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Jul 30, 2013 10:09 AM

Where & What to eat while in Japan

I am traveling to Japan for the first time in September. I will be in Tokyo, Nagoya and Kyoto and side trips. I am looking for budget friendly eateries but am willing to splurge every once and awhile. Off the beaten path and unique culinary experiences are what I am looking for. So any suggestions about markets, saki distilleries, miso making, really anything great culinary experience you had in Japan I would love to hear about it. Thank you.

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  1. For pure comfort food, it's hard to beat piping hot tamago on a stick, available at Nishiki Market in Kyoto.

    1. I very much enjoyed Gyoza Stadium, located within Namjatown, a two-story indoor theme park in Sunshine City Ikebukuro. Ostensibly a dozen or so gyoza vendors from throughout Japan selected for their excellent dumplings. At least one place there will offer a few other dishes like vegetables and soups and snacks as well, and this is what I recommend. But by all means don't limit yourself to one vendor. It will take you some sleuthing, but definitely seek out the vendor that makes shredded garlic gyoza.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        Wow, you REALLY love this place. Same post you've made like 10 times over last few years.

        1. re: Silverjay

          As a matter fo fact I enjoyed the experience enormously.

          I list this when people ask for unique and inexpensive, fun, etc. Seems to fit the OP to a T.

          I am flattered you're keeping count, though...... ;-)

        2. re: Steve

          Just to note that Gyoza Stadium has closed and reopened recently, and many of the vendors have changed.

          1. re: Robb S

            Good point. Namjatown was closed for renovation.

            Yeah, a place like this is set up on purpose to have turnover, even without renovation. It is not meant to be a permanent arrangement for any of the vendors. It is meant to be a showcase....but it is serious.

        3. Maybe you could be a little more specific about what you're looking for--what exactly is a "budget friendly eatery" (up to Y1000? Y1500? Y2000?), and what is a splurge? (Y30 000/person is not uncommon).

          and how long will you be spending in each place? There's no point in recommending something that's "off the beaten track" in Kyoto, for example, if you're only going to be there for a day or two.

          Also, what kind of food, specifically? I know a fantastic but slightly odd Indian restaurant in Kobe if you're interested, for example. Or is there anything you don't eat?

          And it's sake. The "e" is like the "e" sound in "kelp", not like the sound in "key".

          3 Replies
          1. re: prasantrin

            Budget friendly being around Y1000 for lunch and Y2000 for dinner. We will only be in each city for appx 3 days. I am specifically looking for Japanese food. I will try anything and have no dietary limitations. I am clearly a novice to Japan, as evident in my spelling error, and sadly my knowledge of Japanese cuisine is limited to sushi. I want to expand my knowledge of Japan's food culture while I have this wonderful opportunity to be over there.

            1. re: mlavelle

              Suggest you go through the archives of last 5 years or so and build an itinerary based on research. Consider sightseeing goals and get an understanding of basic geography of each city when you are looking at restaurants. If you post that itinerary here, you'll get far more responses. Other than random stray recs, these "start from ground zero" requests rarely go far.

              1. re: mlavelle

                Ramen at Ippudo in Kyoto (near Nishiki Market) is very good. Katsukura serves excellent tonkatsu in Kyoto in the Sanjo dori shopping area downtown. Omen, also in Kyoto, serves good udon. All three have English menus. Yakisoba and okonomiyaki restaurants can also be budget friendly. Also check out bento boxes for lunch or even dinner. Available at various price levels in numerous convenience stores, groceries, department stores and train stations.

            2. When you are in Nagoya, please try Kishi-men.
              I prefer Nabe-yaki style Kishi-men with Aka-miso soup.
              Nabe-yaki Udon is a food in winter.
              But never mind, It's tasty. Definitely.

              1 Reply
              1. re: irukaunyu

                Thank you for the advice, I am looking forward to trying Kishi-men!

              2. If you want to eat on the cheap for a few meals, your best bet are the bakeries. A lot of them have salads as well as bread, pizza, weiner-imbedded buns, etc. Some of them have sit-down service, and you can usually take-out and eat them in the parks, too (although, you have to take your own garbage back to the hotel at night -- no trash cans).

                The gift-shop in Meiji-jingu has a very reasonable cafeteria -- you can stock up on liquids, and I found the fried-stuff-onna-stick set really nice. I also liked that they had do-it-yourself kakigori (shaved ice) cups. Meiji-jingu is right next to the teen mecca of Harajuku/Takeshita-dori, so it's great for a break.

                Convenience stores can be remarkably healthy places to grab supper to eat in your hotel or hostel. There are a variety of salads, fried chicken, main dishes . . . you can get "canned fruit" packaged in plastic single-servings, and there's fruit juice, milk and a variety of yogurts. Not to mention traditional oni-giri, and the oden (boiled stuff like daikon radish, boiled eggs, fish-paste formed stuff) might be tasty in late September if it's not that hot.