So you’re trying to figure out how much spending money to bring with you to Japan and how much to plan for your daily budget.
With all the major expenses paid for (flights and accommodation), how much cash should you bring to Japan?! (Or if your major expenses aren’t taken care of yet, see how to find flights to Japan and consider staying in hostels in Japan if you’re traveling alone.)
In terms of thinking about how much cash you need, one of the major daily expenses will likely be food.
The quick list of trip prep for Japan:
- When to go
- Tips to find cheap flights
- What are hostels in Japan like?
- Should you buy a JR pass for train travel?
- Should you get travel insurance for natural disasters?
- More tips for planning a first trip to Japan
And then what you’ll find below…
Some ideas for where to buy meals or prepared food in Japan:
- convenience stores
- grocery stores
- street shops (with street snacks like okonomiyaki and takoyaki)
- train station bento box shop
- vending machine restaurants
- underground restaurants
- and more!
…with prices and pictures!
Some of these options can make for cheap food ideas, and some of these options can make for easy meal ideas.
How much does food cost in Japan for tourists?!
First, the quick and easy answer?!
If you REALLY wanted to, you can find probably find meals for 500 yen (US$5).
But it might not be realistic to consistently eat for less than $5 a meal.
I would say it’s possible, but you’d probably have to put in effort to make it happen.
But you could likely easily survive on $10-15 a meal per person.
Although, this also depends on your appetite.
And if you’re moving around a lot more in Japan compared to home (because you know, Japan requires a lot of walking), then you may end up wanting to eat more food.
But in general, this type of budget of $15 a meal would likely allow you to taste a variety of Japanese food without having to feel like you’re depriving yourself.
Now, examples of food you might eat in Japan below, with prices!
For easy calculation, you can think of 100 yen as being US$1.
Well, convenience stores in Japan are convenient… and they are also especially convenient for FOOD!
It’s not just junk food and snacks that you’ll find in the convenience stores (you can get that if you want), but you would also be able to buy prepared meals here too.
Offerings will vary by store, and you can also find smaller healthy food items too, like yogurt, fruit drinks, salad.
You can also buy a few riceballs that have a variety of fillings, and each one will cost around 100 yen (US$1).
A small sandwich might cost around 200 yen (US$2).
An example of a prepared meal might include seasoned meat with rice for around 500 yen (US$5).
In major cities, you won’t have to walk far for a convenience store.
If you want to check Google Maps for convenience stores near your hotel, examples of some include Lawson’s, Family Mart, and 7-11.
If you’re staying at an airbnb apartment, it could be possible that a grocery store is nearby.
Even if you’re staying in a hotel, there might be a grocery store closer than you think, so ask the hotel staff if there’s one nearby!
So, what makes grocery stores great, even if you have no intention of cooking food for yourself?! (Although, if you’re looking to save a little bit of money and you’re staying at a place with a kitchen, making your own food is another way to get cheaper food!)
Well, at grocery stores, you can find prepared food too!
This could also be a good place to buy a bunch of Japanese food for cheaper to be able to taste a variety of things too.
So instead of heading to a fast food restaurant, you can head to the grocery store to pick up some quick food that can be perfect as a meal.
For the prepared food, if you go later in the day you might be able to find deeper discounts as they are trying to get rid of everything.
You’ll also likely come across a few bakeries in Japan.
This could be a good place to buy some quick snacks to-go, or buy some breakfast food ahead of time too.
You can also find an assortment of breads and sandwiches at grocery stores and convenience stores.
Train station bento box
For more convenience, especially when it’s a transit day and you’re at the train station waiting for your train, you may be able to find a meal that will give you a taste of a variety of Japanese food.
Ekiben = eki + ben
eki = station (like train station), and ben is from bento (like bento box).
You’re likely to find these ekiben shops at major train stations in Japan.
Vending machine restaurants
You may come across vending machine restaurants as you’re walking around cities in Japan, and then you might see them at some train stations too.
You’ll pick out the food you want, and then you’ll buy a ticket for that at the “vending machine.”
Then, depending on the restaurant, your order will either be automatically put through, or you’ll hand your ticket over to someone at the restaurant.
Then you’ll sit and wait for your food to be ready!
These types of places also tend to be on the cheaper side compared to regular restaurants.
Average restaurant meals
And then there’s the regular restaurants.
You can find them as you’re walking around!
And you may also find a sort of underground network of restaurants.
A couple of places you can find these “underground restaurants” is include train stations and department store buildings.
In general, you can say a regular meal might cost around 1,000 yen (US$10), and then prices will go up from there depending on how nice of a restaurant it is.
Even more restaurants and cafes as you’re walking around Japan!
As you’re walking along the streets of Japan, you will come across loads of restaurants that range in price range and offer a variety of Japanese foods for you to try!
With Japan being known for green tea, be sure to stop by a Japanese teahouse too!
Some convenient ones might be making a visit to the Nijo Castle teahouse as part of a one day bus pass, the Okochi Sanso teahouse as part of your one day in Arashiyama, or the Ginkakuji tea garden as part of the philosopher’s path culture walk!
HAPPY EATING IN JAPAN!
More quick tips for planning your trip to JapanThere are affiliate links on this page that take you to partner websites.
Shoes for JapanFor summer travel, hiking sandals can be perfect for walking around cities and for many of the short day hikes! See travel sandals like these for women and these for men.
Japan is a mountain country so be sure to get in some hikes!
See trail running shoes too (for women - for men) for other solid hikes including climbing Mt Fuji.
Speaking of hiking, I love this daypack.
The super fast train in JapanIn general, 2 long-distance shinkansen train trips will likely end up making it so the JR pass will be worth it. But here's how to calculate it to be sure.
See the current price of a JR pass from an official vendor.
Natural disasters in JapanUnfortunately, Japan can be prone to natural disasters which means risk for travel delays. So be sure to look at travel insurance for natural disasters.
My travel insurance took care of my accommodation and food costs when I was forced to stay extra days in Japan because of a typhoon.
See how much insurance costs for your trip.
Best travel guides for JapanIf you're at step 1 in your planning process, have a look at this Discover Japan book.
For "books" that won't take up space in your suitcase, see the best PDF guides.
See more of the best books for Japan trip planning.
Cheap(er) flights to JapanI used this website to find the cheapest flight and to book my recent flight to Japan.
Sometimes it makes sense to book direct - my preferred way!
But this booking site will search a combination of airlines, including those who aren't partner airlines, which means that they can help you find cheaper flights by booking individual flights for you as part of one flight itinerary. This can be especially helpful if you're not flying out of a major hub with direct flights to Japan.
I've missed a flight booked through them and it was taken care of with hotel and new flight.
See more tips for finding cheap flights to Japan.