Good, cheap eats in Tokyo


Trips to Tokyo are, for the most part, all about the food. At least they are for me. It starts with a visit to Tsukiji. There really is nothing finer. Whether you go for the fancy places, a yeoman’s shop or just pick a random stall with a line in front, odds of getting a great meal are incredibly high. This particular trip included a couple different bits at Tsukiji, in addition to the joy of walking the market, that were quite delicious.

As I meandered through the aisles outside the market early on a Saturday morning, lost while trying to find my way to the main entrance of the auction area, I happened upon a number of stalls offering up food stuffs. One in particular caught my eye, with a variety of bun-looking options on offer. I wanted to see the auctions, however, so I kept walking right past. I regretted that decision almost immediately from the moment I did so but I justified it with the higher purpose of getting to the auction. About five minutes later I realized that I was too late and too lost; the auctions were not to be this particular morning. Fortunately I was not yet far enough removed from the bun shop that I could not find my way back.

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I retraced my steps and eventually found myself staring down what appeared at first glance as sweet buns of some sort. I could not have been more wrong, nor more happy about the mistake. It turns out that the buns were actually mostly scallops (I think, possibly some other similar seafood) and what appeared to be a sweet glaze wrapping them was actually bacon. It was like a little bit of heaven came down from above and ended up in a fried ball that I could buy for ¥250 (~$3 USD).

While taking advantage of the sustenance provided by the fried ball of goodness I wandered the stalls of Tsukiji, enjoying pretty much everything I saw. And then it was time for a real breakfast. I spent a bit of time – quite a bit too much, really – surveying the options and deciding upon the shop at which I’d be having my sushi breakfast. At the "basic" price point all good and the prices are generally similar. Eventually I chose one that wasn’t so crowded there was a line out the door but also not completely empty. I have no idea what the name was or if I could find it again. But the meal I got was pretty darn good. Not as good as the "upscale" place I went on my last trip a couple years ago but still quite tasty.

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My last meal in town (other than the yakitori that deservedly gets its own post) was a lunch with an ex-pat who now lives just outside of town and who graciously agreed to come in on a Saturday and meet up for lunch. I probably should’ve paid more attention to where we went as I have no idea if I could find it again. After reviewing the menu and still not really knowing what the options were I chose one of the set plate lunches for ¥1000 and hoped for the best. I think I did pretty well.

The main course was some chicken over rice with an egg on top. Mixed together, along with some of the chili pepper they put on the side, it was quite tasty. There was also a shooter of a soup broth, some seaweed, pickled something and a gooey green tea dessert that probably isn’t something I’d try again. Still, the meal overall was rather good and quite reasonably priced for the amount and quality of the food.

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Knowing that meals like these can be found at reasonable prices all over town, despite Tokyo’s reputation as exceedingly expensive, makes it easy for me to want to go back. After all, with a cheap fare, a cheap room and cheap meals it is possible to soak up quite a lot of the Tokyo experience without breaking the bank.

And when the experience is this delicious that is a glorious thing.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and .

3 Comments

    1. Well, if the food really was contaminated it hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still alive and doing fine. So are most folks there, whether locals or visitors.

      I postponed my visit earlier this year as it was scheduled for just a week or so after the quake and I didn’t want to be in the way or competing with the locals for essential goods. But once the initial impact cleared I was eager to get back there and help support the economy in a much more meaningful way than donating $100 to a charity.

  1. Nice this is great and inspired me to book my first trip to Tokyo. Will be doing a weekend in August.

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