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Documentaries on Japanese food

The best documentaries on Japanese food and Japanese cuisine.

Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations

(2005 - 2012)

S02 Ep 02 Osaka - Asia Special (guardalo qui /watch it here)

S03 Ep 08 New York (guardalo qui /watch it here)

S04 Ep 16 Tokyo (guardalo qui /watch it here)

S07 Ep 08 Hokkaido (guardalo qui /watch it here)

S08 Ep 05 Japan: Cook It Raw (guardalo qui /watch it here)

American television series based on food and travel made with Anthony Bourdain.

In the second episode of the second season Bourdain takes viewers to discover China and Japan. In Japan he goes to Osaka to taste, in addition to sushi, the typical dishes of the city: takoyaki and okonomiyaki.

In episode 8 of the third season he visits an izakaya in New York, the Siberia Bar (today unfortunately closed).

In episode 16 of the fourth season Bourdain visits Tokyo to taste yakitori, soba, discover particular cocktails, sushi knives and ikebana. Also meet the celebrated chef Masaharu Morimoto.

In episode 8 of the seventh season, Bourdain lands on the big island of Hokkaido to try the typical Sapporo ramen, waikanae crab, uni-ikura don and robatayaki. Also visit the Sapporo Beer Garden.

In episode 5 of the eighth season Bourdain participates in the Japanese food event Cook It Raw.

No reservations cookingwiththehamster
No reservations | ©

Chef's Table

David Gelb (2015, -)

S01 Ep04

S03 Ep04

Collection of documentaries developed by Netflix.

In the fourth episode of the first season the lights are all on Niki Nakayama, chef of the two Michelin star n/naka restaurant in Los Angeles. His kaiseki cuisine has an extremely interesting personal touch.

The protagonist of the fourth episode of the third season is the New York chef Ivan Orkin. In Japan he opened his own ramen bar which over time has become a real institution: Ivan Ramen.

Chef's Table cookingwiththehamster
Chef's Table | ©

Chef's Table: Pizza

David Gelb (2022)

S01 Ep 05

Documentary available on Netflix.

The protagonist of this episode is Yoshihiro Imai, owner and restaurant opened in 2015 Monk - located in Kyoto along the Philosopher's Path near the Silver Pavilion.

The menu includes a tasting itinerary inspired by kaiseki cuisine, with fresh local products and pizza cooked in a wood oven.

Chef's Table: Pizza cookingwiththehamster
Chef's Table: Pizza | ©

Date da mangiare a Phil

Somebody Feed Phil

John Bedolis (2018)

S02 Ep 02

Documentary available on Netflix.

The second episode of the second season is entitled Dublin.

Phil Rosenthal travels to Cork to enjoy the world's only tempura at Chef Takashi Miyazaki's restaurant.

Here Miyazaki.

Date da mangiare a Phil cookingwiththehamster
Date da mangiare a Phil | ©

Destination Flavour: Japan

SBS ONE (2013)

Ep 01 - Hokkaido (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

Ep 03 - Hokuriku (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

Ep 09 - Kyushu & Shikoku (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

Ep 10 - Okinawa (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

Television documentary made with the participation of Adam Liaw, Australian- Malaysian cook, author and TV presenter.

Japanese Style Originator



TV program produced by Tv Osaka and broadcast by TV Tokyo, available on Netflix in concentrated version.

Through quizzes aimed at studio guests and numerous explanatory videos, this documentary program investigates numerous aspects of Japanese daily life, showing the background in detail. Particular attention is given to handicrafts and everything that is particularly folkloric and authentic. In fact, there are numerous references in each episode to food.

In my opinion it is a wonderful program that every fan of the Rising Sun must not miss!

In any case, in particular I suggest watching the following episodes:

Ep 02 - Rules to follow in a tempura restaurant

Ep 04 - The tea ceremony and the tools to make it happen

Ep 05 - Tofu

Ep 08 - Summer special: foods suitable for this season

Ep 13 - Special on combinations to enhance the flavor of rice

Ep 15 - Sushi

Ep 16 - Autumn foods and barbecues

Ep 18 - Buddhist temple food

Ep 22 - New Year's Eve and home cooking

Ep 23 - Miso soup

Ep 25 - Side dishes for rice and Edo period soba restaurant

Ep 29 - Oyakodon

Ep 30 - Tsukiji fish market

Ep 35 - Traditional snacks of summer fairs

Ep 39 - Traditional sweets

Ep 44 - Ginza's Torishige restaurant, famous for yakitori

Ep 54 - Spring recipes

Japanese Style Originator cookingwiththehamster
Japanese Style Originator | ©

Jiro e l'arte del sushi

Jiro Dreams of Sushi

David Gelb (2011)

This is probably the best known and most discussed documentary on Japanese food of all time. The protagonist is not so much the sushi as the ultra-eighty year old sushi chef Jirō Ono owner of the restaurant Sukiyabashi Jirō (located in the basement next to Ginza station, Tokyo) which in 2008 obtained 3 Michelin stars (lost in one stroke in 2020) .

