The Eastern Capital is known as much for its food as for its high prices. As one of the world’s most expensive cities, Tokyo’s restaurant scene might seem like a natural enemy to your precious vacation fund, but a little insider information will turn those worries into savings. Sweet, teriyaki-glazed savings.
Eat a Big Lunch
While the dinner prices of many Tokyo restaurants can look intimidating, most establishments offer reasonable lunch specials. If you go big on lunch and opt for a lighter dinner, you’ll have plenty of yen left over to grab some of Tokyo’s famous dorayaki for dessert.
Eat at Department Stores
Common sense tells us if we want to save money, we should avoid tourist hot spots. But that’s only half of the equation. Where do you go from there? The first stop on your list should be department stores. More specifically, the diners beneath department stores. Tokyo is brimming with shopping centers, most of which boast small, modest basement diners, and the food there is fantastic, inexpensive and no-nonsense. You’ll feel you’ve discovered a local secret.
Cheaper Real Estate
If you’re willing to venture off the beaten path for some fairly priced, authentic, Japanese cuisine, you’ll want to explore the northern and eastern areas of the city, such as Ikebukuro and Senjuvisit. There you’ll find a more working-class aesthetic that’s generous to your wallet and to your stomach.
While downtown Tokyo is generally quite pricey, there are exceptions to every rule. If you take a few minutes to research highly-rated budget restaurants, you’re bound to find one you like. For example, sushi lovers might try Nemuro Hanamaru, a surprisingly tasty conveyor-belt sushi shop in the Kitte Shopping Mall. If you’ve come for the seafood, head to Nogizaka Uoshin, a casual fish-shack style eatery in midtown Roppongi. And if soba noodles are your thing, stop by the century-old Tokyo landmark, Kanda Yabu Soba.
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If you’re not familiar with Turo, the brand is essentially a car-sharing service — kind of similar to Airbnb, except you're not renting out someone else’s home while you travel, but their car. If you use Turo during December, you can book some special experiences that take you to one of four Michelin-starred restaurants.