Oden - a traditional cold-weather snack - is a very simple stew made by simmering fish cakes, fried tofu, and vegetables in a kelp-based stock for hours on end. It's best known today in Japan as a convenience-store staple, but there are also oden specialty restaurants and yatai (outdoor stalls) that serve a slightly more refined version. It can occasionally be found in regular izakaya.
The individual components of the oden pot are all very distinct, and you generally order your favorite types piece by piece, although standard assortments may also be available. Typical ingredients include big chunks of stewed daikon (white radish), boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, transparent cakes made from konnyaku (devil's-tongue starch), and rolled-up sheets of konbu (kelp) tied into knots.
There are tofu products like fukuro (fried tofu pouches stuffed with mushrooms and noodles); ganmo (fried tofu patties with vegetable bits); and atsu-age (fried tofu blocks). And you might find octopus tentacles or squid, plus a variety of fish cakes such as chikuwa, which is made by molding fish paste into a tube shape, steaming it, and then grilling it. The fish cakes are made from fish that aren't especially popular in their original form-shark, flying fish, and pollack, for example.
The individual oden pieces you order are served in a bowl with some broth and a dab of strong mustard. Oden is a bit of an acquired taste, but fans appreciate the subtle flavors of a good long-simmered broth and the contrasting textures and flavors of the various fish cakes, especially when accompanied by sake or beer.