The documentary, which boasts the music of Philip Glass, traces the life of the sushi master and shows his mythical little restaurant that offers a tasting menu lasting about 20 minutes from 21 pieces of sushi maximum and a bill starting at ¥ 30,000. Must watch.

Jiro e l'arte del sushi cookingwiththehamster
Jiro e l'arte del sushi | ©

Kakehashi: A Portrait of Chef Nobuo Fukuda

Andrew Gooi (2017)

Documentary based on the famous chef Nobuo Fukuda and his father's desire for him: kakehashi indicates the will, the vision of bridging the gap between Japan and the rest of the world obviously through the kitchen.

Here to discover his restaurant, 5 Michelin stars.

Kakehashi: A Portrait of Chef Nobuo Fukuda cookingwiththehamster
Kakehashi: A Portrait of Chef Nobuo Fukuda | ©

La nascita del saké

The birth of sake

Erik Shirai (2015)

Documentary that tells the over 140-year history of the sake house Tedorigawa Brewery, located in Ishikawa. All the stages of preparation of one of the most prestigious and noble drinks of the land of the Rising Sun are shown.

La nascita del saké cookingwiththehamster
La nascita del saké | ©

Midnight Asia

Midnight Asia: Eat Dance Dream

Joe Evans (2022)

S01 Ep 01

Ebisu's microscopic and iconic Bar TRENCH is presented in a night-time Tokyo, which has been included several times in Asia's 50 Best Bars.

Midnight Asia
Midnight Asia | ©

Miso Hungry

Tim Delmastro (2015)

Documentary that follows the Japanese gastronomic adventures of fast-food-loving comedian Craig Anderson. In fact, in Japan, he discovers a completely new approach to the preparation and consumption of food: a revelation so powerful that it saved his life.

Miso hungry cookingwiththehamster
Miso hungry | ©

Planet Food

Pilot Film & Television Productions Ltd (2012)

Documentary starring British chef and TV presenter Merrilees Parker.

Her journey starts from the Tsukiji Fish Market and then the Ramen Museum. Parker meets washoku cooking expert Elizabeth Andoh, who guides her through Tokyo's food halls. The next stop is Matsusaka to discover the most expensive meat in the world, then it's the turn of Kyoto, Mount Fuji and then Tokyo again. Her long adventure ends with a fusion cooking class between Japan and Europe.

Ramen Heads

Koki Shigeno (2017)

A real celebration of one of the most loved Japanese dishes in the world: ramen. This documentary revolves around the figure of Osamu Tomita, owner of the famous ramen bar Tomita Ramen, winner of numerous awards and prizes.

Ramen Heads cookingwiththehamster
Ramen Heads | ©

Rick Stein and the Japanese ambassador

David Pritchard (2006)

Documentary made for the BBC starring British chef and presenter Rick Stein, who flies to Japan to learn everything you need to know about fish and its preparation.

Rick Stein and the Japanese ambassador cookingwiththehamster
Rick Stein and the Japanese ambassador | ©

Salato, Grassi, Acidi, Calore

Salt Fat Acid Heat

Caroline Suh (2018)

S01 Ep02

Documentary for television available on Netflix based on the book of the title by Samin Nosrat. The author herself goes around the world to discover numerous ingredients.

In the second episode, the one dedicated to salt, Samin takes a trip to Japan to discover soy sauce and miso.

Salato, Grassi, Acidi, Calore cookingwiththehamster
Salato, Grassi, Acidi, Calore | ©

Street Food Asia

David Gelb (2019)

S01 Ep 02

This documentary is available on Netflix and the second episode of the first season was made in Osaka. The focus is all on Toyo, a chef with a crackling personality who cooks tuna with a blowtorch! Home of okonomiyaki and takoyaki, Osaka is the perfect city for such an eccentric character. Here Izakaya Toyo.

In the same episode, the second oldest takoyaki shop in Osaka, Umai-Ya, is shown, as well as one of the best places in the city to enjoy okonomiyaki: Fue.

Street Food Asia cookingwiththehamster
Street Food Asia | ©

Street food fighter


S01 Ep 04 - Tokyo (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

S01 Ep 07 - Fukuoka (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

South Korean TV program that investigates gastronomic culture by visiting different countries and cities, made with the participation of chef Baek Jong-won.

A successful documentary, which also investigates the typical cuisine in a fun way and which exhibits many dishes.

Sushi: the global catch

Mark Hall (2012)

Dramatic investigative documentary that investigates the devastating repercussions, also in terms of sustainability, regarding the continuous demand for fish due to the growing trend of sushi consumption all over the world. There are numerous interviews with industry professionals.

