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Is Food Cheap in Japan? How to Budget For Your Trip

You’re ready to plan your trip to Japan, but as you start putting everything together you realize it might be getting more expensive than you thought! Then it hits you…”Is food cheap in Japan?!”

With this guide, you can figure out just how cheap food is in Japan so you can plan and budget without worrying and also without missing out on great Japanese food!

Is Food Cheap in Japan?

Yes, food in Japan IS cheap, or it can be if you know where to look and which foods are the most affordable.

Let’s look into some prices to show you exactly what certain foods will cost you in Japan:

  • 12 Pieces of Gyoza: $5.89
  • 1 Plate of 6 Sushi Rolls: $1
  • 8 Takoyaki Balls: $2.63
  • 1 Homemade Mochi: $1.36
  • 1 Medium Rice & Beef Bowl at Yoshinoya: $4
  • 1 Bowl of Udon Noodles: $2.72
  • 1 Bowl of Soba Noodles: $4.54

Of course, this isn’t just at any restaurant. I’ve written down the best cheap sushi places here and where to find some of the cheapest foods in Japan here.

In the next section, I’ll show you how to find cheap restaurants in Japan so you can plan a realistic food budget for your trip!

Plus, check out this post to find out if sushi is cheaper in Japan!

How to Find Cheap Food in Japan & Create Your Food Budget

Like I said before, not every ramen restaurant is cheap, and not every sushi restaurant has plates for just $1. So here are the exact steps you can follow to find restaurants in Japan that serve cheap food.

You can use these steps to figure out what a realistic food budget would be for your trip to Japan as well as learning how to find awesome cheap eats on your own!

1. Google “Cheap Eats in (City Name)”

2. Scroll Until You See TripAdvisor & Click on It

cheap eats in Japan

3. Look Through the List, Find Ones You Like with at Least 100 Reviews

Find Cheap Eats on TripAdvisor for Japan
Cheap food in Japan on Tripadvisor

4. Choose a Restaurant & Type the Name into Google Maps

The name might be different and there may be way more reviews on Google than they have on TripAdvisor. In this case, I used “Niboshi Ramen Nagi Shinjuku Golden Gai” and typed that into Google Maps.

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On Google Maps, the restaurant is called “Ramen Nagi – Shinjuku Golden-gai” and instead of just 365 reviews it has almost 3,000 reviews!

cheap ramen restaurant in Japan

5. Scroll Down to “Photos” and Click on “Menu” in Google Maps

menu on Google Maps in Japan

6. Find a Picture of the Menu & Figure Out How Much a Meal There Would Cost

According to this menu, a bowl of ramen (medium or large) would cost 850 Yen or $7.72. However, this photo was taken in April 2017, so the prices may be a bit higher at the actual restaurant.

cheap ramen in Japan

If I really wanted to go to this ramen place, I would plan to get a large bowl of ramen for $7.72 and split it with my husband, then maybe grab a small snack afterward.

This would keep us under $10 per meal for the both of us, which is our food budget for every trip we go on (of course, we break it sometimes, but this is always our guideline! More about that in the tips section!)

7. Mark the Restaurant in Google Maps & Add it to Your Itinerary

If you find a place you like, don’t forget to mark it on Google Maps! That way, when you are creating your itinerary for Japan, you can make sure to include it on the days that you will be in that specific area.

8. Create Your Food Budget Goal

After you’ve gone through this process with a handful of restaurants, you will start to get an idea of what food costs in Japan. For us, $10 per meal for the both of us worked perfectly in Japan.

However, with these steps, you can calculate exactly how much you need according to how you travel and eat. And you can do that before you ever step foot in Japan!

More Tips for Saving Money on Food in Japan

If you are a budget traveler (or want to become one!) these tips are definitely for you. Finding cheap food in Japan is absolutely possible, but you have to have a plan before you go!

Some of these tips might seem extreme, but I promise that you will still fully experience Japan even while saving a bit of money on food.

mochi in Nara, Japan
Super-cheap homemade Mochi in Nara, Japan

Some people may guilt you by saying “If you didn’t eat here or here, then you didn’t visit Japan!” but it’s absolutely not true!

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Everyone has different priorities when they travel, some want to eat at the highest-rated restaurants and experience the best food in the country, and others want to try all the street food the country has to offer.

Plus, the more you save on your trip to Japan, the more trips you can go on! So get ready to cross “eat sushi in Japan” off your bucket list while also adding “eat Pad Thai in Thailand” next.

Eat at Conveyor Belt Sushi Restaurants

The first and best way to save money on food in Japan is to eat at conveyor belt sushi restaurants!

conveyor belt sushi in Japan

Try These 5 Cheap Foods in Japan

Instead of trying to go to all the best-rated restaurants in Japan, focus your efforts on trying lots of different cheaper foods throughout your trip.

Takoyaki street food in Japan
Cheap Takoyaki Street Food in Nara, Japan

The way I’ve always looked at it is that the food that is cheapest is usually what locals are eating on a daily basis, so you are actually getting a closer look at life in the area you’re visiting!

For example, you can go to France and eat escargot at an expensive French restaurant, but have you ever heard of the French taco?

In Nice, most locals would grab a cheap $4 French taco for lunch and by trying to save money, we actually found foods that a lot of people might miss!

In Japan, these foods are all over the place if you pay attention!

In fact, here are 5 of the best cheap foods that will save you a ton of money while you are in Japan!

Eat Breakfast at Your Hotel or Hostel

Instead of needing to eat out for every meal, you can save a ton of money by eating breakfast at your Airbnb, hotel or hostel.

Your hostel might even provide breakfast! But if not, it’s easy to head to a nearby convenience store to pick up a cheap breakfast for the next morning.

If you have a kitchen in your Airbnb, then you can grab oatmeal and bananas or milk and cereal.

If you don’t have a refrigerator or a stove, then muffins or granola bars are great options as well. Or you can grab your breakfast on the way so you don’t need to refrigerate it overnight (like yogurt or milk).

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Jake and I have done this on every trip for the past 5 years and not only has it saved us a ton of money, but it also helps us choose some healthier options for at least a part of the day while we’re traveling!

Set a Goal of $10 for 2 People for Lunch & Dinner

For lunch and dinner, make it a game to only spend $10 for two people for each meal. This is absolutely possible, we’ve done it in every country we’ve visited so far!

If you choose the right places, you aren’t going to be starving after your meal either! Like the Conveyor Belt Sushi, where you can eat a TON of sushi for less than $10, or the Gyoza restaurants where you can fill up on plates of fried Gyoza without breaking your budget.

affordable Gyoza in Japan
Cheap Gyoza in Tokyo, Japan

Keep Cheap Snacks in Your Bag At All Times

One of the most fun things to do in a new country (for me, at least!) is to head to a local grocery store or convenience store and see what different foods and snacks they have.

When you first arrive in Japan, try out a few snacks you haven’t seen before and then buy a few extra of the ones that you like. Keep them in your bag or backpack throughout the trip so that you always have a snack on you.

This will make it so you aren’t starving when lunch or dinner rolls around, so you’ll spend less money on getting full.

Plus, when traveling you might go longer without a meal than you originally planned, your travel buddies will be grateful you ate a snack instead of getting grumpy when you miss a bus or get off at the wrong stop!