Translated by Takuya Erik Watanabe
Food Expenses For Travel In Japan - 1,000 Yen Meals And Budget Tips
Written by Mayu
Learn about the prices of food in Japan for convenience store food, and dishes like sushi, ramen, and fast food. This article introduces how much an average meal costs while traveling, 1,000 yen-meals, and how to save more money on dining.
The Average Cost of Meals in Japan
When traveling to another country, most people will want to know just how much regular meals cost at their destination. If there's a dish you want to try out, but it’s too expensive for your planned budget, what a shame that would be!
Food expenses depend on where you eat, so it is a good idea to be aware of prices before you start travels. Continue reading to learn food prices and what types of meals are suitable when traveling on a budget.
Meal Options and Average Prices in Japan
Convenience Store Meal Prices
Picture from The 3 Major Convenience Store Chains In Japan – A Comparison
There are many restaurants in Japan, but even more closely connected to the daily lives of the Japanese people are the convenience stores, or "conbini." The most common chains are Seven Eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson. Most are open 24 hours, so you can stop in and grab something whenever you are feeling hungry. Many food products will also have English on them, and most employees will have some foreign language ability (especially in Tokyo, Osaka, and large cities).
Convenience stores sell a plethora of meals, snacks, and beverages. You will find onigiri (rice balls), sandwiches, baked goods, bento (boxed lunches), Japanese pasta, udon, salad, and a variety of snack and sweets options. Convenience stores also have hot meals such as karaage (Japanese fried chicken), steamed buns, and oden (stewed fish and vegetables).
|Onigiri (rice ball)||100 to 200 yen|
|Sandwich||200 to 300 yen|
|Udon, Soba Noodles, Pasta||300 to 500 yen|
|Salads and Side Dishes||200 to 300 yen|
|Karaage, Steamed Buns, Other Hot Foods||100 to 300 yen|
|Beverages and Desserts||100 to 200 yen|
You can expect to pay around 400 to 600 yen in total for a convenience store meal. Even if you purchase several items or have a travel partner, the total will be about 1,000 yen. With a wide variety of options, convenience stores are handy for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks, so be sure to stop by for an inexpensive meal.
Picture from 30 Great Tokyo Ramen Shops Selected By A Ramen Expert
There are thousands of ramen restaurants and shops in Japan, from nationwide chains like Ichiran to higher-end ramen restaurants, to tiny, owner-run shops where diners eat standing up. Ramen is a casual meal in Japan and is priced usually around 600-1,200 yen per bowl. If you add extra toppings, a side dish, and a drink, like beer, you will still likely pay no more than 2,000 yen.
The price of ramen differs by type and, as mentioned above, adding toppings like barbecue pork, eggs, or green onions, will increase the bill. Specialty ramen, like vegetarian and vegan options or gluten-free dishes, tend to cost around 1,000 yen without modifications.
A bowl of ramen will satisfy most diners, but if you are especially hungry, it is typical to order a side of gyoza or rice to accompany the ramen. Many restaurants also offer a replacement serving of noodles for 100 or 200 yen.
Sushi Prices - Casual and High-end Options
Picture from Top 3 All-You-Can-Eat Style Sushi Restaurants in Tokyo
If you're traveling Japan, eating sushi is a must. The availability of delicious, high-quality sushi is incomparable to the sushi offered abroad. Diners can choose from traditional sushi bars with course meals to a casual conveyor belt restaurant where you can order from an electronic tablet. A sushi meal will cost anywhere from 2,000 yen to 10,000 yen per person, but it depends on the restaurant you go to and when you eat.
For example, lunch at a sushi restaurant will usually be around 2,000 to 3,000 yen for a set consisting of different sashimi and rolled sushi. If you dine in the evening, dinner will be approximately 5,000 to 10,000 yen. The lowest-cost option is going to conveyor-belt sushi, or kaiten zushi, which will cost anywhere from 1,000 to 2,500 yen per person for lunch or dinner.
Typical beverages enjoyed with sushi, like Japanese sake and beer, will be priced between 400 to 1,000 yen.
Japanese Wagyu Beef and Teppanyaki
Head to a yakiniku or teppanyaki restaurant for Japanese beef (wagyu), grilled food like okonomiyaki, or a hearty meal with drinks.
At most yakiniku restaurants, you first decide the meat of your choice and cook it on the grill before you. The price you pay depends on the type of meat and volume you choose, but it will likely be around 2,000 to 4,000 yen per meal per person. Prices for dinner are a little bit more expensive, ranging from 6,000 to 10,000 yen.
Teppanyaki is food cooked on an iron griddle ("teppan" in Japanese). Teppanyaki restaurants will sometimes have meat to grill. Most have dishes like okonomiyaki (savory pancake from the Kansai region), monjayaki (a savory pancake-like dish common in Tokyo), and yakisoba on the menu. You will also find seafood at times. When ordering a la carte, you can expect to pay between 600 and 1,000 yen per item.
