Since Tokyo has a vast culinary scene, the possibilities are really endless when it comes to Japanese food. But for those who are on a shoestring budget, here are some of the best cheap eats in Tokyo, places where you can still enjoy Tokyo’s food delights without breaking the bank.
Here are some recommended spots for budget bites in Tokyo!
If you’re looking for Michelin restaurants that won’t totally destroy your travel budget, read out our overview of the Most Affordable Michelin-Starred Restaurants in Tokyo. Starting around ¥800, you can have a Michelin-starred meal that is both satisfying and cheap. The ranks of affordable Michelin-starred restaurants include a Michelin-starred ramen restaurant, a tasty and classically Japanese teishoku (set meal), and an upscale soba restaurant. Note that there might be a bit of a wait at these restaurants, and you may have to make a reservation.
Don’t mind a bit of a line? Check out the Michelin-starred ramen restaurants in Tokyo.
There are many Michelin-rated Bib Gourmand restaurants where you can find cheap eats in Tokyo that are also top-quality for their price. For the title of “Bib Gourmand.” The Michelin Guide choses restaurants with “carefully made meals at modest prices.” Among the Bib Gourmand restaurants in Tokyo are places offering ramen, tempura, yakitori, okonomiyaki, and even onigiri. Read Bib Gourmand Restaurants in Tokyo for the lowdown on these tasty and cheap eats.
Line up, grab your ticket at a vending machine, and slurp down some ramen for between ¥600-1000. Ramen shops have some of the best cheap eats in Tokyo, with tonkotsu ramen chain, Ichiran, leading the pack. For the king of junk food ramen, go to Ramen Jiro, a ramen chain with its own category of ramen and a dedicated following, which has inspired copycats in the Tokyo ramen scene. Read about the only ramen restaurant with a secret language and culture in The Cult of Ramen Jiro.
Gyudon, the beef bowl made with a layer of fluffy rice, seasoned beef, and sweet fried onions, is the classic Japanese fast food. Famous gyudon chains, which are found all over Japan, include Yoshinoya, Matsuya, and Sukiya. The bowls come in different sizes, with the regular coming in at around ¥400-500. With a vibrant orange sign, Yoshinoya glows in the evening. They even offer a vegetable donburi, which is suitable for vegetarians. Sukiya is the Yokohama-born gyudon restaurant that offers a huge variety of toppings, while Matsuya is notable as they do not use preservatives in their dishes, and ordering is done by vending machine.
To get more from your money, instead of ordering a la carte dishes in Tokyo restaurants, opt for bento and set meals since these options provide a variety of meat or seafood paired with a vegetable dish, and often served with rice and soup. Convenience stores or konbini in Tokyo like Family Mart, 7-Eleven, or Lawson showcases an assortment of quick-serve Japanese food treats at a comparatively lower price such as bento boxes or lunch boxes with varied food treats in one box and onigiri or rice balls. Konbinis also offer salads, sushi, and other seasonal items such as snacks and drinks at a reasonable price.
See our Guide to Konbini to learn about the must-try konbini foods.
Sizzling sounds, smoky aromas, foamy pints of beer… Izakaya, or traditional Japanese gastropubs, are the perfect place for cheap eats in Tokyo, like grilled skewers of meat, fluffy rolled omelettes, and pan-fried gyoza dumplings. For tasty treats at an affordable price, head on over to famous izakaya areas like Shinbashi (the boisterous salaryman district of Tokyo), Shinjuku, Ueno, Asakusa, and Shibuya. Also, izakaya alleys (known as yokocho) like Harmonica Yokocho, Golden Gai, and Omoide Yokocho are well-known watering holes, hence these areas are commonly frequented by Japanese salarymen, but beware of otoshi, the seating charge!
For a guided tour, check out izakaya food experiences in Japan. Clink glasses with locals and discover Japanese izakaya culture!
Train stations around Tokyo are also hubs for cheap eats in Tokyo, offering a variety of cozy food joints for bento, ramen, curry, and more. Just be mindful that in these places, the common practice is to eat, pay, and go. If you wish to enjoy a more leisurely dining experience without hurting your budget, Tokyo’s department store basements are the answer to your sudden craving. Here, you can find varied choices to fit your budget and appetite.
Tokyo Station is a great example of a train station where you can enjoy fast and cheap food, though the station can be a bit of a labyrinth. See What to Eat in Tokyo Station for suggestions including Japan Gourmet Street and Tokyo Ramen Street.
Meanwhile, eat your heart out at sushi conveyor belt restaurants. Genki Sushi, with locations in Shibuya and Oyama, is a restaurant where you can indulge in the freshest sushi starting at ¥120. Your bill depends on the number and price of the sushi you select. Sushiro is one of the biggest conveyor belt sushi chains in Japan, with 36 stores in Tokyo alone. Plates there start at ¥100 (plus tax), so it’s a good place to fill up. They even have udon, ramen, fries, and a selection of desserts like parfait, ice cream, and cake.
Aside from Ichiran, you can also enjoy piping hot ramen for less than ¥500 at Hanamaru Udon, a chain with over 78 stores in Tokyo. They have a commitment to making a healthier style of udon, inspired by Sanuki udon, made with a broth of dried sardines. Their noodles (made with more fiber) and tempura (with ⅓ the calories of the average tempura) are specially formulated to be nutritious as well as tasty. With 75 locations in Tokyo, Margame Soba is a great option for affordable self-serve. The noodles are made fresh in-house. All you need to do is place your order, pick your own tempura, and check out. Udon restaurants are reliable places for cheap eats in Tokyo that won’t leave you feeling heavy afterwards.
Learn to make your own homemade udon from scratch during the Udon Making Class with Tempura!
Another best cheap eats in Tokyo for affordable yet filling snacks are bakeries. You don’t necessarily need to learn the language to understand the names or buy bread because you only need to grab yourself some tongs and a tray, scout the displays, and personally pick your favorites. The classic Japanese breads are melonpan and anpan, which are available at bakeries countrywide. Pompadour is one of the tastiest bakery chains in Japan, with 17 locations in Tokyo including Shinjuku, Ginza, Ikebukuro, Roppongi, and Tokyo Skytree. They offer a wide variety such as baguettes, sweet buns, deli sandwiches, seasonal breads, and even a vegan curry bread!
Gyoza lovers will find a haven at Harajuku Gyozarou is considered the best gyoza shop in Harajuku, and it also happens to be one of the cheapest! Grab yourself 6 pieces of fried or steamed gyoza for just ¥260. Gyoza no Fukuho is also a fantastic option. It’s a gyoza chain restaurant that serves consistently delicious pan-fried or boiled dumplings with tender filling, silky gyoza wrappers, and a perfectly crunchy exterior (if you go the pan-fried route). Like Harajuku Gyozarou, 6 pieces go for just ¥260. They have locations in Komazawa, Nakameguro, Shinjuku, Toyosu, and Hachiman.
Depending on your appetite and the strength of your alcohol tolerance, tabehoudai (all-you-can-eat) and nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) courses may be a good option for those on a budget. Torikizoku is one of the most well-known cheap izakaya chains, and offers a decent all-you-can-drink plan for under ¥1500 and a combined nomihoudai and tabehoudai course for around ¥3000. Looking for places for a rowdy night out? We’ve already covered several more izakayas (traditional Japanese gastropubs) and bars in our post about nomihoudai in Tokyo. Or if you’re feeling peckish and are ready to get your money’s worth, our post on tabehoudai has you covered with all-you-can eat yakiniku, hot pot, seafood, curry, dessert, and more!