How Much Does It Cost to Eat in Japan Per Day?

by Callum Howe
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Asia in general is known as a budget travelers’ dream, where your savings can stretch far further than in most of Europe or America. Unfortunately, this fact doesn’t ring true in Japan at all, where the cost of living is one of the highest on the continent. Unless you want to watch your hard-earned money evaporate into thin air, you’ll need to be a little more conscious of your day-to-day expenses here. 

However, when it comes to eating, there are plenty of options available across the entire price spectrum — assuming you know where to look. You can either spend your evenings splashing out on high-end traditional dining, or scrape some pennies together for a (surprisingly delicious) convenience store banquet. Whatever the state of your finances we’ve got your covered.

Let’s take a look at some example budgets, common restaurants, and tips for planning your gastronomic adventures in Japan. After that, we’ll give you the inside track on how to land a spot at some of the best restaurants.

Example Budgets

#1. Low-end (¥1,500 – 2,500)

There’s no shame in pinching the pennies when visiting Japan (I should know) — better to save at the start and splurge the leftover than blow the budget early and live on plain rice afterwards. If you’re of the same opinion, this is what your daily meal plan might look like.

MorningCoffee and an onigiri from 7/11¥250
AfternoonBowl at a budget ramen/tempura shop¥600
EveningMeal at a budget izakaya and FamilyMart beers¥1,250
¥2,100

#2. Standard (¥3,000 – 6,000)

Assuming you’ve squirreled away a healthy amount for your trip, and won’t have to stretch it out across too long a time, then your options will be a little broader. Here’s an example of the variety you can get at this price point.

MorningSet breakfast at a cafe¥1,000
AfternoonMeal at a midrange sushi restaurant¥1,750
EveningAll-you-can-eat-and-drink at a hotpot restaurant¥3,000
¥5,750

#3. Luxury (¥10,000 – 25,000)

Maybe you’re not strapped for cash in the slightest, and want to get the most out of what Japan’s culinary scene has to offer. I envy you! Here’s how much you can expect to spend on a standard day of wining and dining.

MorningSet breakfast at a high-end city cafe¥2,000
AfternoonCourse lunch at an upmarket tempura restaurant¥6,000
EveningCourse dinner and sake at a 1 Michelin star kaiseki¥14,000
¥22,000

Standard Restaurant Prices

Now that we’ve taken a look at roughly how much each type of traveler should plan to spend, let’s explore what kind of restaurants you should be looking out for to fit your chosen budget. All prices below are listed for per-person, so multiply them accordingly to get a total price for you and your partner or family.

Sushi Restaurants

low-end, standard, luxury – ¥¥¥

Although sushi has something of a high-class image in the West, it actually started as a cheap fast food on the streets of old Tokyo. In Japan, this fast food culture is still alive, because sushi restaurants run the gamut from greasy eateries to exclusive Michelin-starred establishments. A single dish at a cheap conveyor-belt sushi restaurant will start from ¥100, with around 6 or 7 dishes enough for a full meal. On the other hand, a full course menu meal at a high-end Ginza sushiya will set you back up to ¥25,000. In the middle of the scale, you have chains like the famous Sushi Zanmai which offer genuine quality for around ¥2,000 to 3,000 per meal.

Tempura Shops

low-end, standard, luxury – ¥¥¥

Like sushi, tempura shops fall into every price bracket there is. Shops like Tendon Tenya sell filling rice and tempura bowls for just ¥500, which are filled with more than enough carbs and protein to energize you for a day of sightseeing. High-end places typically offer tasting menus with a dozen or more pieces for around ¥12,000, but those in the know willed to these same places at lunchtime to snag tempura rice bowls for a fraction the usual prices — around ¥1,700 to 3,000.

Cafes

low-end, standard, luxury – ¥¥¥

It’s no Paris, but Japan has a very well-established cafe culture nonetheless. Coffee fans will have plenty of places to choose from, with a standard latte at a decent independent cafe costing ¥400 to 600. At chains like Tully’s and Starbucks, you can expect to pay ¥500 and above. Most cafes will have food on offer too, with a typical lunch set meal averaging around ¥1,000 to 1,400. These can often be your best bet for good-quality, fresh food at a decent price.

McDonald’s and KFC

low-end – ¥

Just as The Economist uses their Bic Mac Index to compare the spending power of world currencies, so too can travelers use global fast food chains as an indicator of a destination’s food prices. In Japan, a budget medium set meal at McDonald’s or KFC will only set you back ¥500, while a bigger meal will cost around ¥800. The McDonald’s saver menu also has plenty of single-item options for ¥100.

Convenience Stores

low-end – ¥

For super-saver travelers and busy salarymen alike, these ubiquitous stores are an absolute lifesaver. They’re basically a hub for every facet of Japanese life, from paying bills to buying tickets. Their food and drink range is extensive, and features some distinctly Japanese items like yakitori skewers for ¥100 —  they’ll even heat up the bento meals for you, and some have places to sit too! Their coffee is usually pretty decent as well, and only costs around ¥150 yen. For the evenings, they also have hundreds of different alcohol choices, with Japanese beers and fruit-flavored ‘chūhai’ usually costing from ¥100 to ¥200.

Ramen Shops

low-end, standard ¥¥

The quintessential Japanese fast food, a bowl of piping-hot ramen will fill your belly without emptying your wallet. Generally you’ll find them priced from ¥600 to ¥1500, averaging around ¥850. The only downside is that, while the price can vary quite a bit, so can the quality. To be guaranteed at least decent quality, grab a bowl from a chain like Ichiran. However, if you roll the dice on independent places, you can enjoy better noodles, more variety, and often lower prices.