Some restaurants will cook the food for you, but at most restaurants, you will do the cooking for yourself.
Picture from Izakaya Basics: A “How-To” Of Ordering And Etiquette In Japanese Bars
Izakaya are Japanese pubs which offer alcohol and side dishes to pair with the drinks. Frequented by office workers on weekday nights and friend groups on weekends, izakaya are very popular evening spots.
When at an izakaya, it's typical to order several side dishes, or otsumami, to enjoy while drinking. Otsumami dishes are usually 300 to 600 yen. Yakitori (grilled chicken on skewers), fried food, sashimi, and vegetable side dishes like edamame are on a typical izakaya menu. Alcoholic beverages will cost between 300 and 600 yen.
Expect to pay 2,000 yen or over for food and drinks at an izakaya. Nationwide chains, like Torikizoku offers most of its items for 298 yen each and is a very reasonable option for those who want to save yen. Wamin is another common izakaya and offers fair prices on drinks and fare.
Japanese and Western Fast Food Prices
Fast food is another option for dining out in Japan. Diners can choose from chains like Matsuya offering rice bowls, Japanese-meets-Western burgers at Mos Burger, and international restaurants like McDonald's and Burger King. These restaurants are casual, have international customer-friendly menus, and cost less than 1,000 yen per meal.
Japanese Fast Food - Gyudon and Teishoku
Picture from Hungry? A Comparison Of Japanese Gyudon Chains
Gyudon (beef bowl) is considered fast food in Japan. You can try it at Yoshinoya, Matsuya, and Sukiya restaurants located throughout the country. Gyudon is a rice bowl dish topped with salty and sweet beef slices, flavored with soy sauce and sugar.
Prices range by restaurant and location, but a typical bowl costs around 400 yen. You can change the portion size too--a small size is usually 300 yen, and a large will be around 500 yen. If you add miso soup or a side dish, it will be around 100 yen extra.
These chains are often open in the early morning and operate until past midnight, so they are very convenient for breakfast or a late-night meal after a night out.
Teishoku (set meal). Picture from Japanese Encyclopedia: Teishoku (Set Meal)
Another casual option are set meals known as teishoku. Teishoku are set meals served with a main dish (usually meat or fish) with rice, miso soup, and other side dishes like a salad. A set meal costs around 800 to 1,000 yen, so it is a slightly more expensive choice than the rice bowls mentioned above.
Recommended restaurants include Yayoi and Ootoya with locations throughout Japan. There are also many individually-owned teishoku shops where you can try food with a homecooked flavor.
Western-style Fast Food
Mos Burger. Picture from 10 Things You Should Know About Eating Out In Japan
As mentioned above, Japan is home to hundreds of fast food establishments with western-style options. The most common are McDonald's, Burger King, Lotteria, and Mos Burger for hamburgers. Another popular restaurant is KFC. Prices vary by restaurant, but McDonald's is generally the cheapest option.
|McDonald's Value Set||up to 700 yen|
|Lotteria Set Meal||600 yen to 1,000 yen|
|Mos Burger Set Meal (Medium)||around 860 yen|
|KFC Set Meal||500 yen to 700 yen|
Another thing to note is that the menus of Japanese-located restaurants vary significantly from other countries. For example, McDonald's regularly come out with seasonal items with a Japanese twist, like teriyaki burgers and red bean paste pies. Keep an eye out for these regional foods to enjoy the experience more.
In Japan, there are various relatively low-priced restaurants known as "family restaurants." This term is used as these restaurants provide an environment that is easy for families with children to frequent. Well-known family restaurants in Japan include Saizeriya, Gusto, Denny's, and Joyfull. A meal at one of these restaurants will cost around 1,000 yen in total per person.
Saizeriya offers mostly Italian-style dishes, like pasta and Japanese pizza. The beverage menu also includes wine, sold for a few hundred yen.
Gusto, Denny's, and other family restaurants in Japan serve western dishes like Salisbury steak, fried shrimp, salad, and soup. You can also find desserts, like parfaits and cakes.
Most a la carte dishes cost between 600 and 800 yen. If you add rice, bread, or a bowl of soup to it, your total should be about 1,000 yen. Diners wanting to spend a while at the restaurant also often add a "drink bar" option, which includes unlimited tea, coffee, and soft drinks for around 300 to 400 yen.
Average Food Expense for a Day in Japan
You can enjoy much of Japan's rich food culture for around 1,000 yen per meal. If you have at least 3,000 yen per day to spend on food, you will have enough to eat in terms of volume and taste.
Food costs depend on the restaurants you visit--plan to decide when to splurge on a high-end sushi or yakiniku restaurant, and where you can save with going to the convenience store.