Yakitori 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.


You can identify Kushikura by its wood lattice facade and hand-painted sign showing the Kyoto-style vegetables that they serve. This 140-year-old merchant’s house has been converted into a restaurant featuring charcoal-roasted skewered chicken bit and grilled vegetable. The tori-niwa passage that originally functioned as the kitchen has been transformed into an attractive wooden counter with sunken seating.

I thoroughly enjoyed my meal here. It was great fun to watch them prepare and cook the meal.


Yakitori restaurants that others have recommended are:


Yakitori is one of the many staple dishes of traditional Japanese cuisine. Due to the simplicity of this dish, which is basically a type of skewered chicken, the restaurants that serve it are more often than not very basic and very smoky. With its stylish décor, Sumibi-Torito offers a different type of experience, transforming this traditional dish into a haute cuisine delicacy. The selection of the meats is meticulous, as the owner of the restaurant takes weekly visits to a poultry farm in the nearby mountainous area in order to choose the very best chicken. But the secret to the delicious yakitori lies in the cooking method. The restaurant has a beautiful grill and each dish is cooked on charcoal fire to seal in the juices and preserve the flavor.

Sumibi-Torito, 1F Kamihara Building, 9-5 Higashimaruta-cho, Kawabata-higashi-iru, Marutamachi-dori, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Japan, +81 752 4144



Most locals don’t blow their yen on outrageously priced kaiseki dinners, and neither should you. Instead, secure a seat at Hitomi, a casual yakitori restaurant that is beloved for its warm service and delicious grilled things-on-sticks. Bar seats afford front-row views of the smoking grill, where every part of the chicken, beak to tail, is cooked with care. Don’t miss the tsukune (ground chicken “meatball”), crisp kawa (skin) and succulent momo (chicken thigh) seasoned with nothing but a pinch of salt. Dinner for two, about 5,000 yen.

Hitomi, 96 Okiku-cho, Sakyo-ku; 81-75-771-7818.