Cheap but Good Quality Food? Here Are 6 Affordable Ways to Eat in Japan

  • HOW TO
  • Japan is known for having expensive food in the market. This is probably one of the most common complaints of foreign people visiting the country. Contrary to this, there is actually a wide selection of cheap food having good quality. Like anywhere in the world, if you eat like a local, there’s no need to spend a lot of money. If you’d like to know how to make yourself full in Japan without breaking the bank, take note of these six ways!

    1. Coupons

    There are several coupon apps you can find online for different restaurants in Japan. This is one of the offers they’re giving out which is a good value for money. Although it is pretty difficult to eat in a restaurant for under 500 yen, having a coupon helps a lot. The only problem is that many of the pages offering coupons are in the Japanese language. The English ones are not as helpful as the Japanese ones.

    Do you know that coupons for burger shops also exist in the country? Restaurants like KFC, McDonald’s, MOS Burger, and Burger King offer coupons on their mobile phone apps. The offers change on a weekly basis which greatly attracts customers into the place.

    2. Free Samples

    If you go to Japan, you will probably notice department stores, gift shops, and supermarkets offering free food samples. If you try wandering around, you will be asked by the shop staff to try their food samples. Each of the samples may be small but you can get full by trying all of it. You can buy the food you’re sampling if you prefer, but you will never be forced. Of course, it is common sense that samples are there to entice you to buy the food. Do not be asking for more samples if you have no intention of actually buying them. If your budget is limited, make sure to buy only the food item that you want.

    3. Closing-Hour Discounts

    Japan offers closing-hour discounts in supermarkets. Many of the food items that weren’t sold have to be disposed of before they get spoiled. To remedy this, they are being sold at 30 percent to 50 percent off the original price. The sale usually starts at 6:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

    If you’re on the lookout for these discounted items, you may check the label. Many of these come in a variety of dishes from salad, fries, grilled food, to rice, sushi, bento boxes, and so on. Fresh snacks like onigiri and sandwiches are also available and other items with a limited shelf life.

    This is an extra helpful tip for getting the most out of your local supermarket in the country. Additionally, these discounts are not only offered in supermarkets but also in food courts located in the basement of department stores. As closing time draws nearer, discounts go up. Stickers are stuck on top of each other as the staff members are usually going around and marking down the items. There are actually some people who hang around and wait for the staff to get the stickers out.

    Why don’t you try this tip on your next supermarket trip if you’d like to save money while in Japan?

    4. Campus Cafeterias

    In some Japanese universities, their cafeterias are open to the public. Since they are made for students, food prices are affordable and they come in good quality and large portions. Each campus has its own characteristics when it comes to cafeteria food, but the ones with high reputations are the University of Tokyo (東京大学) and Aoyama Gakuin University (青山学院大学). It is interesting to try their cafeteria meals while exploring around the campus.

    If you don’t know how to get your meal, you may ask one of the students. Japanese students are interested in communicating with foreign people but are shy to do so. But if you start conversing with them, they’ll gladly help you out. You may even sit and eat together with them.

    5. Gyudon Restaurants

    Have you heard of gyudon before? It is a Japanese dish consisting of rice topped with beef and onions which have been simmered in a mildly sweet sauce. The sauce is flavored with dashi, soy sauce, and mirin. This is one of the cheap foods you can find in the country. For 380 yen, you will already be able to buy a medium-sized gyudon at Yoshinoya (吉野家), which is a fast food restaurant in Japan. At Sukiya (すき家), a bowl also usually costs 380 yen; while at Matsuya (松屋), it costs 290 yen. The fast food chains serving them are open for 24 hours and you may also buy other food such as curry and pork-don.

    Most Japanese who drink beer eat gyudon to satisfy their hunger. This can be eaten in or taken out as the preparation is really fast. In other branches, drive-through counters are also available. If you have hated beef all your life, I’m sure you’ll change your mind once you get to try Japan’s gyudon.

    6. Convenience Stores

    You can also try convenience stores (konbini) if you’re eager to save money on food. Convenience stores in Japan are known for having better quality products than anywhere else in the world. Competition among convenience stores is evident across the country and is increasing year by year.

    Convenience stores sell their original rice balls (onigiri) from 100 to 200 yen, bento lunch boxes from 380 to 600 yen, fried foods, and sweets. There are also several instant foods such as instant noodles which are really cheap. Just a cup of this is pretty much filling. And also, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on coffee as it only costs 100 yen per cup.

    What’s great is that most of them have tables and chairs inside their stores, which is indeed convenient. This is probably one of the things worth remembering for your trip.

    These are just some of the affordable ways for you to make yourself full if you ever get a chance to stay in Japan. There are many other options depending on your budget.

    Related Articles:
    Hungry but on a Budget? Here Are 5 Affordable Restaurants in Tokyo
    Tight Budget? Keep an Eye Out for Wake-ari Products!