If someone mentions Japanese food, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Sushi (寿司) and ramen (ラーメン) have already gained substantial popularity in some countries. Right now, I live in a European city where I can eat them at many Japanese restaurants. But, sometimes, I do miss the taste of Japanese food available only in Japan. The best thing about food in Japan is that it’s cheap and tasty! So, here, I’d like to introduce you some of the economical and delicious foods that you should try during your stay in Japan!
At a conveyor belt sushi store, or “kaiten sushi” store, a lot of sushi plates rotate on a conveyor belt around the tables. You don’t need to call the waiting staff to take your order; you can just pick up whatever plates you want from the belt as they go past your table. Be careful not to touch reserved plates. It’s not difficult to distinguish reserved and normal plates as they are clearly labeled.
Generally speaking, each sushi plate has two pieces of sushi. One plate of sushi costs around 100 to 300 yen. Help yourself to free green tea; you’ll find clean mugs, powdered green tea, and hot water ready on your table. If you prefer freshly made sushi, use the touch screen attached to your table and order fresh sushi! By doing this, you can also choose the “no wasabi (わさび)” option.
Many of the famous conveyor belt sushi stores offer a variety of foods including ramen, udon (うどん), deep-fried chicken, cakes, puddings, and so on! Some of the famous sushi franchised stores include Kappa Sushi (かっぱ寿司), Kura Sushi (くら寿司), Hama Sushi (はま寿司), and Sushiro (スシロー).
Arguably, Gyudon is the king of Japanese cheap eats. You’ll usually pay less than 500 yen for a bowl of gyudon!
Gyudon is a bowl of white rice with stewed beef and onions on the top. It’s delicious and very filling. You can add toppings if you like. Some of the most beloved toppings are kimchi (キムチ; Korean fermented vegetables) and a raw egg (don’t be surprised, it goes really well with gyudon). Famous gyudon franchised stores include Yoshinoya (吉野家), Sukiya (すき家), and Matsuya (松屋).
When you go to business districts in Tokyo (東京), you might be surprised at the number of izakaya (Japanese pubs) there are. Nowadays, Japanese izakaya culture seems to have acquired some foreign fans as well!
Many izakayas offer good and filling meals during lunchtime. For example, there is a large number of izakayas that provide lunch menus around the JR Shinbashi (新橋) and Tamachi stations (田町駅). It’s fun to walk into narrow streets full of izakayas and be spoiled for choice.
From my own experience, I daresay a karaage (からあげ; crispy deep-fried chicken) lunch will never disappoint you. Kaisendon (海鮮丼), a bowl of rice with a variety of raw fish and seafood on it, is a good choice too! The price ranges from 500 to 1000 yen.
If you happen to be somewhere near a university, why not walk into the campus and eat at the student cafeteria? It depends on each university, but surprisingly, many university cafeterias welcome temporary visitors! Some universities (like female-only universities) might refuse unregistered visitors, though.
You can eat at the cafeterias of Tokyo University (東京大学), Toyo University (東洋大学), Keio University (慶応義塾大学), Waseda University (早稲田大学), Meiji University (明治大学), Rikkyo University (立教大学), and many others! The price is very affordable, normally from 300 yen to 600 yen.
Japan is famous for its huge number of convenience stores! The majority of them are open 24/7 and the quality of food there is very high. They sell various types of bento (弁当) boxes, hot foods, sandwiches, onigiri (おにぎり; rice balls), and more.
Rice balls have a variety of tastes and it’s about 100 to 150 yen per rice ball. Also, you’ll need to try the hot karaage (crispy deep-fried chicken) sold at the counter. Karaage that has been stored in the fridge is also nice, but less so.
Now, do you feel like trying any of the foods above? In general, food in Japan isn’t so expensive, especially during lunch time. Most restaurants offer lunch for 1000 yen or less. There is so much cheap and nice food in Japan that unfortunately, I cannot introduce everything here. I hope you’ll enjoy exploring and trying new foods in Japan! You might even find a hidden gem on your own!
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