Family Restaurants

low-end, standard – ¥¥

This is the Japanese name for casual Western restaurants like Denny’s, Johnathan’s, and Gusto. They’re typically comfortable, affordable diners, and you can find them pretty much everywhere. A meal here will cost anything from ¥700 to ¥1200, including unlimited use their extensive drink bars which feature hundreds of choices. Although a meal at Denny’s isn’t the most Japanese experience, you’ll find their menu features plenty of local-style dishes alongside Western favorites.

Izakaya

low-end, standard – ¥¥

These informal Japanese gastropubs are perfect places to soak up some traditional dining culture without spending too much at all. Budget travelers can look out for chains like Torikizoku, where you can enjoy all sort of chicken dishes and cheap drinks for around ¥1,500. If you don’t mind spending more, there are loads of cool options like the famous Kill Bill restaurant, Honpachi Nishiazabu, where a night out should cost around ¥3,000 to 4,500.

Okonomiyaki Restaurants

standard – ¥¥¥

Japan’s savory pancakes aren’t one of the most famous foods from the country, but you shouldn’t leave without trying one. They’ll usually cost somewhere around ¥1200 yen per piece, which fits comfortably into the average traveler’s budget. If you want to skim a few yen off the price and have decent grill skills, then go to a place where you cook it yourself at the table. That way you’ll only pay around ¥800. 

Yakiniku Restaurants

standard, luxury – ¥¥¥¥

Korean BBQ is one of the most popular cuisines in Japan, and it’s taken very seriously by the carnivores of the country. You’ll usually be cooking thin cuts of meat on a grill right at your table, with some beers and chitchat on the side. At a casual place, you can expect to spend around ¥2,000 to 4,000 while high-end places that use premium meat will cost around ¥7,000 to 10,000. Keep an eye out for all-you-can-eat deals at both so you can try the whole variety and save a few bucks.

Hotpot Restaurants

standard, luxury – ¥¥¥¥

Shabu shabu and sukiyaki are two celebration meals loved by locals in Japan, and there are plenty of places to try them. If you go to a chain all-you-can-eat place like Nabezo, then you’ll only spend around ¥2,100 per person for unlimited fillings, with an extra ¥1,300 required for all-you-can-drink. Alternatively, why not try an upmarket, exclusive place where a private chef will cook premium ingredients for you at the table (for around ¥10,000 to 20,000)

Steakhouses

standard, luxury – ¥¥¥¥

Steak is a big deal in Japan, where some of the world’s top cattle brands and breeds are raised. If you want to try some of the very best A5 wagyu beef from Kobe, then upmarket steakhouses around Tokyo’s Ginza are perhaps the best places to go. All in for dinner and wine you can expect to pay around ¥15,000 to 30,000, although at Michelin-starred Arigawa that can climb as high as ¥80,000! Happily, you’ll also find some more budget-friendly places where you can try lower grades of premium meat for around ¥4,000 to 7,000 per meal.

Kaiseki Restaurants

luxury – ¥¥¥¥¥

A dining style that evolved from the traditional tea ceremonies of Kyoto, kaiseki has maintained its polished and posh reputation throughout the years. Food is typically very traditional and seasonal, with around a dozen or more set-menu dishes served over the course of several hours. There’s quite some variation within the category, bottoming out at around ¥10,000 for dinner. And drinks, and averaging around ¥20,000. These restaurants are second only to sushi when measured by their Michelin star count, so expect to see prices hike up considerably at anywhere featured in the guide. 

Ryōtei

luxury – ¥¥¥¥¥

These are the absolute gold standard of tradition in Japanese dining, usually housed inside centuries-old buildings where you’ll have a private tatami tea room all to yourself. They also often pride themselves on their beautiful gardens, which dining rooms open out onto. Getting a spot at one is difficult enough, often requiring a referral from an existing customer or an expensive booking at an attached hotel. If you manage to get through the door, expect to spend upwards of ¥20,000 (maybe even as high as ¥50,000, depending on the place).

Final Tips and Tricks

So now you know how much you should plan to spend each day in Japan, and where you should go to make sure you stay within budget. Here are a few last words before we send you off to fend for yourself on the streets of Tokyo.

Our final tip for budget travelers is, if you’re really strapped for cash (after drunkenly blowing all your yen reserves on a sick katana set, perhaps), then try going to the supermarkets towards the end of the day to snag discount bento boxes. These are still very fresh and delicious, but stamped with price reductions of up to 50%. 

For those with a mid-range budget, be careful to keep it that way! If you’re tempted go for big treat dinners on the upper end of the price range, that’s great, but why not consider going for lunch instead? Most of the high-end kaiseki, sushi, and tempura restaurants in Japan will offer lunch service for a far lower price than their dinners. The best part is that the chef, ingredients, and often the dishes are much the same as served in the evening, just with fewer overall plates on the course menu.

For those on the upper end of the spending scale, the problem becomes not budgeting for restaurants, but getting through the doors! Many of the premium Japanese restaurants have exclusive entry policies, zero English phone support, and long waiting lists. If you want to land a spot at a Michelin-starred counter in Japan, take a look at the reservation services offered by GoVoyagin. You’ll pay a fee to secure the booking, but trust me, it’s worth every penny to leapfrog both the language barrier and strict door policies.

Itadakimasu!

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