cuisine, they certainly know their stuff at the Hotel Okura Amsterdam. In this international five-star hotel you’ll find two Japanese restaurants that have earned Michelin stars: Teppanyaki Restaurant Sazanka and Yamazato Restaurant. At Sazanka, chefs prepare fish, meat and vegetarian dishes on a hotplate at your table. For authentic kaiseki dishes and other traditional Japanese dishes, Yamazato is top notch. Fancy a more laid-back atmosphere? Then pop into De Japanner in de Pijp where Japanese food, beer, sake and cocktails are served in a casual setting.
If you want to stock up on Japanese snacks, take the tram to Buitenveldert where you will find two tokos, just a stone's throw from each other. Dank Grocery and Shilla are loaded with a wide variety of Japanese sweets that are hard to find outside of Japan. In addition to their assortment of unusual snacks, such as strawberry Kit Kat, you can also pick up fresh sushi, frozen sweets and Japanese household items.
The Japanese Garden in Amstel Park is a wonderful little Japanese oasis. The garden overlooks the Grote Vijver and is a feast of colour for the eyes especially during spring (hello periwinkle flowers!) and autumn. Of course, the essential bonsai trees and bamboo are not to be missed.
Amstelpark, Arent Janszoon Ernststraat 1, Amsterdam-Zuid
Immerse yourself in all things Japanese during the annual Japan Festival in October. On the menu are performances, cosplay fashion shows, and workshops where you can learn calligraphy, sushi preparation and origami. You can also browse the many stands and shops, and when your stomach starts to rumble, there are food trucks with Japanese street food within easy reach.
Japan Festival, Stadsplein, Amstelveen
Interested Amsterdam’s other Asian flavours? Check out the best dumpling restaurants in the city for dim sum and then some.