If you’re new to, or want to brush up on your knowledge of the vast array of Japanese dishes have a quick listen to our podcast episodes explaining Japanese cuisine part 1 and part 2.
Cheap Dinner, Posh Lunch
This is the Cheapo Golden Rule for eating out in Tokyo. Even the most famous restaurants have great lunch deals – so take advantage of them. Dinner on the other hand is always pricey, so go to the consistently cheap places in the evening.
Noodles & Onigiri
Unless you’re on a low carbohydrate diet, you can rarely go wrong with noodles for a cheapo lunch or dinner. Places like Sanuki Udon Hanamaru which serve Udon (wheat flour noodles) are the cheapest and a great option if you’re in a hurry and you need to eat. Ramen and Soba are the other major types that you’ll come across. The varieties are and combinations are endless. Onigiri are another great, healthy, cheapo staple available from every convenience store and supermarket in the land.
Sushi and other Japanese Cuisine
Sushi and other particular kinds of Japanese cooking are generally a bit pricier than noodles, but there are options which provide good value at a reasonable price. Ootoya is a great place to get a hearty Japanese ‘teishoku’.
For food, Tokyo is as cosmopolitan as anywhere in the world. French and Italian have the longest history in Japan and consequently there are a lot of places serving these cuisines. For cheap, tasty pasta, places like La Boheme are a good bet.
The Japanese are serious about their beef, with their famous “brand beef” like Matsuzaka or Kobe Gyu prices can really shoot sky high for a piece of A rank wagyu steak or yaki niku. A cheap way of sampling some quality meat is going for a 100% Japanese Wagyu beef hamburg (yes hamburg, not hamburger).
Bars and Izakayas
Izakayas (Japanese style pubs with food) usually have the cheapest drinks, but keep in mind you’ll pay a seating charge, so for 1 or 2 drinks a bar might be better value. Although you may find ‘standing bars’ with prices as low as 300yen for a standard drink, most of them cost quite a bit more. The advantage over an Izakaya is that you can actually meet and interact with your fellow customers – something that can be a little more difficult to do at an izakaya. Most clubs will have an entrance fee of a few thousand yen with one or two drinks thrown in. Look out for some good deals though – like this drinking all night deal.
Healthy and Vegetarian Options
Japan with it’s fishing island based history can be a little tricky if you’re a strick vegetarian or vegan, we’ve got some healthy, veggie and vegan options so check out this post as a starting point.
Take-out and Picnics
If shopping for a picnic or preparing food at home, Yamaya, Hanamasa or OK Supermarket are great places to start.
Tokyo Hipster Coffee Boom
Finding a good espresso in Tokyo used to be an oasis in a sea of smokey salaryman filled chain cafe misery, but in the last few years a lot of great coffee shops have started to pop up especially within a few square miles of Shibuya. Here’s a few to get you started:
Turret Coffee in Tsukiji
Bear Pond Espresso in Shimokitazawa
Streamer and Fuglen in Shibuya
Omotesando Coffee and Motoya in Omotesando.
Image credit: Mehmet Aktugan used under CC license