Eating in Japan
Eating in Japan is a treat and an experience on its own. From the quality of the products to the love and work put into the preparation and presentation, it’s hard to have a bad meal. Furthermore, eating out is relatively inexpensive, even more so when you skip the alcoholic drinks. Japanese food is a major attraction when going to Japan. It is the one thing we miss the most and just thinking about all the meals we had, waters my mouth. Here is an overview of the eating options, from breakfast to dinner, you can find in Japan.
Breakfast is the staple meal of the day, certainly for travellers going places and walking around all day. It will give you the energy to do all that or provide you with a moment of Zen before rushing from A to B to C.
One of the best things to have for breakfast, is fresh fish from the market. It may sound a bit heavy on the stomach early in the morning, but once you have tried it, it will be hard to resist. So, take a walk to the nearest fish market (that can be found in almost every town close to the sea, which is luckily quite usual in Japan!), and taste the quality and freshness of the products.
The obvious place to go to is Tsukiji fish market. Here, you can sit down at one of the many bars for a quick and great meal. Tuna is great, but keep overfishing in mind. If you want to try something else in Tokyo, try and go to Adachi fish market. Fish markets in other Japanese towns that stand out are the Kanazawa fish market and the Osaka Central fish market.
What to try? Go for the Kaisen (mixed sea food) bowl
No time to sit down? Go to a convenience store. The food is cheap and there is a big range of different breakfast options of fairly good quality. Wherever you’re going you’ll always find a Lawson, Seven-Eleven or a FamilyMart along your way.
What to try? Onigiri (Japanese rice balls)
Do you want to sit down, but don’t spend too much money? Try one of the morning breakfast sets at a restaurant or coffee shop chain. There are numerous options available. Cheap options are Beck’s coffee operated by JR East which can be found at many railway stations in the Kanto region. Another is Doutor Coffee located in business districts around Japan which serves western style breakfast options. If you have a bigger appetite, try Cocos for an all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.
The bento box or boxed lunch is something typically Japanese which you should try at least once. But be aware, the quality and convenience can tempt you to always eat lunch on the go. There are many bento-options at almost every station. Convenient if you have to catch a train around lunch time!
What to try? Oshizushi (pressed sushi in a wooden box)
Kaiseki Ryori (Japanese haute cuisine)
This is the top end of the Japanese culinary experience. If you want to try this and don’t break your budget at the same time, lunch time is the best opportunity to do so. You usually pay between a third – two-thirds of the dinner price. This will still set you back somewhere between 7,000 and 9,000 Yen.
You can’t be adventurous all the time. So if you’re looking for a fast and familiar fix for lunch, head over to a fast food restaurant. You’ll find all the big familiar chains in Japan but with some local specialities added to their menus. Alternatively, try one of the Japanese burger chains like Mos Burger or Freshness burger for burgers prepared with local products.
Starting to describe all the dinner options is an impossible mission. Whether you’re in Tokyo or a small provincial town, good affordable dinner options are never far away. So how to make a choice amidst this abundance? Use an app like Tripadvisor to point you in the right direction. Get a few options in an area and check them out. Most cities have areas with a higher concentration of restaurants. Food courts are also a great option. Head over there and use the best tip we can give you: “Follow the queue”. Whether you’re looking for breakfast at the fish market, picking up a bento box or choosing a place for dinner, this advice will help you every time. A long line equals a great dining experience. Lines are usually around 30 minutes long but can be longer for really popular places.
Try to eat something different every time to get as big a sample as possible of all Japan has to offer. Go for some Ramen, people have devoted their life to finding the best Ramen so let their quest be your guide. Try the different local specialties, so when you’re In Osaka try some Okonomoyaki. Go to a Buddhist temple and sample their vegetarian cuisine. And eat some sushi, whenever and wherever you want to.