My Japan adventure happened a little over 4 months ago! There were so many amazing things that I saw and did while I was in Japan. One of the things that have really stuck with me, is the food! I had researched Japan for a while before I went to Japan. When I say awhile, I mean years. Every single thing I read about Tokyo mentioned the food, I thought that meant that food in Japan was super expensive. That wasn’t the case at all! Not only was the food amazing no matter where we went, but the price wasn’t any more than the prices in America.
From McDonald’s to a fancy Tonkatsu restaurant, all the food we had was amazing. There are many super expensive restaurants in Japan, but we didn’t go to any of those. Traveling on a budget can be stressful, but after a couple days of coming under our daily budget for food, we realized that Japan was super budget friendly. You just need to look in the right places.
I decided to make a top 10 list of my favorite food we ate while in Japan! We ate a ton more food, but these are my favorite. It also just happens that most of these places were also really affordable. If you are worried about traveling to Japan and are on a tight budget, I promise you, you can find food in your budget and it will be amazing.
10. Tempura Mix
I was extremely excited to try Tempura! It was on my bucket list of foods to try while in Japan. It was four days into our trip before we actually found a place that sold Tempura. We were in Kyoto wandering around the Nishiki Market when we realized we were hungry. Luckily, a few steps further we found this adorable stall that sold Tempura and they had a tiny restaurant in the back. We got the Tempura set meal and dug in. It was so delicious. It is number 10 on my list simply because it ended up hurting my stomach. Was it worth the stomach ache? Yes! Would I eat it again? Yes! If you have a sensitive stomach, I suggest taking Imodium or Pepto Bismol with you. Eat all the food, it’s worth the discomfort.
I had Gyoza in America multiple times. It was one of my favorite things. However, nothing prepared me for how amazing Gyoza is at Ramen shops! They are so yummy, the bottom is super crispy while the rest is slightly chewy. I also love the sauce mix. It’s just rice vinegar, soy sauce, and Japanese five spice! It was so good! I’ve been trying to re-create Gyoza at home, but I have a stove top that likes to burn everything. One day, I’ll make them successfully and I’ll be so happy!
8. Lobster Roll
Now, I know what you are saying, “This isn’t Japanese food.” No, it’s not, but it was one of the best things I ate while in Japan. We went to the Dominique Ansel bakery and cafe in Omotesando. Originally, the plan was to go get pastries and get them while at a park nearby. That didn’t happen. We walked up to the cafe and saw advertisements for Lobster rolls and Cuban sandwiches. While we had just had breakfast, both of those things sounded amazing. I’m so happy that we ended up going in and trying the food. It was the best lobster roll I’ve ever had. When you go to Japan, don’t be afraid to try western style food. I promise you, you won’t regret it. Japan doesn’t just have amazing Japanese food, they also have amazing western food!
Number 7 on my list is, again, not traditional Japanese food. Instead, it’s this amazing pasta dish I had at Obu Cafe in Kyoto! We had just walked around the bamboo forest and a shrine. So we were pretty hungry, all of the traditional Japanese food restaurants were packed and we didn’t feel like waiting. We looked up and saw Obu Cafe and decided to eat there. This pasta was the best pasta I’ve ever eaten. Just for the record, I’ve never been to Italy and I’m sure once I go, my thoughts about this pasta might change. Until then, I loved this pasta dish and I would recommend it to anyone.
Coming in at number 6 is pizza! On one of the final nights in Japan, I was feeling pretty sick and I didn’t want to go anywhere. We had been walking by this pizza place called La Pizza near the apartment. That night, we decided to give it a shot. We ordered a normal meat pizza and a “weird” seafood pizza. I had expected the seafood pizza to be weird and not taste very good. As usual, I was wrong. It had an Alfredo sauce as the base, and it was really good. The meat pizza was amazing as well.
5. Kura Sushi
Sushi in Japan can get pricey if you go to a fancy sushi place. We didn’t want to spend that much money but we still wanted to enjoy sushi. I had heard about a chain called Kura Sushi and I really wanted to try it out. Luckily for us, we had one about a 10-minute walk from our apartment. We actually went our first night in Japan, so this was the first meal we ever ate in Japan. It was really good and cheap. It’s a super family friendly and English friendly restaurant. You order the sushi from an iPad that is located on your table, you can switch the language to English which makes things easier. The sushi was really good, even the sushi that we weren’t used to. I recommend checking out a Kura Sushi if you are looking for a cheap yet fun eating experience.
