A cover photo showing the ten best cheap meals in Tokyo for under 10 USD

The Best Cheap Meals in Tokyo Under 10 USD

The best cheap meals in Tokyo are easier to find than you might think. While Tokyo is home to hundred dollar watermelons it’s also home to 2 dollar watermelons. That are sometimes bright yellow. There is a crap load of food to eat, see, smell and be confused by in Tokyo. Some of that food is priced out of reach of most travelers. The Japanese however have a real flair for cheap, quality food. The options in this post are Japanese chain restaurants that can be found all over Tokyo. I’ve left out some of the crap chains (sorry Lotteria) and left in only the ones that I think do what they do really well or have some sort of feature that makes it worthwhile for a tourist to visit. No matter where you are in Tokyo, one of these restaurants will be a short distance from you. I strongly recommend these places for lunch in order to save your money for more exciting dinners. Everything in this list is still distinctly Japanese and worth a visit and perfect if you’re visiting Tokyo on a budget.
And shockingly cheap.

 

1. Fuji Soba

One of the best cheap meals in Tokyo is also one of the largest. Have you ever wanted to eat a massive pile of noodles off of a bamboo mat for 3 USD? Of course you have. Simply walk into any Fuji Soba in Tokyo and they’ll sort you out. They have ticket vending machines at the front of the shop that you can order your food from. Fuji Sobas in busier areas will have a full English menu and if they dont all of the buttons have pictures on them. Nothing in Fuji Soba is over 10 USD and the servings are huge. They don’t stop at Soba either. Deep fried pork cutlets, tempura shrimp and curry rice can all be had for around 5 USD.
Check out their Menu: Fuji Soba

 

2. Yoshinoya

Yoshinoya is famous in Japan for their gyudon, beef bowls. Long thin strips of beef that have been cooked in a broth of soy sauce, mirin and onions topped on a bowl of rice. While Yoshinoyas do exist in Southern California and other parts of the US the menu is not quite as extensive as it is in Tokyo. Personal sized Hot Pots for 5 USD anyone? If you want to eat your gyudon like a local order it with a side of kimchii and a raw egg to pour over your rice bowl. Fun tourist fact, the very first Yoshinoya is located inside the Tsukiji Fish Market. The first shop was set up there to give fisherman an extra hearty meal after they returned from sea.

Check out their menu: Yoshinoya

3. Tendon Tenya

 

Of the best cheap meals in Tokyo, this is one is probably my second favorite. There is one right next to my apartment and when I’m feeling real hungry and real broke it is one of the first places I think of. Going out for a full blown tempura course dinner is well worth it but it can be pretty pricey. However, at Tendon Tenya you can find a lot of the same menu items just minus some of the fancy presentation. Well, all of the fancy presentation. Tempura is a must try while in Tokyo and you can have it for well under 10 USD.  They also boast one of the best English menus I’ve seen for a chain restaurant in Tokyo. One of my very earliest posts was about this place. Check it out here.

Check out their menu: Tendon Tenya.

4. Breakfast at Matsuya’s

 

I adore Japanese food. All of it. However when I first arrived in Japan I did not adore the average breakfast. At first glance there did not appear to be enough of a difference between breakfast and lunch. Fish, rice and salt feature in both. However, after time I have come to appreciate it. So much so that natto and raw egg over white rice is now one of my favorite ways to start the morning. Now, if all of that sounds awful to you BUT sounds like a fun experience to tell your friends about then head on over to Matsuya for their Asa Teshoku, or morning set.

A top 10 of the best cheap meals in Tokyo would not be complete without a breakfast entry. The Denny’s Grand Slam Breakfast, this ain’t. The morning set (pictured) comes with a big bowl of rice, miso soup, white kimchi, grilled salmon, raw egg and natto and some slivers of seaweed. If you look on the bottom left of the photo you will see Natto. One of the world’s healthiest foods and what many Japanese credit with their long lifespans. It is a type of fermented soybean and it is best topped with a bit of dashi, spicy mustard and sliced green onions, which have all been provided for you.

“How the hell do you eat this?”, I hear you asking. First up, add a splash of soy sauce to the raw egg, stir and then dump over your rice. Next up add the spicy mustard, dashi and green onions to the natto and stir, stir, stir. Supposedly, the more you stir the healthier it gets. It will become slimy and sticky and smell ever so odd. You can start eating it OR if you want to go for broke you can then dump the natto on top of your egg soaked rice. Set your Instagram to Boomerang and make a little video of the natto hitting your taste buds for the first time. All of this excitement clocks in at around 5USD. You can even add a mini beef bowl to the morning set for an extra 1USD.

Check out their menu: Matsuya

5. Yayoiken

Fun fact. The Japanese love Hamurbg Steaks. Better known in the US as Salisbury Steaks. There is no end to the variety of them in Tokyo. There are even Hamburg Steak specialty restaurants with Wagyu beef patties stuffed with camembert. Extreme but not quite cheap enough to be considered one of the best cheap meals in Tokyo. Never fear, there are cheaper options, although not stuffed with French cheeses. If you’d like to try the German classic in true Tokyo fashion for under 10USD head over to a Yayoiken. Fish, pork, chicken, beef and noodles, Yayoiken serves a variety of set meals.  My favorite hamburg set includes a tempura prawn, grilled chicken and potato wedges (pictured). Served along side a tiny green salad and refillable bowls of rice and miso. A no brainer with an extensive kid friendly menu.

