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?
What is the Cost of Food in Japan for a Traveler
In this post we share advice for food travelers to help them understand what to expect when traveling in Japan. The advice is based on our research and our first-hand experience during our trips to Japan.
If you have a specific question, feel free to use the table of contents above to find the answer. If I don’t answer your question, ask it in the comment section at the bottom of the post and I will try to get back to you shortly with an answer. For more tips, check out this post on tips for a first-time visit to Tokyo. Or, traveling on your own, check out this post on how to travel solo in Osaka.
*This post contains compensated links. Find more info in my DISCLAIMER.
What are the Food Prices in Japan?
For our first trip to Japan, we traveled a lot more than we did on our second trip, where we just traveled to eat Japanese food. On our first trip, we traveled to Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. During our second trip, we only visited Osaka, but we spent ten days in Japan’s third-largest city. We enjoyed our brief time there in 2009 and wanted to explore more. Well, eat more. But, on top of my mind was always one question, how much is food in Japan? How much was our trip to Japan going to cost if we were staying in a big city for 10 days?
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 Japan food price, in general, is not as high as many travelers might think, our food budget was spent more on the volume of Japanese food we ate! As a result, as much as the average meal cost in Japan was not super expensive, we spent our money on volume.
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):
How Much is a Meal in Japan?
In this post, we will walk through the average food cost in Japan for particular dishes and drinks. These are the items most travelers will have during a trip to Japan. And we ate at some of the most typical places travelers will find themselves. No Michelin Star Restaurants, just good and simple Japanese restaurants with the most typical price of food in Japan.
Japan Travel Pro Tip: One thing to note, Japanese food prices are often higher outside of Japan than they are within Japan, at least in my experience. For example, a typical sushi meal in New York City will probably be a lot more expensive than a typical sushi dinner in Japan. Part of this is due to the cost of making authentic Japanese food in another country.
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 good value. It might even offset the high hotel costs in Japan.
One of the specialties 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.
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 opposition 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. This is still a good value even when focusing on Japan budget travel. This is particularly true considering how well prepared the food is.
Eating Sushi in Japan – How Much is Sushi in Japan
The sushi price in Japan is not as high as you might think. There are some great deals on fabulously fresh sushi. 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. That alone just proves that Japan food prices are not all that high.
How much does sushi cost in Japan at higher-end restaurants? 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! If you are trying to keep your average meal price in Japan under control, this is certainly one way to do it.
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)
A glass of Japanese whiskey – Y600-700
Hot coffee or latte – Y400-500
2L bottle of water at a convenience store – Y100
Learn more about the art of sake!
How to Learn More About Japanese Cooking
One of the best ways to learn about Japanese food when traveling in the country is to take a cooking class. We took an amazing cooking class in Osaka, where we learned all about local Osaka specialties. We also tasted sake and participated in a Japanese tea ceremony. I would highly recommend booking a cooking class in Japan. Read our review of our Osaka cooking class here.
Even if your Japanese travels don’t take you to Osaka, there are cooking classes and food tours available around the country. We recommend booking through a company like Viator. You can plan your experience before leaving home and confirm immediately.
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 food, even when there is not an English language menu. More importantly, 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!
When this post was written Y100 = $.90 USD.
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Amber Hoffman, food and travel writer behind With Husband In Tow, is a recovering attorney and professional eater, with a passion for finding new Food and Drink Destinations. She lives with her husband, Eric, in Girona, Catalonia, Spain. Together over the last 20 years, they have traveled to over 70 countries. Amber is the author of the Food Traveler’s Guide to Emilia Romagna.