A Guide to Vegetable Names in Japanese

When people talk about Japanese cuisine, the focus always goes to sushi, tempura, or ramen. No one ever talks about the amazing vegetables used in Japanese cooking. If you love cooking or eating, knowing how to say the names of vegetables in Japanese will be super helpful.  

In this guide, you’ll learn the names of different vegetables (Japanese and non-Japanese vegetables) and how they are used in Japanese cuisine. You’ll also learn about delicious vegetables indigenous to Japan that you should definitely try!

Note: Most vegetables are usually written in hiragana, even if there are kanji characters for it.  

Basic Terminology

Before we get started on the good stuff, let’s look at some basic terms you’ll need to understand when talking about vegetables in Japanese. 

  1. 野菜 (yasai) – Vegetable(s): The go-to word for edible plants. 
  2. 根菜 (konsai) – Root vegetables:  These are often used in Japanese cooking.
  3. キノコ (kinoko) – Mushroom:  All edible fungi are called kinoko.
  4. ハーブ (hābu) – Herb:  The transliteration of “herb”; the “h” is pronounced in Japanese.
  5. 薬味 (yakumi) – Condiment, herbs:  The kanji characters in this word are “medicine” and “taste.” This refers to traditional Japanese cooking condiments such as ginger, garlic, shiso, wasabi, or Japanese radish. They are used to remove unwanted odors or the gaminess of proteins like raw fish or meat. Condiments such as ketchup and mustard would not fall into this category. 

Now that you’ve learned the basics let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.


  1. ほうれん草 (hōrensō) – Spinach:  Spinach is rarely eaten raw in Japan, though the baby leaf version can be found in salads. 
  2. キャベツ (kyabetsu) – Cabbage:  Cabbage is often eaten raw in Japan. Hand-shredded cabbage served with sesame oil and salt, or sometimes miso, is a common お通し (otōshi – afree” dish served in exchange for a seat charge) at izakayas. Thinly shredded raw cabbage, called 千切りキャベツ (sengiri kyabetsu) or 千キャベツ(sen kyabetsu), is traditionally served alongside with deep fried pork cutlets (katsu).
  3. レタス (retasu) – Lettuce:  Commonly used in salads, like it is all over the world. 
  4. ケール (kēru)Kale:  Not as popular as it is in some countries, but can occasionally be found at supermarkets and more upscale restaurants. 
  5. きゅうり (kyūri) – Cucumber:  A summer vegetable, cucumbers are popular in salads and as tsukemono, or Japanese pickles. 
  6. にがうり (nigauri)、ゴーヤ (gōya) – Bitter melon:  Also a summer vegetable, bitter melon is popular in Okinawa. A famous dish is gōya chanpurū, a stir-fry with tofu, veggies, meat, and egg. 
  7. えだまめ (edamame) – Edamame, green soybeans:  Served boiled and lightly salted, edamame is a healthy snack often found at izakayas. Fresh and frozen edamame can be found at most supermarkets. 
  8. 春菊 (shungiku) – Edible chrysanthemum:  Used in 鍋 (nabe), or hot pot. Sometimes used in tempura or stir-fries. Shungiku has a slightly bitter taste and is generally more popular with adults than children. 
  9. アスパラガス (asuparagasu) – Asparagus: While both the green and white varieties are available in Japan, green asparagus is by far the most common.  
  10. いんげん (ingen) – Green beans:   While available in many supermarkets all over Japan, you don’t see it too often in dishes in Japan. Common dishes that utilize ingen are stir fry and side dishes.
  11. グリーンピース (gurīnpīsu) – Green peas:  Green peas are also found in many supermarkets in Japan but is not really used in Japanese cuisine. It is mainly used for non-Japanese dishes.  

Root Vegetables 

  1. 蓮根 (renkon) – Lotus root:  Usually served as an appetizer or side dish instead of the main dish. Popular deep fried or stewed. 
  2. かぶ (kabu) – Turnip:
  3. 大根 (daikon) – White Japanese radish:  Literally translates to “big root,” daikon, when eaten raw, has a spicy taste similar to raw garlic, which mellows out after cooking. It is an integral part of Japanese cuisine and is often used as a condiment, called daikon oroshi. Grated and served with meat dishes such as Salisbury steak (ハンバーグ, hanbāgu), grilled fish (焼き魚 yakizakana), or with soy sauce (or ponzu for meat dishes).  Daikon is also popular in nimono (a Japanese style of stew), or even raw, sliced thinly for salads.Finely sliced daikon called つま(tsuma) is often used as a bed for sashimi slices. A famous Japanese dish with daikon is ぶり大根 (buri daikon), or a sweet and savory stew of chunky radish and amberjack (a species of Yellowtail). Side note: An actor and actress with unrealistic, emotionless acting can also be described as daikon
  4. 人参 (ninjin) – Carrot: The same as carrots everywhere, but some Japanese farmers have taken it a step further and developed a new strain of very sweet, pale yellow carrots. Often found in salads, stews, or Japanese curry. 
  5. じゃがいも (jagaimo) – Potato:   In Japan, it’s often found in 洋食 (yōshoku – western cuisine) side dishes such as potato salad, mashed potatoes, or french fries. In 和食 (washoku – Japanese cuisine), it’s used in Japanese curry, stew, or nikujaga, a sweet and savory stew of meat and potatoes. Hokkaido Prefecture is famous for producing potatoes.
  6. さつまいも (satsumaimo) – Sweet Potato:  With reddish purple skin on the outside and pale yellow flesh, satsumaimo comes into season in the fall, when many stores and stalls start selling yaki imo, or baked sweet potato. 
  7. 里芋 (satoimo) – Taro:  Taro has thin, rough brown skin on the outside and pale flesh on the inside. As a side dish, it is often stewed with soy sauce and dashi (fish stock). 
  8. 山芋 (yamaimo) – Japanese yam:  These yams have tan, spotted skin, and pure white flesh. The flesh has a slimy texture and is popular for tororo (grated yam) dishes. Rich in vitamins and minerals, grated Japanese yam is said to have numerous health benefits, such as better digestion and nutrition absorption.


