The real reason I am writing this post is to help with how much I miss Japan. One of the trips we had to cancel earlier this year was a one-week trip to Tokyo and that trip was the one I looked forward to the most.
I have been to Japan three times (once to Osaka, twice to Tokyo) and it hasn’t stopped being amazing. There is delicious food everywhere and the skin-care shopping is top-notch.
A trip to Japan can get quite expensive for me as the cost for the international flight alone range from $600 – 1,000 CAD round-trip per person. Since the hotels are generally extremely tiny (~150 sq ft but functional), it also costs a premium ($300 CAD+) for a moderately-sized room (250 sq ft+) in a prime area (e.g., Shibuya). A one-week trip could easily cost close to $4,000 CAD for flights and accommodation alone.
Luckily, with so many chain restaurants offering delicious and cheap food, it is easy to save money on your trip to Japan. I have listed my favourites below and all of them have locations nationwide!
Restaurants for Cheap Food in Japan
An affordable conveyor belt sushi restaurant with locations all over Japan. Like many conveyor belt sushi restaurants, guests can place their orders on the tablet-sized screen in front of them. With picture and English / Chinese menus available, you can order at your own pace without feeling stressed out due to the language barrier.
There are over 70 100 Yen (~$1.3 CAD) sushi options on their menu making it one of the cheapest meals you can have.
Semi-self serve udon bar with a variety of tempura to choose from. You order the type of udon (hot, cold, spicy, citrus etc) at the counter and also pick up the tempura pieces you want as a side.
Like Genki Sushi, both English and Chinese menus are available in all locations. An udon set with 2 to 3 pieces of tempura cost you less than 1,000 yen (~$13 CAD)! Hanamaru Udon is one of my favourite places to eat in Japan because it is cheap, delicious and healthy.
One of my absolute favourites is the 24-hour Matsuya. With locations all over Japan, this restaurant serves anything from curry, gyudon (Japanese beef bowl) to hot pot meals (seasonal).
Just like Hanamaru Udon, a delicious and filling meal at Matsuya with miso soup costs around 1,000 yen (~$13 CAD). They also sell one of the most popular Japanese beer Asahi which is the perfect complement for a hot meal in the winter!
One of the most well-known gyudon restaurant chains in Japan, Sukiya has over 2,000 locations nationwide. It offers various sizes of different gyudons including the basic, with kimchi or with cheese.
You can have their largest gyudon with miso soup and salad for just under 1,000 yen
I grew up eating Yoshinoya in Hong Kong. It’s cheap, quick and delicious. It has its roots in Japan and is in fact part of the same parent company that owns Hanamaru Udon I talked about above.
Even though Yoshinoya is known for its gyudon, it offers a lot more than just that. Its menu includes curry, seafood, pork don and fried food. You can also enjoy a healthy and delicious hot meal for under 1,000 yen at Yoshinoya.
My last recommendation for cheap food in Japan is a tendon (tempura over rice) restaurant chain.
Famous for its offering of tempura set meals, Tendon Tenya actually offers soba noodle and udon as well. Where else can you get a meal with tempura, rice, miso soup and salad for under 1,000 y
Non-Restaurant Cheap Food Options in Japan
Convenience Store (Konbini)
I bet everyone who is planning a trip to Japan has heard of their convenience stores. They are nothing like the 7-11 we have in North America. The convenience stores in Japan is the place for cheap and delicious food.
When I look for a hotel, I always do a quick Google search to make sure there is at least one convenience store within walking distance. Note, they are also everywhere (like coffee shops in Vancouver). One claim says that there are over 50,000 convenience stores in Japan.
They sell a wide variety of ready-to-eat food and microwavable food. If you are staying at an Airbnb and have access to a microwave (some hotels also have communal microwaves), you can probably save a lot of money by enjoying Konbini meals a few times.
Remember, Konbini food is cheap, healthy and delicious!
Department Stores – Supermarket
I don’t cook when I travel and neither should you. In Japan, there is so much to do and see, you are not going to want to waste time preparing meals. Then you wonder why would I recommend the supermarket?
Like the convenience stores, the supermarket in Japan is also one-step up. The supermarkets are usually located in the basement floor of a multi-level department store (e.g., think Nordstrom). After a certain hour of every night (e.g., 7 or 8 PM), they would reduce the price on their ready-to-eat food so they can sell all the food the same day they are prepared.
I like going to the supermarkets at the department stores because they are usually located near or at a subway station. However, residential supermarkets do the same where they reduce the prices on their ready-to-eat food at night.