Make The Most Of The Weak Yen: 5 Luxurious Restaurants & 5 Deluxe Food Tours in Japan

By Ryan Noble
Updated: April 26, 2024

Did you know that compared to the US dollar, the Japanese yen is at its weakest exchange rate since the 1990s? While this isn’t great news for Japan, it is great news for international tourists looking to make the most of their money on their next trip to Japan. 

So, we’ll give you some background into why the Japanese yen is so weak right now, and then we’ll give you a few luxurious recommendations for where to spend your money.

Why is the yen so weak right now?

A collection of 1 and 5 yen coins in someone's hand.

According to Reuters, there are a number of reasons that the Japanese yen is at a 34-year low:

1. Interest rates and stock trade momentum — measuring the velocity of price changes — are both said to be against the yen right now, with low interest rates being unattractive for foreign investment and a negative currency velocity signifying a shrinking economy.

2. Investors are borrowing yen while it is so cheap and selling it in other, stronger currencies, which continues to drive the value of yen down further.

If you can’t indulge without knowing exactly why the yen is so weak right now, find out more.

What is the Japanese yen to US dollar exchange rate?

A single US Dollar note on a white background.

Let’s crunch the numbers before we get to the fun part: treating yourself.

Firstly, comparing the value of the Japanese yen versus the US dollar between its strongest exchange rate and its current weak position:

1971: ¥358 = $1

2024: ¥155 = $1

It’s easiest to see how weak the yen is in larger sums compared with a period when the yen was at its strongest:

1971: ¥35,782 = $100

2024: ¥15,483 = $100

1971: ¥357,822 = $1,000

2024: ¥154,836 = $1,000

1971: ¥3,578,225 = $10,000

2024: ¥1,548,364 = $10,000

Source: Historical Currency Converter.

Got it? And that is why you now get to exchange your currency for so much more yen than you used to be able to, opening the door to the most luxurious experiences in Japan for a fraction of the cost.

5 luxurious Japanese restaurants

1. Udatsu Sushi (Nakameguro, Tokyo)

From the striking entrance to the art-adorned walls and innovative sushi served at Udatsu Sushi, there isn’t a single element of this luxury sushi restaurant that isn’t Michelin-worthy. 

While you’re getting more bang for your buck, make sure you indulge in owner-chef Udatsu Hisashi’s signature dish: the “herb maki.” “Sushi is a work of art created by the chef,” says Chef Udatsu, and this is proven by this very dish.

Varying with every season’s ingredients, you’ll never know what combination of flavors will be revealed before you, but you can expect a beautifully crafted sushi roll of seaweed, fish, and herbs, occasionally decorated with a single sprig of flowers.

Book your seat at Udatsu Sushi >

2. XEX ATAGO GREEN HILLS / tempura & sushi An (Minato, Tokyo)

The exterior of XEX ATAGO GREEN HILLS with Tokyo Tower lit up in the background.

With views like that, is it any wonder that dinner at XEX ATAGO GREEN HILLS will range from about ¥18,000 to ¥40,000? Well, take your eyes off the Tokyo Tower long enough, and you’ll realize you’re being served by Iron Chef and acclaimed restaurateur Masaharu Morimoto himself.

Whether you’re sitting at the tempura counter for a front-row seat of your dishes coming together or enjoying an intimate dining experience in one of the restaurant’s private rooms with a view, you’ll soon discover high-end sushi, tempura, sukiyaki, shabu shabu and seasonal nabe (hot pot).

Reserve your table at XEX ATAGO GREEN HILLS >

3. Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen (Nakagyo, Kyoto)

A premium kaiseki course at Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen, featuring meats, sushi, tempura, and many side dishes.

Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen is set in the former residence of famed merchant Suminokura Ryoi, named after the Takase River that runs through its grounds. With Kyoto scenery that’s beautiful in every season, your eyes will feast as well as you.

Although there are affordable course menus for all budgets, we’ve got money to burn, remember? Indulge in the premium kaiseki course of suiren, meaning “water lily,” which combines the most exquisite Japanese ingredients in an 11-course menu of luxury seasonal dishes, costing ¥54,150. Worth every yenny.

Enjoy the wonder of wagyu and kaiseki at Ganko Takasegawa Nijoen >

4. Yakiniku GyuuGyuu Shinsaibashi (Osaka)

A luxurious A5-grade wagyu beef kaiseki course at Yakiniku GyuuGyuu Shinsaibashi.

Nothing says luxury quite like the A5-grade Kuroge wagyu beef reveal at Yakiniku GyuuGyuu Shinsaibashi, appearing from a Louis Vuitton attaché case in a cloud of smoke. 

With cuts of premium marbled beef that’s thick enough to play meat Jenga and all-you-can-drink alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, you’ll soon be at the center of a Japanese feast that will make you feel like an emperor of the past.

Lean into the luxury of Japanese wagyu beef at Yakiniku GyuuGyuu Shinsaibashi >

5. The Japanese Restaurant at the Ritz-Carlton (Nikko, Tochigi)

Located in the sophisticated setting of the Ritz-Carlton in Nikko, The Japanese Restaurant is all about luxury, fine dining, and elevated traditional Japanese cuisines of sushi, teppanyaki, and kaiseki.