Sushi: the global catch cookingwiththehamster
Sushi: the global catch | ©

The god of ramen

Ramen yori Taisetsu na mono

Takashi Innami (2013)

Kazuo Yamagishi is not just a cook but the chef of the legendary ramen bar Taishoken located in Ikebukuro which has been preparing food for thousands of customers for over 50 years. The secret of success? Having invented tsukemen, ramen with broth and toppings separated from noodles. Over time this dish has become so famous that it is considered typical of Japanese cuisine.

The god of ramen cookingwiththehamster
The god of ramen | ©

The mind of a chef


S01 Ep 01 Noodle (Guardalo qui /wacth it here)

S01 Ep 03 Memory (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

S01 Ep 05 Rotten (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

S01 Ep 07 Simple (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

S01 Ep 10 Japan (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

S01 Ep 11 New York (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

S01 Ep16 Buddies (Guardalo qui /watch it here)

Serial documentary that presents travels and insights (including scientific demonstrations) full of humor to discover the ingredients of chef David Chang's recipes through the narration of Anthony Bourdain.

In the episode Noodle the chef investigates the world of ramen, the famous Japanese alkaline noodles and pre-cooked packaged ones. Enjoy the tsukemen at the Taishoken restaurant of chef Kazuo Yamagishi (the one who invented the tsukemen, in fact) and the Rokurinsha ramen bar (which is said to prepare the best tsukemen in Tokyo - located in Tokyo Station).

In the episode Memory chef Chang traces the memories of his past, including his time in Japan: in Tokyo he has a ramen dinner at Aoba.

In the episode Rotten, the chef delves into the world of katsuobushi by visiting a factory that produces it by going to Yaizu.

In the episode Simple chef Chang flies to Tokyo to taste yakitori of chef Toshiro Wara at Bird Land restaurant (the only yakitori restaurant in Japan with a Michelin star) and one of the best sushi in the world at Sawada restaurant. A very different experience is that of ramen taken at 69 Rock and Roll One (unfortunately now permanently closed), whose eccentric chef Junichi Shimazaki is considered one of the fathers of contemporary ramen.

The Japan episode initially develops in Tokyo. It all begins at the Bar High Five in Ginza where Hidetsugu Ueno, one of the most important bartenders in Japan, works. In the Golden Gai area he has a ramen at the Nagi restaurant. Next, in Kyoto he visits Nishiki Market and has a Kaiseki cuisine meal at Kikunoi Restaurant.

Despite New York episode taking place in the US capital, the chef flies to Tokyo to try an American-flavored ramen at Ivan Orkin's Ivan Ramen.

Soy is an episode that essentially focuses on tofu (the chef visits a factory that produces it in Tokyo) and miso. The latter is investigated with the help of legendary chef Yoshihiro Murata of the family-run Kyoto kaiseki restaurant Kikunoi (3 Michelin stars).

In the episode Buddies, chef Chang joins his friend Peter Meehan in Japan to cook together.

The Mind of a Chef cookingwiththehamster
The Mind of a Chef | ©

Ugly Delicious

David Chang (2018)

S01 Ep 01

S01 Ep 05

S01 Ep 06

Ugly Delicious is a show / documentary hosted by David Chang available on Netflix. The first episode of the first season is titled Pizza: chef Chang investigates the mythical world of pizza passing through Brooklyn and arriving in Naples. In between is the singular and super innovative pizza sashimi by Savoy restaurant or the more traditional one of Seirinkan.

The fifth episode of the first season is titled Barbecue: this is the turn of the yakitori by chef Masahiko Kodama at the Masakichi restaurant.

The sixth episode of the first season is titled Fried Chicken: Chef Chang visits one of Tokyo's Lawson konbini to taste Calpis drink and curry-flavoured fried chicken. Afterwards, he has a dinner at the Den restaurant of chef Zaiyu Hasegawa famous for the inspiration of Kentuky Fried Chicken. In a short fragment, the Soul Food House restaurant in Tokyo is also mentioned, where you can eat fried chicken and dishes of southern USA origin.

Ugly delicious cookingwiththehamster
Ugly delicious | ©

Wa-shoku: oltre il sushi

Wa-shoku: beyond sushi

Junichi Suzuki (2015)

Documentary that develops with a series of interviews with the professionals of the Japanese restaurant industry at home and in the United States, a real theater of changes for what concerns the washoku cuisine (i.e. over 400 years of Japanese culinary tradition that contemplates multiple factors, today Unesco Heritage).

I find this documentary particularly interesting because it shows how Japanese cuisine has changed in a particular way at the hands of the Japanese themselves to meet Western tastes (the greatest master of this change was Nobu Matsuhisa). This is a complex issue on which there is often a lot of confusion.

Wa-shoku: oltre il sushi cookingwiththehamster
Wa-shoku: oltre il sushi | ©

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