Check out their menu: Yayoiken

6. Hidakaya

Fast, cheap, greasy Chinese food is one of life’s greatest pleasures. At Hidakaya it comes with a side of gyoza for 5USD. While eating Chinese food in Tokyo may not be at the top of your list I do recommend it for lunch. You’ll find some uniquely Japanese items on the menu that you typically would not find in a Chinese restaurant in North America. While there isn’t any Orange Chicken or Kung Pao on the menu there is Ramen and Bean Sprout Stir Fry. Japanese style fried rice is also a real treat. They serve it next to a tiny bowl of ramen broth that you can dunk the fried rice into. Game changer. Almost all of the meal options at Hidakya can be upgraded to add a mini bowl of ramen, fried rice or gyoza.
Check out their menu: Hidakaya

 

7. Freshness Burger

You’re going to see Freshness Burger all over Tokyo. Their shops all have this coastal New England vibe to them as designed by someone who has never been to New England. They are far superior to McD’s but they are not quite up there with In N Out. However, they serve a decent selection of bottled beer for about 3 USD a bottle so they come out on top in my book. Freshness Burger always has the best looking veggies on their burgers and they have a great condiments station, mustard, ketchup, green habanero sauce, rock salt, they’ve got it all. They even have a pretty decent seasonal menu with limeades and avocado burgers in summer. If you ever find yourself a little burnt out on Japanese dinners, then have a go at a Japanese Fast Food burger. You wont be disappointed.

Check out their menu: Freshness Burger

8. Coco Ichibanya

Officially the best cheap meal in Tokyo. Coco Ichibanya makes a mean curry and they have a massive menu with some incredible curry options. Curry with deep fried oysters? How about curry with crab and camembert croquette? In this photo we have the slow cooked chicken and summer vegetables curry with a side of diced okura. They have a massive menu written in English as well as a lot of region only dishes throughout Japan. A must visit while in Toyko, even if you aren’t trying to save money on food.

Check out their menu: Coco Ichibanya 

9. Kaiten Sushi

Conveyor belt sushi can be found all over the place. There are some chain places and some stand alones. Probably the most user friendly is a chain called Kura Sushi. Although I have not used their photo for this post I will link to their menu at the end.  If you see a 108円 displayed anywhere near a Kaiten Sushi restaurant it means that their basic plate of 2 pieces of sushi is about 1USD. Fancier items, like grilled eel, will either be one piece per plate or slightly more expensive. The color of the plate will indicate the price. Typically somewhere in the restaurant will be a poster of several plates and their corresponding price. For example: Red Plates 108 JPY, Blue Plates 216 JPY etc. Kaiten Sushi is a real treat when done properly. I’ll offer you 2 simple guidelines.

Dont eat the sushi on the belt.

Unless you see the chef make a batch of somehting and throw it onto the belt right before your eyes, then dont eat it. Not that you’ll get food poisoning or anything serious but simply because it won’t taste as good. If the sushi on the belt has lost its “sheen” and taken a “matte” quality it’s dried out and to be avoided.

Tell the chef what you want.

In a big voice say “sumimasen. (sushi name) kudasai.” Dont pause, just in a big voice and in one breath say “sumimasen, maguro kudasai.” You may or may not get a grunt of acknowledgment but freshly made maguro sushi will appear on your table or be thrust at you. This is the best way to be certain you are getting something that hasn’t been sitting out and lost all its freshness. Just because it’s one of the best cheap meals in Tokyo doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to fresh fish.

Check out the menu for Kura Sushi

10. Ramen

Ramen is all over the place. Not only is it one of the best cheap meals in Tokyo, it is one of the best cheap meals in Japan. It is incredible. It is under 10 USD. You could eat this for lunch each day you are here and I would not judge you. Your arteries may harden from the sudden extreme increase in sodium but I will not judge you. It will have all been worth it. I wont bother trying to tell you where to go but I would love to know where you’ve been. Ignore all of the “Best Ramen in Japan” posts on Pinterest or YouTube and just dive into any old place that catches your fancy. There are too many ramen shops and too many varieties for some travel blogger to proclaim “Bast Ramen in Japan” after a 2 week vlogging visit to Tokyo. Shudder.

#CheapTokyo

There you have it, my personal personal picks for the bestv cheap meals in Tokyo. Painfully researched. When I first came to Japan I made a pittance teaching English over a computer screen. These restaurants took me through some skimpy times. People who have been reading this blog may feel free to call me out on recycling the ramen and curry post from my Top Ten Must Eats to Try in Tokyo post. Apologies, eagle eyed readers. May I humby offer this last suggestion?

Bonus Round: Supermarkets

Not feeling these restaurants? The best cheap meal in Tokyo could be your own creation. Japanese Supermarkets have everything you need for lunch, nicely packaged for you and cheap as can be. Sashimi, beef bowls, pork cutlets, curry rice just to name a few. Imagine the deli counter at a Supermarket in the states and instead of vats of chili and mashed potatoes you have rows of yakitori and tempura. Walk right in, explore, leave with bags of food, find yourself a park bench and a have a proper Japanese office worker lunch. You can’t go wrong.
Enjoy!

What are your thoughts on the best cheap meals in Tokyo? Did I forget to include any? Comment away!

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