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Food Budget in Japan

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My husband and I are planning a 3 week trip to Japan with our adult daughter and her friend that will include 5 days in Tokyo, 6 in Kyoto, 3 in Okayama and the rest in Sapporo. I plan 2 or 3 really nice dinners, but hope to do the rest on a budget since I have yet to meet Japanese food I do not enjoy. Can anyone advise me what to budget per person for meals for this trip? I'm just looking for a ballpark figure. Thanks. Joanne

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  1. Breakfast- 4 x 1,000 YEN / day (disregard if included in your hotel). Example would be a morning set at a cafe or some items at a bakery.

    Lunch- 4 x 1,000 YEN / day (easy to do under though). Example would be typical lunch set, bowl of ramen, soba, tonkatsu, etc.

    Dinner- 4 x 2,500 YEN / day (no alcohol, service restaurant on a reasonable budget). Example would be all-you-can eat shabu shabu, decent izakaya, hot pot, kaiten zushi, okonomiyaki, etc.

    Alcohol- ranges from 300 YEN to 1000 YEN per drink. Beer is usually 600 YEN. Shochu cocktails are cheaper ;)

    ...Snacking- 4 x 1,000 YEN (for miscellaneous drinks, depachika, convenience store items). Examples like tea, soda, calpis water, steamed pork bun, anpan, confections, cream puffs, octopus balls, squid snacks, etc.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Silverjay

      I agree for the most part with Silverjay's budget, but I'll just add that if you're here for three weeks and want to enjoy yourself you at dinnertime might want to build a little flexibility into the dinner menu - there are some great places you should try that might run you Y3,500-4,500 per person for dinner (food only). (I assume that if you're posting on Chowhound then probably food will be an important part of the trip.) On the other hand you can save quite a bit on breakfast if you just grab an onigiri from a convenience store.

      Also, if you find a place with a good sake list you'll find that good-quality sake is quite reasonable compared to ordering wine.

    2. For Okayama, I created a Google map of places I liked in the area.
      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/391561

      1. Silverjay is obviously an authority on this, but on a personal note, I'd plan for a LOT of liquids. Your post doesn't mention the season, but if you're in Tokyo in summer, it'll be humid and Sapporo will be cold if it's winter. Whether in snow or 90% humidity, a big expense for me was keeping hydrated. I like buying the big jugs of water at supermarkets or drug stores, but it's not always practical to have a 2 liter bottle with you. I also try to get my fill of Pocari Sweat, Qoo, and all the other beverages that aren't as readily available elsewhere. 130 yen for a bottle adds up.

        Have fun and good eating!

        1 Reply
        1. re: MeAndroo

          Very good point, living here you don't notice how often you need drinks because you'll have them at your house/work.

          During vacation times or when friends are visiting I spend quite a bit more on teas/waters from the vending machines.

          Otherwise I think Silverjay did a commendable job. Good luck!

        2. silveryjay's budget recommendations seem right on, but i agree with mr. robb s. that deviating occasionally from that budget to indulge in slightly more expensive meals, like good yaki niku, would be a worthwhile investment for someone intent on having food to remember. i never see it get much play on here, but i would recommend coco ichiban for just one meal to get good, cheap, and often surprisingly unhealthy japanese curry.

          2 Replies
          1. re: switters

            Thanks to everyone for their replies. Yes, indeed, food will be a major part of this trip (as are all our vacations!), but since we have to fund four meals at each sitting instead of the usual two, I wanted some sense of how to budget. I hope to have at least one upscale dinner in each location, hopefully balanced with more cost conscious meals on other days. The Okayama map is great since we plan to spend 3 days there with a side trip to Kurashiki. After I better review the board archives I may be asking for info on Tokyo and Kyoto as well. Thanks again. Joanne

            1. re: joannecam

              I think you can easilly economize in certain ways without feeling deprived. For example, pretty much all hotel rooms have a boiling water pot that you can use to make tea and coffee in the morning. Likewise, they have mini-fridges where you can stash milk and yogurt. I always travel with Grape-nuts, which I mix into yogurt and add some fruit. Don't hesitate to stop into 7/11s and Lawsons and AM/PM stores to pick up water and other beverages.

              I also would set aside 2,000 yen on occasion for a nice hotel buffet. They are quite elaborate and could suffice for breakfast and lunch, especially if you are a late riser. Also, a really good dinner in many places will be more like 5,000 yen and up. You will obviously spend much more in Tokyo and Kyoto depending on where you want to go.

          2. I am from Tokyo. It is really cheap now to eat in Japan. Much cheaper than America.
            Still good and fun.
            Breakfast: 700yen including coffee.
            You should check out Denny's (or other family restaurants) for breakfast and lunch, even for dinner. They are so much better than American Denny's. My husband who is American calls "Gourmet" Denny's.

            For breakfast:starting 380yen
            http://www.dennys.jp/dny/menu/dennys/...

            For lunch: starting 580yen
            http://www.dennys.jp/dny/menu/dennys/...

            They have really good desserts too!

            And like others wrote, to save money and space for your big lunch, it's good idea to pick up stuff from a convenience store. You can pick up the night before and eat at hotel. Any convenience will do. Japanese people have their own preference to go. I like 7/11, becauce they are good at onigiri and obento.
            They come up with new products everyweek!
            http://www.sej.co.jp/products/kanto/

            As Silverjay mentioned below, Depachika( basement of a department )is great choice for lunch or even night which you want to relax at hotel. Shinjuku Isetan department basement recently renewed, and they have great selections of deli and sweets stores. You can enjoy samples before you pick. Please don't miss sweets in Japan.

            To try the best restaurant for better deal, go for lunch. For example,
            Benoit, Alan Ducasse produced, located in Aoyoma. They are really expensive for me for dinner, but lunch is affordable. Their interior decoration is really pretty.
            http://www.benoit-tokyo.com/restauran...

            For Japanese food, maybe you want to try in Kyoto which I am not familiar with.
            Anyway, Japan is a country for food. I hope you can have great time there.

            7 Replies
            1. re: mayuchico

              Generally, I prefer 7-11 for bento, chu-ka items, and other stuff. But I think the onigiri at Lawson are better- koshi hikari version especially...But it's been a couple of years...

              1. re: Silverjay

                Actually Lawson still makes great onigiri. I like their Ikura!

                1. re: mayuchico

                  yeah natural lawson is my favorite for onigiri too :)

                  1. re: taryn

                    taryn, please can you provide a bit more colour about natural lawson. i walked by one in ginza but didn't have time to go in. i'm assuming that it's lawson but with a wider range of organic, nutritious etc product lines. apart from the onigiri, anything in particular to look out for?

                    1. re: oonth

                      I used to love to go to Nachuro. I came back to CA. I used to pick up Kibun soy flavored milk which you can't find at regular stores. Tropical smoothies were one of those.I never tried their onigiri though.

                      1. re: oonth

                        yeah i really like natural lawson. it has a bit more upscale items, but i think the onigiri are the same. there are many imported items (like granola bars from california and snyders of hanover pretzels. also high quality chocolates. I think they have a better selection of conbini-prepared food too, like salads (american cobb salad, steamed veggies, fresh fruit etc.) Definitely check it out, but it's not quite as nice as the OMO by Kinokuniya conbini which I've seen in Omotesando and Akasaka mitsuke.

                        1. re: taryn

                          thanks, i will make sure to try it out next time i'm in town along with OMO.

                          talking chocolates, there's obviously been pre 14th Feb chocolate mania all across Japan these last few weeks and i discovered the joys of Royce chocolates from Hokkaido, highly recommended for those who haven't sampled before.