4. Japanese Style Hamburger
Number 4 is hamburger! Now in Japan, Hamburger is more of a Salisbury steak in the western world. We were in Kyoto when we were looking for a budget-friendly place to eat. I looked on google maps and found Royal Host. Royal host is another chain restaurant in Japan, it has more of a western-Japanese style to it. Eating a Japanese style Hamburger was on my food bucket list and I was excited to try it! When you order a Salisbury steak in America, most of the time it’s dry and flavorless. This was not the case, it was juicy and had tons of flavor. The gravy was also really good. I recommend trying one while you are in Japan.
3. Perfect Pancake
All over the internet, you see the perfect pancake. It’s giant, fluffy, and perfectly cooked. I really wanted to try and find them while I was in Japan. After researching the perfect pancake, I found that one of the original places to serve them was West Aoyama Garden. It’s also known as Ginza west. It was on the other side of Tokyo, so I had to wait until we were going to the Ginza area. This pancake is different from American style pancakes because it’s really thick. It’s more like a cake that is the shape of a pan. It tastes kind of like a really good, not too sweet vanilla cake. It was so good! If you love pancakes or dessert, you should check out Ginza west.
2. Kikanbo Ramen
Coming in at number 2, Kikanbo Ramen. Kikanbo is the name of the restaurant. Kikanbo is a tiny hole in the wall place that I highly recommend. When we arrived, there was already a pretty long line outside, but most of the people in line looked like they were locals. After seeing this, I knew it would be worth it. Like most ramen shops in Japan, you have to go to a vending machine like thing where you choose what you want, pay for it and then you receive a ticket. We waited in line for about 30 minutes, while we were waiting in line, an employee from the restaurant came out and collected our tickets. Once we were seated they gave us the drinks we purchased and not even 5 minutes later they gave us our ramen. It was honestly the best ramen I had while I was in Japan. The meat was super tender, the ramen was spicy, the noodles were a bit chewy, and the egg was cooked perfectly. We went to four different ramen restaurants and I highly recommend this one. If you get a chance, you need to eat here.
1. Tie! Kyoto Tonkatsu & Coco Curry
I honestly couldn’t decide which of these foods I liked best so I decided to make my number one choice be a tie! Both of these foods were really good and I enjoyed them both.
Tonkatsu was a restaurant in Kyoto station called Katsukura. This was the fanciest restaurant we went to, and the most pricey. With that being said, it wasn’t super expensive, it was just pricey compared to the amount we paid for other food in Japan. For two people it cost around $60, which isn’t terrible and I’ve spent more in America on food. The pork used for the Tonkatsu was local and from Kyoto. It was perfectly tender, crunchy, and the fat melted in my mouth. You also get unlimited cabbage, rice, and miso soup.
My second number one choice might be a bit controversial to some people who have visited Japan or live in Japan. Mostly because it is a chain restaurant and that there are better curry restaurants in Japan. Which I agree, there probably are. Coco curry is tied for number one on my list because it was delicious and reasonably priced. I think the most we ever spent at Coco curry for both of us was around $25! That is amazing and you get a lot of food. I loved Coco curry and I could have honestly eaten it every day. Not only do they make a great curry, but you’re able to customize what you order. You can get their pre-set meals and add things like mushrooms, cheese, spinach, and other things. They also have a spice level you can adjust and I love spicy food. Yes, there are other curry restaurants in Japan. Yes, there are probably better ones. With that being said, Coco curry was one of my favorite places to eat in Japan and I believe you should give it a shot if you’ve never been there before.
I’ve been wanting to write this for awhile, I really do miss the food in Japan. I make Japanese style curry at least once every two weeks. I’m going to try to make other things on my list pretty soon. I might write about my experience trying to make these foods. I recently bought a Ramen cookbook that has recipes for the soup bases and the noodles. I’m pretty excited to try them out!
I hope this has helped you realize that even if you are traveling to Japan on a budget, you don’t have to eat Ramen every day. Though, eating ramen every day in Japan isn’t a bad option. There are so many different types of Ramen and I was only able to eat three different kinds! However, if you don’t want to, you don’t have to. There are tons of options that are affordable so you can try out whatever you want. You don’t have to go to fancy restaurants to have a great meal in Japan. If you liked any of the food I posted, I’ve included the links to the restaurants we went to in each of the sections.
Have you ever been to Japan? What was your favorite food in Japan? Did I list any of yours? Let me know in the comments below! Thank you so much for reading.