It is actually a lot easier than I imagined to find cheap food in Japan! Although we would love to try all the different incredible foods in Japan, we also love to save our money. We like to stick to $10 for a whole meal that feeds us both.
Some people may find that restrictive, but with this rule, we are generally eating where the locals eat and end up experiencing more of the native culture than if we just chose the expensive restaurants.
Best Cheap Food in Japan to Try
So although this is by no means an extensive list of all the foods you could try, these are all good cheap Japanese foods that you can enjoy while staying safely on a budget without missing out on the cultural experience!
And for us, this is usually the most important and exciting part of the trip! We would hate to miss out on local food!
So if you’re wondering what to eat in Japan on a budget, you’re in the right place!
Also if you’re looking for an itinerary for Japan, check out this post!
Also known as “pot-stickers” in the US, these things are absolutely delicious and one of the main things I was excited about when going to Japan. Gyoza is like a dumpling that comes fried or steamed and with vegetables or meat stuffed inside.
You dip it in soy sauce and fight through the burn of the hot food because it is so worth it to eat right away!
Where to Get Gyoza
If you are heading to Tokyo (can you even skip Tokyo if you’re going to Japan??) then you’re in luck! In Harajuku, there is a famous restaurant with only one thing on the menu: GYOZA!
Although you can eat it as a meal, it’s definitely one of the best snacks in Tokyo as well!
Here’s where to find it:
There will most likely be a bit of a line, but since there are only a few things on the menu and seating is limited, it goes pretty fast!
For both of us to get our own plate of 6 pieces of gyoza, it cost 626 yen or $5.89.
2. Conveyor Belt Sushi
Easily the highlight of any trip to Japan: endless sushi for super cheap! I might have definitely teared up a bit the first time we went to one of these because what could possibly be better?! It is a must-eat food in Japan and most definitely the most famous food in Japan, so don’t skip it!
The best and cheapest sushi in Tokyo is conveyor belt sushi! I wrote out how to find the best ones and how it works here.
Although there were conveyor belt sushi places in Kyoto and Nara, neither of them was very good and I wouldn’t recommend them.
About $1 per plate! Which is about 2 pieces of incredible sushi. The price of food in Japan is surprisingly pretty low! Especially compared to how much this amount of sushi would cost in America!
First of all, be aware that this is NOT ice cream. I had never had mochi before this and for some reason, I was under the impression that mochi was some kind of rice ice cream ball.
Which it’s not. Although I think that might be the American interpretation of this Japanese treat.
One of the most traditional Japanese delicacies is the mochi pictured above. It has a red bean paste on the inside and the doughy part is made from mugwort.
Then they dip the mochi in peanut dust and voila! There are lots of different flavors to choose from, but I recommend trying the most traditional kind if you can find it!
How to Find Mochi
It was more difficult than we thought to find traditional Mochi. The best (and most entertaining) place was in Nara:
Other places you could go hunting for mochi are near the Asakusa Shrine where there are lots of shopping streets and small shops.
or you could try this restaurant in Shinjuku:
We didn’t make it to the last place I listed, but only because we ran out of time!
1 piece of mochi usually costs about $1.50 – $2 depending on where you buy it. Definitely a cheap treat!
4. Yoshinoya (Gyudons / Gyudon Restaurants)
This is actually a chain restaurant that you can find all over Japan (we even found one in Bali! If you want to extend your trip around Asia, make sure to read this.)
It is famous for its traditional rice and beef bowls that you can get in either small, medium, or large.
Where to find it
Since this is a chain restaurant, you can just type “Yoshinoya” into Google Maps and find them scattered all over Tokyo!
We ate here multiple times on the trip and the meal would come in under $8 each time since a medium bowl is only about 380 yen.
Other Guydon restaurants you can try that sell cheap food like Yoshinoya are:
Takoyaki actually translates to “Octopus Balls.” Strange, but cheap and worth trying at least once! That’s the best way I can describe these little fried doughs filled with octopus and covered with a traditional sweet sauce.
Where to find it
You can find Takoyaki in Nara or Osaka since it originated in Osaka. Although it wasn’t my favorite, it definitely was cheap! Here’s where we found it near some food stalls in Nara:
Another super cheap street food in Japan! For 8 of these, it only costs 280 Yen or $2.63! A pretty low price considering it has octopus in it.
Some we didn’t try but will next time
There were a few dishes that we just didn’t have time to try (yeah, we went back for a lot of conveyor belt sushi and maybe that’s why) but if you’re looking for a few more cheap eats you could try:
- Udon Noodles
- Miso Soup
- Soba Noodles
- Donburi Rice Bowls
- Onigiri Rice Balls
- Japanese Curry
The best Japanese food doesn’t have to be the most expensive! There’s tons of cheap Japanese food to try!
Read More to Plan for Japan:
- How to Budget for Food on Your Trip to Japan
- Is Sushi Affordable in Japan?
- The Best Guide to Finding Geishas in Kyoto
Pin this for your trip to Japan!