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Tokyo on a budget: Where to eat like a local?

Where to eat in Tokyo | Tokyo Restaurants
Inside Tokyo Restaurant | Image Courtesy of Josh Wilbourne / Unsplash

One of the best ways to get to know a culture is through trying their cuisine. And when you are in Japan, you are in for a treat.

Considered as a mecca for foodies, Tokyo offers traditional to modern and global cuisine, cheap and quick meal to exceptionally expensive fine dining food.

But if you want to experience the local’s food culture, there are three things you can do in Tokyo:

Where to eat in Tokyo | Tokyo Restaurants
Family Mart | Image Courtesy of Abby Chung / Pexel

1. Buy meals in a konbini

With the busy schedule of Tokyo dwellers, konbini from the word convenience stores existed to serve their daily needs especially food. The famous lunch for rushing salarymen is onigiri, a triangle-shaped rice with different flavors. It is filling, easy to grab and eat while on the move and, easy on the pocket. 7eleven, Family Mart, Lawson, Ministop and Daily Yamazaki are some of the Japanese konbini you can see almost everywhere in Tokyo.

If you have a busy day tour in Tokyo, just go inside and grab tasty and affordable Japanese meals.

Where to eat in Tokyo | Tokyo Restaurants
Tokyo Restaurant | Image Courtesy of Hardik Pandya / Unsplash

2. Go out during lunch

Because restaurants even the high-ends one typically offers cheaper lunch deal. You can choose different lunch sets – tonkatsu, tempura, sushi, ramen etc. from 11AM-2PM. The menu option might be limited like 2 or 3 for main entrée but they are usually the best-sellers of the restaurant. You can get a sumptuous lunch meal for as low as 1,200 yen or less during lunch. You can find these deals in restaurants in malls and train stations, but you can also go to places near offices buildings.

They usually have more options since they want to attract Japanese salarymen during their lunch break. There are also restaurants that offer lunch bento box for take-out for as little as 500 yen up to 1000 yen. Sometimes you can also enjoy free coffee or tea during lunch meals.

Where to eat in Tokyo | Tokyo Restaurants
Tokyo Restaurant with vending machine | Image Courtesy of Red Angelo / Unsplash

3. Order in a restaurant with vending machine

Another fascinating thing that you can see everywhere in Japan are vending machines. From obscure things to typical food, you can buy it from a vending machine. Vending machine is also often used in small hole-in-a-wall food stalls in Japan.

When you enter this restaurant, you go to a machine that contains the menu. It’s usually in Japanese but there are photos, so it will not be a problem for Tokyo tourist. Insert your money, press the food you want to order then a receipt of your order will come out together with your change. Find an empty seat and give your order to the staff. Few minutes after, your order will arrive.

The usual design of the restaurants seems to be made for solo eaters. You can have a decent and good meal for less than 1,000 yen.

One of the famous vending machine restaurants in Japan is Ichiran Ramen. The lines are usually long. They are located almost everywhere in Tokyo. The restaurant is open 24/7 to cater to both locals and tourists.

You can experience the solo eating ramen in their Harajuku branch either before or after joining the free Meiji & Harajuku tour. You can ask tips or stories from your local tour guides regarding the history and cultural significance of ramen during the tour. With a new information, eating ramen will be a different experience.

If you are planning to stay in Tokyo, your limited time and resources might constraint you from enjoying your trip. Plan ahead and list down all the things you can do in your day tour in Tokyo. You should make sure you get the most out of your Japan trip through joining free walking tour in Tokyo — you’ll get the most interesting tips and secrets as told by a local!


Tokyo Localized provides visitors and travellers to Tokyo with a unique perspective of this great city, what makes us unique is that our tour guides live and work in Tokyo, have a passion for this city and love meeting and welcoming new faces. Find out more about our Unique Day and Night Tours of Tokyo - we can't wait to meet you!

Rocel is a believer of living life to the fullest through creating memories with her loved ones – family, friends and self. One of the things she enjoys doing with them is travelling where they get to experience new cultures, new cuisines, new stories to share and memories to look back. In 2018 alone, she travelled to 5 continents which exposed her to the world’s wonders. After all those trips, Japan is still one of her favorite countries because of its unique and rich culture and natural resources. She lived and studied in Tokyo, Japan for one year where she developed deeper love and appreciation towards the country.


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