What is the Cost of Food in Japan for a Traveler
It is common knowledge that Japan is expensive. It is an expensive place to live, and an expensive place to travel to. Many people are concerned about food prices in Japan when they are planning their trip. When we first visited Japan in 2009, we were on a tight budget and stressed about every Yen spent. But, we did some research on the cost of food in Japan so that we were prepared for our next trip. We did not worry as much about the cost of each meal, but at one point I wondered how much it costs to eat in Japan?
How Much It Costs to Eat in Japan
During this trip, we only visited Osaka, but we spent ten days in Japan’s second city. We were inspired by several articles saying that Osaka was a foodie destination for 2015. We enjoyed our brief time there in 2009, and wanted to explore more. Well, eat more.
I felt like we were spending a lot, but that was mostly because we were eating, on average 5-6 times a day. We were successful in eating a ton of food in ten days. As much as the food prices in Japan are not as high as many travelers might think, our food budget was spent more on the volume of Japanese food we ate!
Although food is not as expensive in Japan as other things, like housing, Osaka offers a good example of the cost to travel to Japan if travel is in larger cities.
My analysis of the cost of food in Japan (well, Osaka):
Snacks and Lunch
Lunch is the time to save a few yen, or to find really good value lunches. Our first meal in Osaka was a bowl of fresh Udon noodles, for Y300. It’s possible to add on one or two pieces of tempura for Y160, making an amazing lunch for less than $5 USD. The ramen price in Japan is insane, and great ramen can offer such a good value. It might even offset the high hotel cost in Japan.
One of the specialities in Osaka is Kushiage or Kushikatsu, which is essentially fried stuff on a stick. A good snack might include 4-5 sticks of food, perhaps while standing at a counter in a train station, where we found some amazing fried stuff on a stick. Generally, a stick of Kushiage can cost between Y100-300 depending on what is included on the stick, i.e. seafood is more expensive.
Want a unique Japan food experience? How about challenging a Sumo Wrestler & Then Enjoy Lunch!
Edamame seems to always be Y380, at least that was the going price at every place we ordered it! A full plate of Japanese curry, which is generally a huge portion, runs about Y800, and makes a quick snack or lunch. At most bars, it is almost expected that you would order a little bar snack, which often runs around Y300 for a small plate.
Japanese Restaurant Meals
We ate several lunches or dinners at nicer establishments, where it is more common to sit down and take your time eating. This is in direct opposite to the speedy lunches that occur at many ramen shops, where Japanese workers come in, slurp down some soup quietly, and then return to the office.
At nicer restaurants, like a higher end soba noodle shop, a complete meal will run about Y1200-1500 per set. We found the average for a mid-priced restaurant to be around $15USD for two people for lunch, and increasing to about $35 USD for dinner. But, this is still a great option to eat when even when focusing on Japan budget travel. This is particularly true considering how well prepared the food is.
Eating Sushi in Japan
Sushi is the lifeblood of Japan. It can be very cheap, or very pricey. At many of the conveyor belt sushi restaurants near Dotonburi and Namba, the main touristy area of Osaka, prices range from Y129-300 per plate. A plate generally includes 2 pieces of decent sushi. It’s possible to end up with a stack of empty sushi plates, and walk away full, for less than Y1,300, or about $10USD.
At better quality, but not top notch sushi restaurants, it’s possible to have a full sushi dinner for 2, including 4 drinks for about Y7,000, or less than $60. For the quality of the sushi, that is an amazing price.
Learn how to make Sushi at home!
Many of the higher end sushi restaurants will also offer lunch specials, where an assortment of 8 or 10 pieces of sushi, along with a miso soup, can be found for about Y1,200, which is $10 for a lunch of amazingly fresh sushi!
What is the Cost of Food in Japan – Drinks
The cost of drinks can vary depending on the type of establishment. Some bars will offer sake, the Japanese rice wine, for less than Y300. On average, 180ml in a carafe would cost about Y400, and a 360ml carafe would cost about Y700. Of course, the skies the limit on the price of sake and large bottles can get expensive, but if you don’t know much about sake in the first place, the only choice you need to make is hot or cold.
Sochu, which is a Korean version of sake, and can be made with yam, wheat, or barely, is generally served over ice, and is often cheaper than sake. A glass of sochu can cost between Y300-400.
Other drink prices in Japan:
Draft beer – Y450-700 depending on size (the price of beer in Japan is not as high as other countries in Asia)
Glass of Japanese whisky – Y600-700
Hot coffee or latte – Y400-500
2L bottle of water at convenience store – Y100
Learn more about the art of sake!
How Much Does Food Cost in Japan
So, there you have it. Yes, it is possible to break the bank on a meal in Japan, but it is not necessary by any stretch. Once you understand how much it costs to eat in Japan, it is possible to stay on a budget. Plus, most restaurants offer picture menus with prices to help in ordering, even when there is not an English language menu. More important, all of the staff we met in Osaka were pleasant, friendly, and super patient as we tried to figure out what to order.
Learn how to cook Japanese food at home!
Looking to Learn More About Japanese Food?
The food prices in Japan for individual meals are a lot more reasonable than many might think. And, even if you are traveling to Japan on a budget, there are great opportunities to learn more about Japanese food. Particularly if you can scrap together some yen for a Japanese food or cooking tour. Here are our recommendations for some of the best tours that involve traditional Japanese meals, cooking classes, and Japanese market tours.
|Tour||City||Duration||Price From||Book It|
|Tokyo by Night - Japanese Food Tour||Tokyo||3 Hours||$114|
|Challenge a Sumo Wrestler Over Lunch||Tokyo||2 Hours||$114|
|Combo: Sushi Making, Tsujiki Market & Sake Tasting||Tokyo||4 Hours||$207|
|Tsujiji Fish Marketing & Sushi Making||Tokyo||4 Hours||$130||
|Evening Food & Drink Tour in Osaka||Osaka||3 Hours||$100|
|Osaka Cooking Class||Osaka||2.5 Hours||$86|
|Nishiki Market Tour & 7 Course Lunch||Kyoto||3 Hours||$129||
|Japanese Tea Ceremony With Tea Master||Kyoto||Varies||$40|
Traveling to Osaka?
It’s possible to fly directly to Osaka from many Asian hubs. But, if you are in Tokyo, or are flying into Narita, you can also train from Tokyo to Osaka in no time.
Where to Stay in Osaka:
Find more of our Japan posts here.
When this post was written Y100 = $.80 USD.
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