Fall is “mushroom season” in Japan, and many of these are featured in seasonal dishes. They also become cheaper at supermarkets in the fall.

  1. マッシュルーム (masshurūmu) – Button mushroom: The transliteration for “mushroom” actually points to the white or brown button mushrooms used in western cooking. Though these are sometimes eaten raw in salads in Western culture, they’re almost always cooked in Japan. 
  2. しいたけ (shītake) – Shiitake mushroom:  Used for their rich flavor and fragrance, shiitake mushrooms can dominate any dish if you’re not careful. They are often found in soups or stewed side dishes and used in hot pot or roasted on barbecue skewers.
  3. まいたけ (maitake) – Hen-of-the-woods:  This juicy and highly aromatic mushroom can be used in a variety of dishes, from stir-fries to tempura. 
  4. えりんぎ (eringi) – King trumpet mushroom:  Popular in barbecues and yakiniku, as well as tempura, this can be eaten grilled with a bit of salt. It’s also tasty when grilled with soy sauce and butter. 
  5. まつたけ (matsutake) – Matsutake mushroom:  Highly valued in Japanese cuisine for its high aromatic flavor and dashi (stock), these are hard to come by and very expensive. 

Herbs and Other Condiments

  1. パクチー (pakuchī) – Coriander, cilantro:  Cilantro is not traditionally used in Japanese food but can be found at most supermarkets and is generally used for Southeast Asian cuisine and Mexican cuisine–which is hard to come by and expensive in Japan. The Japanese population appears divided relatively evenly among those who can tolerate cilantro and those who can’t. 
  2. パセリ (paseri) – Parsley:  Used fresh or dried as a garnish mostly for Japanese takes on western cuisine, such as gratin or soups. 
  3. ねぎ (negi) – Green onion / Spring onion:  In Japanese, ねぎ (negi) can refer to 青ネギ (aonegi), which are green onions, or 長ネギ (naganegi), which are spring onions. 青ネギ (aonegi) is thinner than 長ネギ (naganegi).  Usually, only the green parts of utliized. Much like in the rest of the world, green onions are used as a garnish and for aromatic flavor in various Japanese dishes.  長ネギ (naganegi), or spring onions thicker than aonegi, with the white parts used more than the top green leaves.  Theyare commonly cut into pieces for hot pot dishes or sliced thin and used as a topping for ramen and other dishes.
  1. しょうが (shōga) – Ginger:  Often found in Japanese cuisine as benishōga, or red pickled ginger.  Benishōga uses ginger that is cut into thin strips and pickled so they come out a red-pink color. Commonly found as a garnish in gyudon, a Japanese fast food of beef over a bowl of rice. Another type of pickled ginger common in Japan is がり (gari).  Gari uses thin slices of ginger and is usually sweeter than benishōga. Gari is served with sushi and acts as a palate cleanser. Grated ginger is also commonly eaten with raw fish, such as in aji no tataki (horse mackerel tataki). 
  2. にら (nira) – Garlic chives​:  Used more in Chinese than Japanese food, nira is still a popular fragrant herb used for the Japanese take on Chinese food, which tends to be sweeter and less spicy than the authentic thing.  Nira is also a popular filling for gyoza, or Japanese pan-fried dumplings. 
  3. にんにく (ninniku) – Garlic:  An almighty vegetable used in many dishes like ramen, yakiniku, karaage (Japanese fried chicken), etc. 
  4. しそ (shiso) – Perilla:  These fragrant leaves generally come in two colors:  red or gree.  The green leaves are slso called 大葉 (ōba).  Both colors have an aromatic, herby taste.  Sashimi is often served on shiso leaves. You can also find deep-fried tempura shiso leaves in Japan. Shiso is native to China, but since it’s used extensively in Japanese cuisine, it is now planted all over Japan. At most supermarkets, you’ll find packs of shiso in bunches of 10 for under 100 yen.  
  5. 唐辛子 (tōgarashi) – Chili pepper: Tōgarashi can be found in the red and green varieties (青唐辛子: ao tōgarashi), with the green one being hotter. Red chili peppers are dried, powdered and used in shichimi (7 spices) and ichimi (1 spice: red chili peppers), two common Japanese household spices, to add flavor and color to dishes. Many Japanese people can’t handle too much spice, but neither shichimi nor ichimi is overwhelmingly spicy.  Shichimi is commonly added to oyakodon, gyudon, and katsudon.

