How To Eat On A Budget In Tokyo (Cheap And Tasty Restaurants)

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Tokyo has always been my dream destination. For a long time, I’ve been planning dates, flights, itineraries, and hotels, but selecting restaurants and food I wanted to try was a huge challenge.

I’m not going to lie, Tokyo is an expensive destination and I wanted to make sure that  I got the most out of my hard-earned money. So I was on the lookout for alternatives that fit my budget.

And what do you think? I got multiple ways to eat deliciously without spending a fortune!

Well, I’m going to share with you my guide on how to eat cheaply in Tokyo.

So, let’s check it out!

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First of all, Ichiran, a famous franchise in Japan, specialized in Ramen (a broth made of pork bones). They allow you to modify the dish to your liking.

The process is very simple when you arrive at the place, you use the restaurant’s vending machine to buy the tickets with the food you are going to eat. An important thing to know is that this machine is cash only.

Then, you sit down and they give you a sheet to indicate what you want to change the ramen into, and finally, your order arrives.

Ichiran Coin Machine

Another great thing about this food chain is that the menu is available in English. This makes it easier for tourists. 

Now, the important part is the prices. Can you believe that a ramen bowl only costs approximately 790 yen ($5.62)? That’s a great deal. 

You should keep in mind that eating here is a unique experience because of the service they offer. Besides being fast and having very good dishes, the atmosphere consists of tasting the food individually. Ideal for solo travelers.

Mos Burger

On the other hand, Mos Burger is a fast food chain focused on Burgers.  You can think of it like the Japanese version of a Mcdonald’s.

You can find combos from 430 to 600 yen, a price that I consider incredible for the quality of the product.

It is a good option for a light dinner at a low cost.

Mos burger food

Also, if you are vegan, they have a hamburger called “Mos Plant-based”, 100% plant-based, and the best thing is that it is priced at 590 yen.  Tell me, isn’t it perfect?

There are more than 1,300 branches all over Japan, while exploring new places, you will surely come across one of them, so I invite you to try them, they are great!

Kaiten Sushi

This was one of the most unique experiences I could live during my trip! And I’ll explain the reason: A kaiten sushi consists of placing small portions of food on a conveyor belt, from which you can choose what you want to eat, and thus consume dishes of the day with a value of 110 to 300 yen per serving (I think an excellent choice because I could try different types of sushi and did not spend a fortune on it).

Among many restaurants of this style, I recommend Uobei Shibuya, Kura Sushi, Sushiro, and Hamasushi.  

Although they are places with the same sales methodology, each of them is distinguished by the creativity and originality they offer to the customer, both in service and in the product in general.

Lastly, what makes this type of place “cheap” is not that the food is of poor quality. The secret is that the chef does not have to hire waiters to serve the place thanks to the ribbon, because the diners sit around the bar and grab whatever provokes them to eat. In this way, we can all save money.

Gyudon Restaurants

If you don’t know what Gyudon is, it is a bowl of rice covered with thinly sliced meat, to which you can add ingredients such as soft-boiled egg, green onion, or pickled red onion. It is the cheapest breakfast you will find in Japan. So it already has several branches with different versions of it.

Among them, you can find Matsuya, Yoshinoya, and Sukiya. They are the most important fast food chains specializing in Gyudon in Japan.  

Most of them have 24-hour service and delivery, so you don’t have to worry about schedules because you can eat whenever you want to.

Besides, you can get prices from 300 to 500 yen for a gyudon at any of them, so you can choose which one suits you best.

They also offer other dishes like udon, curry, ramen, or grilled fish.

By the way, the one who started to popularize Gyudon was Yoshinoya, starting to produce it in a small store in Tokyo, in 1899. They gave life to this dish because of the spread of meat at that time, and it established itself in the market in such a way, that nowadays it still has great importance on the menu of millions of Japanese people. 

Beyond being a good option to save money, it’s a bowl full of the traditions and culture of Japan, so I included it in my list when I traveled to Tokyo.

Ranchi Setto

This is not a restaurant recommendation but an inside tip: “Ranchi setto” or lunch menu is available at restaurants in the area where you are, and is served between 11:30 am to 13:30.

Usually is a Rice or Noodle based dish (whichever you prefer), with miso soup, some type of protein (meat or fish), and a side dish from the restaurant. This includes drink, and in some cases, dessert. And the prices are between 700 to 850 Yen. 

It’s worth noting that, unlike eating in a fast food chain, here you have the opportunity to taste the local Japanese cuisine, which will probably leave you fascinated, like me.

There’s no matter if you don’t speak Japanese, although they sell traditional food, most of them have the menu in English.

Convenience stores 

Tokyo is ruled by the Conbini trinity: 7-Eleven, Lawson and Family Mart. Here you can find everything you need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I must admit that this is one of my favorite parts of visiting Japan.

You can eat a bento, (a portion of Japanese food, which is usually made of rice, meat or fish, and a variety of vegetables), for about 1000 yen (10$).

In addition, they have salads, sandwiches, drinks, and desserts that can help you put together a menu to suit your needs!

The food is of high quality despite the low price, so this option is very efficient.

These stores grew together, evolving their products and adjusting to the needs of the population. But next on this list is even cheaper.

Supermarkets in Tokyo

Yes, convenience stores are amazing, but they are 10% – 20% overpriced compared to a regular supermarket. But many tourists don’t know that in Japan most supermarkets have a prepared food section. Here you can find sushi, fried chicken, pasta, and even ramen. 

Another advantage is that, as supermarkets are not open 24 hours, they offer ready-made food with big discounts about 2 hours before closing time. These discounts can be up to 50% off. 

I even got 6 pieces of fresh tuna sashimi for only 500 yen ($5).

This way, you are assured of eating fresh, quality food, and even better, low prices!

Supermarkets like Marusho, Itoyokado, and Daiei offer this kind of sale. Based on my experience, I can tell you that it’s worth trying the food at these places, they are ideal to solve a lunch or dinner. 

Street Food 

Do you want to live a unique experience? You’ll have fun looking for a street food stall in Tokyo! In case you didn’t notice, this place is full of surprises!  I tried dishes like  Takoyaki, Okonomiyaki, and anything else that I could find appetizing.  Prices may vary depending on the place you choose, but for savory food like the ones I mentioned above, you can spend anywhere from 500 to 700 Yen. 

Of course that I was looking for some desserts, and Sweets like Dango, Taiyaki, and Kakigori, are around 200 to 300 yen.  But there are more things that you’ll only find if you dare to walk for a long time in the alleys of this style.

As for the vibe, I could see that most of the people who go to these establishments, want to spend a pleasant time sharing with family and friends. In that way, I felt surrounded by the joy and warmth of the locals.

Make your own food 

The last alternative, but the most boring one, is to cook on your own (obviously this does not apply if the place where you are staying does not have a kitchen). You can take advantage of visits to the market, get the freshest food, and experiment with ingredients you haven’t used before!

 Tokyo has a lot to offer, both culture, innovation, and creativity. You should go with an open mind to textures, combinations, and flavors that will probably leave you open-mouthed. 

There is no excuse for wanting to explore this fantastic place! It’s just a matter of knowing how to choose and organize your tour.

Finally, I’m so happy to be part of the planning of your trip to Tokyo, and I hope you find these savings tips useful.  Enjoy as much as I did!

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