Taiken Japan

Autumn Leaves 2016

Is Eating in Tokyo Expensive?

Photo: Cecil Lee on Flickr

Is Eating in Tokyo Expensive?

Jia Hui

The myth that Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities still exists. So does it imply that this myth is actually true? If you ask around, people would probably lament that the cost of living in Tokyo is high. This boils down to the question - with a limited budget, is enjoying Tokyo ever possible?

One of my greatest joys when travelling is to indulge in good food - be it any Michelin star restaurant or a street food. While what defines a good food is definitely subjective, but to me, it comprises of the following factors:

  1. Tastes good
  2. Reasonably priced

Japan is home to many Michelin starred restaurants. On hindsight (if you do not know), Tokyo is the record holder for the most Michelin starred restaurants within a city. Think of the mouth-watering and salivating movie – “Jiro Dreams of Sushi” and you might recall Japan’s outrageous dedication towards food.

However, if your budget is not catered towards the high-end restaurants, is it still possible to enjoy a good meal in Tokyo? For now, let us forget about convenience stores and discounted supermarket bentos.


Photo: maridari on Flickr

To maximize your wallet while travelling in Tokyo, lunch is the best meal to splurge as most restaurants give good discounts. Especially on a weekday, “lunch specials” are offered at nearly half the price of its dinner menu and they do not cut down on their portion size too. It is a great steal and the restaurant owners themselves know that this marketing strategy works so they would not be cutting off the deal so soon.

These discounts are usually offered in most restaurants located at both metropolitan and non-metropolitan districts and it only takes a little skill and effort to find them.

I normally use Tabelog, a Japanese website that allows users to rate a particular restaurant’s food. The good thing about Tabelog is that there is a price control function. Simply set the price to your budget, and off you see the rankings of the best restaurants that fit your criteria.


After setting your desired budget, you will see that a dinner that usually cost more than 2,000 yen in a particular restaurant will only cost you less than 1,000 when you enter during lunch.

Not forgetting that we are currently in the land of Michelin stars, these starred restaurants do have good lunch specials too.


An example is Nakajima, a one star Michelin restaurant. The lunch menu will only set you back at one-tenth the price of the dinner menu.

Another great bet is the Kaiten sushi, or the conveyor belt sushi. There are many of such sushi chains in Japan and all of them offer decent sushi at decent prices. It is even cheaper if you go on a weekday lunch.

Lastly, Ramen fits the bill of a cheap yet good meal (usually under 800 yen). Ramen is so ubiquitous that you can find it anywhere in Japan, but a good ramen certainly takes more effort. Rankings can be found on tabelog or GuruNavi, but as ramen in itself is very broad, the rankings are subjected to the different kinds of ramen the users like.

Rankings are good, but ultimately follow your gut or the queue (if there is one)!