community-forum community-penpal community-userReports destinations-admission destinations-beenThere-outline destinations-beenThere-solid destinations-city_outline destinations-city_solid destinations-closedDays destinations-date destinations-getThere destinations-hotels destinations-hoursFees destinations-itineraries-3 destinations-links destinations-nearbySpots destinations-pin-simple-outline destinations-pin-simple destinations-sortBy-dots destinations-thumbsUp destinations-tours destinations-town destinations-wishlist-heart-outline destinations-wishlist-heart-solid interests-agriculture interests-amusementParks interests-beaches interests-castles interests-city_solid interests-contemporaryArt interests-events interests-festivals interests-flowers interests-foodDrink interests-gardens interests-hiking interests-historicSites interests-industry interests-koyo-single interests-koyo interests-mangaAnime interests-museums interests-nature interests-onsen interests-parks interests-pottery interests-sakura-single interests-sakura interests-scenicRides interests-shopping interests-shrines interests-skiing interests-snow interests-sumo interests-temples interests-traditionalArts interests-traditionalTheater interests-viewpoints interests-volcanoes interests-wildlife interests-winterIlluminations news-section planning-section planning-tickets-2 planning-transportation-access planning-transportation-bicycle planning-transportation-boat-2 planning-transportation-boat planning-transportation-bus planning-transportation-car planning-transportation-plane planning-transportation-shinkansen planning-transportation-tickets planning-transportation-train planning-transportation-walk shapes-chevron-down shapes-circle shapes-star social-fb social-gplus social-instagram social-twitter social-youtube ui-alert-construction ui-alert-warning ui-calendar ui-date ui-globe ui-lightbulb ui-no_entry ui-ok ui-pencil ui-reverse ui-search ui-time ui-video-play ui-x user-avatar
Convenience stores are the budget traveler's friends

It is not necessary to starve yourself to save money when traveling in Japan, as it is easy to find a wide selection of cheap, quality meals throughout the country. The extremely budget conscious could thrive on as little as 1500 to 2000 yen per day on food without sacrificing much variety or their health.

Also when shopping around for accommodation, consider hotel and tour packages that include meals with the stay. Minshuku and ryokan usually include both dinner and breakfast, hotels tend to have various meal plans, and business hotels, manga kissa and capsule hotels often include a complementary light breakfast.

Finally, consider making lunch your main meal of the day. Many restaurants offer inexpensive set menus (teishoku) for around 1000 yen during the lunch hours, while lunch boxes (bento) are available for around 500 yen or less. Higher class restaurants also have less expensive lunch options, making it a great way to check out places that may otherwise be outside of your budget.

Yoshinoya gyudon chain restaurant
Set menu (teishoku)

The following are some ways of having an inexpensive meal:

  • Convenience Stores

    Convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, and can be found virtually anywhere in Japan, resulting in inexpensive meals always being close at hand. Convenience stores offer a selection of fresh sandwiches and rice balls (onigiri), snacks, sweets, bakery items, sushi, noodles, lunch boxes, alcohol and other drinks. Thanks to the fierce competition between convenience store chains, the quality of many food items is surprisingly high.

  • Supermarkets

    Japanese supermarkets are comparable to those found in Western countries and offer much of the same items including fresh fruits and vegetables, seafood, meat, canned and dry foods, drinks, alcohol and prepared foods. Imported foods are also widely available, but expect them to be more expensive than back home. While easily found in the suburbs and smaller towns, (normally priced) supermarkets are rare in the centers of large cities. Note that many supermarkets begin to mark down their unsold lunch items around 14:00 and their other prepared foods from around 19:00. Discounts start off at a modest 10 to 20 percent, but progressively increase until closing and may end up as high as 50 to 70 percent. Many supermarkets also discount fruits and vegetables that are either blemished, overripe or otherwise not fit for sale at full price.

  • Fast Food

    Japan has a lot of international fast food chains such as McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken, as well as many Japanese chains that specialize in one type of dish such as gyudon, udon, soba, ramen, curry or boxed meals (bento). Among these chains are the Yoshinoya, Sukiya, and Matsuya gyudon chains, Hanamaru Udon, Coco Curry House, and the Hokka Hokka Tei and Hotto Motto lunch box chains. Low budget conveyor belt sushi chains could also be listed under this category. The cost of a meal rarely exceeds 1000 yen per person.

  • Family Restaurants

    Coco's, Royal Host and Denny's offer a wide variety of Western and Japanese dishes, while Saizeriya is popular for its cheap and filling Italian food and Bamiyan for its Chinese dishes.

  • Business Districts and Train Stations

    Especially during lunch hours the competition is fierce among restaurants in large business districts, resulting in competitive prices for filling set meals (around 1000 yen) or lunch boxes (around 500 yen) the latter of which are sometimes sold at temporarily erected stands. Large business districts and busy railway stations also usually offer a wide range of small fast food restaurants where you can easily have a full meal for under 1000 yen.

  • Alcoholic Drinks

    Explore Japan's unique lineup of alcoholic drinks that are cheaper than beer, such as imitation beer (happoshu and 3rd genre beer), shochu (distilled spirit made from rice, sweet potatoes, wheat or sugar cane) or chuhai (shochu based cocktails with various flavors). Alcoholic drinks tend to be cheapest at liquor stores, convenience stores and supermarkets.

Budget Travel Guide

Page last updated: January 6, 2016