Here are some of the best places to eat in Tokyo and Kyoto on a budget. When you travel to Japan you must try the amazing food. We set out to explore the high-energy city of Tokyo and the peaceful city of Kyoto and find the best budget-friendly places to enjoy all the deliciousness that Japanese cuisine has to offer.
Below are our top foodie finds that offer exceptional value for the dollar—this is the best travel guide for budget eating in Japan.
Two pancakes are better than one. Especially, when you order them together and save money! Sunday mornings at our condo consisted of a coffee clutch and Harry making his famous pancakes, so it’s no wonder that Hoshino Coffee caught our eyes!
On our first night in Tokyo, we saw an advertisement in a local magazine and exclaimed, “We must find these pancakes!”
Situated directly above Shibuya Crossing, it was a great place to enjoy these thick, soufflé style pancakes. It was so good, we went twice!
Price for 1 pancake: USD 4. Price for 2 pancakes: USD 6.
Green Tea Ice Cream Vendor
Very much a Japanese summer treat, there seems to be a stand selling it everywhere, especially in Kyoto. Our curiosity finally got the best of us and we purchased two cones. Very light in flavor, and we were glad we tried it but we’d opt for the sweetness of chocolate or the creaminess of vanilla instead.
Price: USD 2-3 per cone.
These cabbage pancakes are a must-try for a filling and cheap meal while in Japan. Prepared with, oh who cares, it’s fried! They’re cooked in a pancake-type shape and then placed on a large, hot skillet before you with two chopsticks.
It’s similar to the Chinese Egg Foo Young. We enjoyed it on a few occasions throughout Japan, but only Sometaro Okonomiyaki in Asakusa stood out to us for its quality.
Price: USD 7-8 per “pancake.”
Harry and I were kinda late to the sushi craze. As Chicago natives, we always felt like we weren’t getting the freshest fish at our local sushi restaurants. However, knowing the Japanese take such pride in their freshly prepared fish, we had to try it! We tried three different sushi restaurants and this one was our favorite.
Sushi Genki in Tokyo was one of our most memorable dining experiences while in Japan. Fast, fresh, and technology-based, you order your dishes by touch screen and it is brought within minutes by conveyor belt.
We took our time here, trying numerous plates of deliciousness. Audrey’s favorite was the tuna with basil and mayonnaise topping.
Price: USD 1-2 per plate.
Gindaco Takoyaki Vendor
As a Japanese version of street food, these balls of dough are a great, cheap snack to enjoy while walking around the city. We enjoyed ours in Akihabara while watching the Japanese maid girls try to lure Harry into their nonsexual world of pleasure. However, feel free to visit a sit-down restaurant too.
Hot and filling, they cost about USD 3-4 for a tray of 6-7.
Hidakaya was our favorite because it was full of locals, especially during the lunchtime rush. With a Denny’s-style restaurant vibe, we enjoyed a huge plate of eight dumplings for only a few dollars.
Also, the staff did not speak English, so we knew we were getting off the beaten path. And of course, we always accompanied our dumplings with a nice hot bowl of Ramen noodles.
Being soup lovers, Japan was our happy place. We had Ramen in various forms all over the country – from local dives, and nicer sit-down restaurants, to fast food chains.
It’s the go-to meal for locals and everyone will vouch for their favorite. For us, there’s only one restaurant that stood out as going WAY above the average bowl of noodles—this was Musoshin Gion in Kyoto.
They prepare their broth and noodles the night before. This gives their Ramen a heartier, tastier broth with a slightly spicier finish. We went twice, each time the young chefs had Showtek playing as they cooked and their customers ate.
Funny to see the older Japanese diners, listening to high-energy, Euro-dance music as they slurped their noodles. You know it must be good if they’re willing to put up with the music! If in the area, it was our favorite and a great stop for the sake and a big bowl of Ramen!
We recommend ordering the Ramen with fried chicken as pictured above.
Menbakaichidai > Fire Ramen
While researching cheap eats on Trip Advisor, we came across Menbakaichidai > Fire Ramen. It was ranked extremely high and we wanted to see what all the fuss was about. It’s not often that a cheap eat ranks so high! Travelers were raving about the experience calling it, “Hilarious!” and “Simply Brilliant!”
The price is about USD 10 per bowl.
Watch the video below to catch a glimpse!
We quickly decided it was worth the subway trip. (Also, alcohol is allowed on the subway so we bought two sakes to make the trip a little more enjoyable!) The owner appears stern and barks out orders at guests, but it’s all part of the act!
We had a great quick meal here. If in the area, bring your camera and your appetite. It’s a unique opportunity to enjoy a piping-hot bowl of soup that was literally on fire!
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