Eating in Japan – A delicious guide for the Budget Traveller

eating in japan So many people have asked me what the favorite part of my trip to Japan was. It was all pretty amazing but the highlight was THE FOOD! You don’t have to spend a fortune when eating out in Japan, even inexpensive options are excellent and delicious.
Japanese food - sweet treats
The Japanese really know how to eat, food is a real experience, and it always looks amazing. Presentation is a big part of Japanese cuisine and I felt like nearly everything we ate was a little work of art. Apart from a few unexpected flavours and textures, everything was quite delicious.

We took lots of photos of what we ate but I’ll share some of the highlights here:
Oishii‘ means delicious in Japanese, my mouth is watering just looking at these pictures.
clockwise from top left:
Skewers – we went to several little bars (Izakaya) that offered these delectable treats, they were a delicious and inexpensive snack (around $1-2 each), as long as you didn’t eat too many. Mainly variations of chicken, but also mushroom, eggplant and other veggies with yummy dipping sauces. I had some sake at one of the bars and it was much nicer than I expected.

Bentos – A little taste of everything, these boxes come in every food and flavour combo you can imagine, great for taking to the park for a picnic or on the train. The best place to get these were in the department store food courts but they were a little bit dearer that I expected ($15-17) so sometimes it was preferable to go to a cafe for lunch for the same money.

Menu Set – It’s likely every meal you order will come with rice and miso even if you don’t order it or expect it to. We would often order a menu set because it was a nice way to try a few different things.

Pretty food – As you can see great care was taken to make everything look beautiful.

‘Oishii’ means delicious in Japanese

AMATARO BBQ Grill Shibuya
We went to dinner at AMATARO the first night of out Tokyo stay, and without really realizing we chose to sit in the DIY BBQ section. It was heaps of fun, you just had to be careful not to singe any hair. There was a touch screen display that you could order your food or drinks from but because we had no idea what we were ordering it was easier to flag down a waiter and mime what we were after. The dipping sauces there were so yummy, and we had a radish salad that was pretty rad too.

Another cook it yourself type of experience in Kyoto. This is a modern style Okonomiyaki restaurant that we stumbled across near Kyoto train station. It was a quirky take on the traditional vegetable pancake that had some interesting ingredient combinations. The dish was served up on a hotplate to keep it warm and one had to mush it all up before eating. The avocado and noodle one was delish!

How to eat well in japan when you don't speak Japanese
Vending Machine Restaurants
A couple of examples of fast food. On the top is a vending machine type eatery where you choose your dish, press a button and pay to get a ticket. Once you have your ticket you give it to the kitchen and hey presto you have a yummy meal without having to speak a work of Japanese.
I thought I was ordering just Sashimi, but it came with soup, rice, cooked fish and pickles. The sashimi just melted in my mouth it was so tender. All this for under $10.
Their were lots of these ticket style cafes around mainly selling ramen noodles or curry style dishes.

Japanese Fast Food
I was keen to try a fast food joint called Mos Burger. It had been recommended to me by several people and had some really odd burger choices including buns made of rice?! It didn’t rock my world, but was fun to try Japan’s alternative to McDonalds. I have heard that a Mos Burger is opening in Queensland.

The Japanese really know how to eat, food is an experience, and it always looks amazing. Presentation is a big part of Japanese cuisine and I felt like nearly everything we ate was a little work of art.

Traditional Japanese Breakfast
We were lucky enough to stay in a traditional Ryokan whilst we were in Kyoto. Our stay included a Japanese breakfast which changed every day but always consisted of fish, egg (omelet, poached), rice, vegetable salad, miso, tea, tofu, fruit and pickles. I quite enjoyed most of it but I must admit, silky tofu with jellied broth on top is a bit hard to eat first thing in the morning. As are Umeboshi the saltiest sourest things you will ever eat! It was the kind of thing you innocently chomp on, and then your face contorts into the most horrifically disgusted expression, sending anyone else in the room into fits of laughter. I dare you to try them.

Sweet Treats
Last but not least, Sweet treats. Japanese desserts come in very interesting flavour combinations and some aren’t very sweet at all. Many feature green tea or sweet beans which are totally delicious. These colourful fruity cups had a variety of jellies and glutenous balls that texturally tasted a bit weird to my western pallet, they came with a little bottle of sticky syrup that you could pour over the beans to sweeten them.

So have I whet your appetite for a Japanese foodie adventure? I must admit I’m looking forward to going to back to Japan just so I can eat myself silly. I probably put on several kilos in those 2 weeks… mmm… oishii


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