Vegetables Associated with Japan

While some of these vegetables are native to Japan, so originated in other parts of the world.  However, when people think of unique Japan vegetables, these are some of the most common ones that come to mind.  

  1. こごみ (kogomi) – Ostrich fern:  Kogomi is a wild vegetable found in the mountains with a bitter taste and must be boiled and salted to mellow it out before consumption. It has a distinctive look with a curlicue-like part on top and can be served as tempura. 
  2.  わさび (wasabi) – Wasabi:  Anyone who has been to a Japanese restaurant can probably tell you what wasabi is. But did you know that most restaurants (even in Japan) use “fake” wasabi? The wasabi you find in tubes uses horseradish and food coloring. This is because real wasabi is extremely difficult to grow and expensive to obtain. It generally only prospers in high altitude, mountainous areas with a lot of fresh, cold water. Real wasabi, grated fresh, is much sweeter and less astringent than imitation wasabi. Eaten with raw fish and sometimes beef, it balances out the richness of fatty food. 
  3. みずな (mizuna) – Mizuna, Japanese mustard greens:  Mizuna does not have a strong taste but can add a nice texture if eaten raw. Often found in salads and nabe (hot pot). 
  4. ごぼう (gobō) – Burdock:  Deep fried, stewed. A famous Japanese dish that uses gobō is tonjiru, a miso-based soup with thinly sliced pork, carrots, and other vegetables served in colder months. 
  5. 三つ葉 (mitsuba) – Japanese honeywort, Japanese parsley:  Mitsuba has a refreshing, light taste and is often used in お吸い物 (osuimono – a light soup made with stock) and 親子丼 (oyakodon – chicken and egg rice bowl) as a garnish/topping. 
  6. みょうが (myōga): Myōga, Japanese ginger:  Similar to ginger, but with a milder taste. It is white and deep pink and bulbous in shape. They are often pickled. 
  7. ししとう (shishitō): Shishito peppers:  Mildly bitter and rarely spicy, these are an izakaya favorite.
  8. かぼちゃ (kabocha): Japanese pumpkin:  Also called kabocha squash, these are green on the outside and orange on the inside.  Kabocha is much harder than the orange pumpkins used for pie and carving.  Kabocha is often used in soups or sliced thin and fried to make tempura. Orange pumpkins are generally called by their katakana name, パンプキン (panpukin).


We have listed the rest of the rag-tag bunch in the section below. Some of these vegetables speak for themselves, so no further explanation is included.  

  1. とうもろこし (tōmorokoshi) – Corn:  Also called by the katakana name of コーン (kōn), corn is especially popular as corn potage (a sweet Japanese corn soup) in Japan. 
  2. ピーマン (pīman) – Green bell pepper:  Usually smaller and thinner compared to green bell peppers you can find in other countries. It has a slightly more bitter taste and is considered public enemy number one to picky Japanese children who hate vegetables. A popular and delicious dish is 肉詰めピーマン (nikuzume pīman), or bell peppers stuffed with seasoned minced meat. It’s easy to make and also found at many izakayas for cheap. 
  3. なす (nasu) – Eggplant:  Smaller, thinner, and more oblong shaped than rounded western eggplants. This is another popular choice for tempura. 
  4. もやし (moyashi) – Bean sprouts:  Sometimes, moyashi is used to describe scrawny and tall boys.  Moyashi can be found very cheap at the supermarket for generally under 30 yen a bag, and though not extremely nutritious, it is very filling. Also commonly found as a topping for ramen. 
  5. たけのこ (takenoko) – Bamboo shoots:  Used in stir-fries and stews, the pickled version, called menma, is also commonly found in ramen as a topping. It has a strong smell so it may put off those not used to it.
  6. ブロッコリー (burokkorī) – Broccoli:
  7. トマト (tomato) – Tomato:  Tomatoes, including cherry tomatoes, tend to be sweeter in Japan when compared to, for example, the United States. 
  8. パプリカ (papurika) – Red or yellow bell pepper:
  9. 玉ねぎ (tamanegi) – Onion:   Another all-purpose aromatic, this is found in soup, salad, curry, and stir-fry, among other dishes. Red onions are called アーリーレッド (ārīreddo) and tend to be harder to find and more expensive than the yellow or white varieties. Awaji Island in Japan is famous for its sweet and mild onions.  


That’s all for today’s lesson, folks! Did reading this make you hungry? We hope so.

This list only covers the most commonly used vegetables for simplicity. Of course, there are a ton of other vegetables out there, so if you want us to include more, please let us know!  

Since you’ve got the basics down, you can now venture into the world of Japanese cooking using actual Japanese recipes! Time to hit the grocery store. 

Photo of author

Sonya S

An Arizonan living in Tokyo, Sonya is in love with all things nature, art, and food, and--in pursuit of all three--moved to Japan right after college. She works full time in translation and medical assistance in order to put food on the table for her rescue cat.

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