Japan on a Budget: Food & Drink

August 28th, 2013By Category: Travel


When it comes to eating and drinking in Japan, it can actually be very cheap to eat outside, depending on where you go. There are several chains and franchises that make decent food for just a few dollars. I can totally recommend Handaya, Yoshinoya, Sukiya and so on. You will always get water or tea for free, so you do not necessarily spend money on drinks while eating. In the evening a lot of supermarkets will discount their bento so you can get some good stuff pretty cheaply. Also since you can use hot water and a microwave in most supermarkets and convenience stores, you can also buy instant food whenever you feel like it.

Since Japan can get very hot, it is a good idea to have drinks ready during the day, not just while eating. If you do not like the previous thermos bottle idea, you might want to consider the following. In Japan there are about four bazillion vending machines selling all kinds of interesting beverages that the eager Japan traveller might want to try.


If you go to a super market they will usually be about half a dollar cheaper. Sometimes they have their own brands even cheaper, so you can buy three cans of beverages for just one dollar. If you can not find a supermarket, you can ask the tourist information or, if you dare, any random person.

I don’t want to go out on a limb here but I would say, if you are careful about what you buy you can live on ten dollars a day. But for the sake of eating something nice every now and then let us say about 15 dollars.

Food and transportation add up to about $30 a day, that leaves us with $420.

Money used $1280.

Now that we added all the things we need to stay alive and get around Japan, we have used about $1280 in two weeks. Though, this is just an estimate, it is quite possible. I have managed to travel around Japan for one month with just $900. Though I did couch surfing only and the flight not included (which was $420 as you might remember). Even though $1280 is still a lot of money, consider that some people pay that much just to get here.

You might think: Why even come here when you are not going to buy local things at all and have to struggle all the time? Well of course, that holds some truth but everybody can decide for themselves which parts of the guide to follow and which to ignore. After all, everybody has a different budget and different preferences. Some people just want to explore and see nice places! But you can also bring extra money (and you should) to use however you like. I just wanted to give you an example of how to travel this beautiful country with a small budget. If you plan carefully you can save a lot of money on the necessities and have more money for everything else. After all you might want to pay the admission fee to get into temples or ride the cable car up a mountain and nice things like that.

If you are looking for cheap goods from Japan I can recommend one of the many second-hand shops throughout the country, like Book Off. CD’s or games that would be invaluable to you might just be one dollar away. I would advise against selling anything before checking the prices online, though. One time I tried to sell a perfectly good PSP, an Mp3-Player and a pretty decent camera. They wanted to give me 40 dollars for everything. Needless to say I got about 160 for everything after I sold it myself.

However you decide to travel this country, be safe and always remember to enjoy it the most you can. Even if you might not be able to stay in a luxury ryokan, you can discover all kinds of beautiful places using only a few coins.

Author of this article

Michael Werker

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