Using only the freshest local ingredients, the expert chefs create contemporary twists on classic dishes, competing with the stylish decor of the restaurant itself for the most beautiful presentation.

Relish Japanese food at its finest at the Ritz-Carlton in Nikko >

5 luxury Japan food tours and experiences

1. Make tempura with a world-famous chef (Tokyo)

Chef Shimura Koichiro sprinkling salt onto a crispy ebi tempura.

There’s nothing more premium than our byFood exclusive omakase tempura experience with Chef Shimura Koichiro, a world-famous chef known for his mastery of mouth-watering tempura dishes. 

Learn the secrets of light, crispy tempura directly from Shimura, who will share the traditional techniques and precise cuts of perfect tempura while also giving you a view into the unique career of a Michelin star chef in Japan. 

Then, once you know how it all works, sit back and let the expert do what he does best, crafting an omakase tempura lunch you’ll never forget.

Make tempura with a world-famous chef in Tokyo >

Enjoy high-end omakase tempura at Tempura Ono: Prefer to sit back and let the tantalizing flavors of world-class tempura come to you? Book our tempura course menu at Tempura Ono instead.

2. Tea ceremony in a Japanese painter's garden (Kyoto)

The host of a Japanese tea ceremony experience, looking out over the Japanese garden in their kimono.

In this relaxing Japanese tea ceremony experience in Kyoto, embrace Japanese culture at its most traditional. Sit down with respected tea ceremony master, Junko Sophie Kakizaki, and the descendent of a samurai family with nearly 900 years of history behind her and her studies.

Set in the scenic residence of Hashimoto Kansetsu, a revered Japanese painter from the 20th century, you’ll learn about the gentle beauty and considered rituals of Japanese tea ceremony while looking out over the lush Japanese garden. 

Bring a friend: This experience requires at least two guests to be booked.

Learn the craft of Japanese tea ceremony in Kyoto >

3. Glamping Eco Tour with Mount Fuji Views (Fujinomiya, Shizuoka)

Get into the glamorous vibes of eco-friendly glamping with Mt. Fuji views, spending two days relaxing and sightseeing in the Japanese countryside. 

You’ll be picked up from Shin-fuji Station at 1:10pm on the first day and dropped off at noon the next day, but everything between those two points will be something you remember forever — from meeting the locals and harvesting vegetables to touring a sake brewery, enjoying a yakiniku BBQ and breakfast, and soaking up the stunning scenes of Shiraito Waterfalls, a nearby World Heritage Site.

With plenty of opportunities for relaxation and making memories, this is one experience you’ll be glad you splurged on while the yen is weak.

Requires at least two people: To book this experience, you must have at least two people present. Even if you are traveling as one adult and one child, you must book two adults.

Go glamping near Mt. Fuji for an experience you’ll never forget >

4. Mt. Fuji food tour with shinkansen bullet train trip (Fujinomiya, Shizuoka)

Looking at Mt. Fuji from the Mt. Fuji Cultural Center, reflected against the water.

Ever wanted to drink Japanese tea in the presence of Mt. Fuji? Join our 6- to 7-hour Fujinomiya tour and your dream will come true. 

Including the cost of your bullet train ticket from Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, you’ll be guided from start to finish, including the classic ekiben (train bento) and a 3-hour tour of Fujinomiya, Shizuoka — an area of natural beauty famous for its Japanese tea farms.

You’ll also enjoy the delicacies of 6 local shops and restaurants, visit Fujisan Sengen Shrine, and take in the chic architecture of the Mt. Fuji Cultural Center, all before being taken back to the station to catch the bullet train, reflecting on a perfect day spent in Shizuoka.

Book a tea tasting experience near Mt. Fuji >

5. Traditional ryokan, kaiseki, & Japanese tea ceremony (Ishikawa)

The private Hinoki cypress bathtub at Matsusaki Ryokan, filled with steaming hot spring water.

Sinking into a private hinoki cypress bathtub as local hot spring water eases all the aches and pains of your travel is a luxurious experience like no other, and that’s exactly what you’ll get if you join our luxury Japanese ryokan experience at Matsusaki Ryokan.

This is all of the beauty and culture of traditional Japan wrapped up in one premium experience, allowing you to soak up the beauty of a Japanese garden, enjoy a seasonal kaiseki dinner and breakfast served in your room, witness a Japanese tea ceremony, and access the Tatsunokuchi Onsen (free of charge). 

Welcome to regal R & R without the price tag.

Spend the night at a luxury Japanese ryokan >

While exchanging your currency into yen is working in your favor, these are just a few ways to make it rain in Japan without even feeling like you’re breaking the bank.

Not quite finished flashing the cash? Explore our recommendations for the best Michelin star restaurants in Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto.

Or learn why omakase is so expensive and where to eat Japan’s most expensive wagyu beef!

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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Ryan Noble
Ryan’s love for Japan may have begun with Naruto — something he refuses to hide — but it only grew once he truly understood the beauty of this country’s language, culture, and people. He hopes to use that passion to bridge the gap between Japan and the rest of the world, shining the spotlight on its hidden gems and supporting the revitalization of rural regions.
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