While Japan is definitely not a place you’d want to be stingy about when it comes to food, sometimes there’s just that travel you’d want to save your money on. Especially if you’re one of the people planning over a month-long stay—or simply those who are naturally budget-conscious—knowing what to cut will always come in handy sooner or later. Food in Japan is fantastic. Even those considered as “fast food” by the locals are a far cry from what the frying-fest that is Western fast food. Eating on the cheap in Tokyo does not mean you compromise on the taste or the quality.
Let’s get dirt cheap. You have a budget of one coin, that is 500 JPY for a full meal. It’s still on an entirely realistic scale to have some solid food even if you’re staying in the heart of Tokyo. That means if you’re eating 3 times a day, you’re going to spend 1500 JPY per day. It’s a pretty good deal that definitely won’t let you starve. This is just a glimpse of the many cheap ways to eat when you’re in the Tokyo metropolis (and in extension, Japan). There’s more depth that could be explored at each option that we hope to elaborate more in the future. Meanwhile, here are some of the easiest ways of pushing down your meal expenses while you’re in Tokyo.
Take Trips to the Supermarket
Definitely a go-to place for a variety of ingredients you could easily obtain. Japanese prided themselves on making your life easier; and instant food doesn’t necessarily mean bad-tasting food. For those who aren’t a fan of instant ramen, plenty of other options are available. Another trip I took to Tokyo last year yields some very affordable options I’d never think of before. In the nearest supermarket at my staying place (A-Colle supermarket), a pack of ready to eat 3 pieces of Hamburg steak (hambagu) costs only approximately 300 JPY. At another supermarket located on the main road (Life Supermarket), I found some frozen okonomiyaki and takoyaki priced at 200 JPY more or less—both are super delicious once thawed and heated.
Bento, otherwise known as lunch box, is another item you can find at the supermarket, but there are also places and restaurants specializing in bento. Discounted bento is a popular way to get full, and you get the advantage of varieties as rice bentos are commonly packed with chicken/fish or meat, and several types of vegetables—price is depends on how fancy or how varied the ingredients of your bento. Bentos or lunch boxes aren’t just rice, however. The most general ones are vegetable bentos, fruit bentos, sushi and sashimi bentos. And they’re all delicious.
Gyudon Restaurant Chains
Gyudon (also known as beef bowl) is often considered fast food. It’s probably the most popular option that guarantees a full stomach. Gyudon is known as a staple for salarymen because of it’s both affordable and filling. Udon prices start at 290 to 500 JPY depending on the establishment. Getting super full on less than 500 JPY is definitely viable if you chose to eat out at a Gyudon establishment. The most well-known restaurant chains are Yoshinoya, Sukiya, and Matsuya.
Now, Tokyo is not the expensive place where you spend thousands of yen on at each meal. You can spend the money you saved on things that mean more to you, or those you’ve been saving up for just for your Tokyo trip.