The variety and number of places where you can taste typical food in Tokyo is practically infinite. There is no shortage of Michelin stars and fancy restaurants in the city, but that’s not why we are here – we are here to tell you where to eat cheaply in Tokyo!
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Come with us and we’ll take you on a tour of Tokyo’s night market (a real foodie’s paradise!) and show you some of Shinjuku’s best food. We want you to open your eyes to the delicious world of Tokyo’s street food and learn what to eat in Tokyo on a budget. Consider it a kind of ultimate Tokyo food guide where you can find the best Japanese street food in the city… and no sushi trays in sight!
I’m sure when you think of this crowded metropolis, you’ll think of lots of bright neon lights, colorful flashing signs, funny anime, and a juxtaposition of futuristic skyscrapers with impressive historical temples. Now think about things you would eat in Tokyo and I’m sure the first thing you’d imagine is a succession of sushi trays and… not much else. Well, just know that Tokyo’s street food is a whole world to discover. You just have to know where to look!
Tamagoyaki is a kind of Japanese omelet, but with the peculiarity that it’s spiked on a stick. Watch out! Because it’s not just any omelet. This one is sweet, delicious and fluffy, and it’s served with the toast side up. In fact, the word tamagoyaki literally means “grilled egg” and is made by rolling several layers of seasoned egg in a rectangular frying pan. Out of 10!
Usual price: ¥100
Where to try it: There are many tamagoyaki stands in Tokyo, but a good place to start is Marutake at Tsukiji Foreign Market.
Ningyo-yaki, or doll cakes, are as lovely as they are delicious. They are made by pouring pancake-like dough into molds with all sorts of details, and then they are usually filled with anko jam, a red bean paste (if you want something a little sweeter, there are also chocolate or cream ningyo-yaki). They can be found in a lot of different ways, from the most traditional ones in the shape of a lantern or pagoda to ningyo-yaki in the shape of Hello Kitty or Doraemon, super instables!
Usual price: ¥500 for 7 units
Where to try it: at any of the ningyo-yaki stands around Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa.
Dorayaki is one of the most beloved classics throughout Japan and consists of a soft, fluffy sandwich cake filled with red bean paste. Other popular fillings include cream, chestnut, fresh fruit or green tea cream. A treat that fits in the palm of your hand and is the perfect appetizer for any traveler who wants to order and keep going.
Usual price: ¥205
Where to try it: in Usagiya, a Dorayaki shop where they are said to have invented the distinctive flying saucer shape of the Dorayakis.
These fried veal balls are a real treat for the palate! They are made from “black-haired wagyu” meat, one of the three great Japanese meats, and their crispy panko batter and juicy explosion of super tender meat will hook you from the first bite.
Regular price: ¥220
Where to try it: at the Satou Steak House. You might have to wait because the lines are incredibly long, but trust us. It’s definitely one of the best places to eat in Tokyo.
These adorable little rice flour dumplings are roasted on charcoal and then served on bamboo skewers with a rich, gooey glaze of sweet soy sauce. The contrast between sweet and salty is a glorious thing that will make these delicious, chewy dumplings a favorite. And on top of that, the mitarashi dango is one of the cheapest meals in Tokyo!
Usual price: ¥100 – ¥150
Where to try it: at festivals held throughout the city and around most of Tokyo’s temples.
Anpan is a classic Japanese sweet created by a samurai in 1875 (yes, you read right… a samurai). It is one of the best street foods in Tokyo and consists of a sweet and soft bun that, depending on the season, will have a different filling. Most often they are filled with anko, the delicious red bean paste, but there are also cherry ones during the cherry blossom season, and chestnuts in the fall. Ask anyone what to eat in Tokyo, and they’re sure to give you the same answer: an ankho!
Usual price: ¥150
Where to try it: in Kimuraya, the original anpan shop founded by the very samurai who created them, Yasubei Kimura!
Soft green tea ice cream
This Japanese street madness is sweeping the world, so if you haven’t caught matcha fever yet, you can make your debut in Tokyo in the sweetest way! Matcha is made from finely ground green tea powder and is nutritious, delicious and good for your health! (Well, that’s not counting the sugar they put in it later and the mountains of delicious toppings, of course!)
Usual price: ¥340 – ¥360 for a ball
Where to try it: at the award-winning Suzukien Asakusa, where they sell the world’s most intensely flavoured matcha ice cream. The business has over 150 years of experience, so you’ll be in good hands.
Many consider them the quintessential Harajuku sweet. These photogenic crepes are a clear reflection of Tokyo’s liveliest and most eccentric neighborhood. Toppings range from chocolate brownies, ice cream and fresh fruit, to whole pieces of cheesecake! A good batch… Get ready for a real sugar rush!
Usual price: ¥300 – ¥600
Where to try it: in basically any creperie in the Harajuku area. Look for the ones with tails so you know which ones are the best! Marion Crepes or Santa Monica Crepes are always a good choice.
Apple pie with cream
This is the Tokyo version of an American classic. These miniature hot cakes are sold as doughnuts (or in this case, as hot cakes!). First they’re baked to have that delicious crunchy coating on the outside, and then they’re injected with an apple pie filling and a cream that’s divine from death. They’re so good, even your grandmother would be proud of them!
Usual price: ¥400
Where to try it: at Ringo’s Apple Pie. A small corner store in the Ikebukuro area, to get there just let your nose guide you and follow that glorious apple and cinnamon smell!
Tempura is one of Japan’s most famous delicacies worldwide, and of course in Tokyo there are all kinds and shapes of it. Of all the succulent varieties of this golden delicacy, we recommend the seafood and vegetable tempura. Its texture is light, crunchy and incredibly tasty, and it’s made with a thin batter that is fried over a high heat. Could this be what they call love at first bite?
Usual price: ¥100 – ¥150 per unit
Where to try it: everywhere. Shinjuku’s food markets are a great place to eat fresh tempura.
Takoyaki are crunchy balls the size of a golf ball with a soft and juicy interior. They are made of wheat flour and filled with green onions, pickled ginger and a bite-sized piece of octopus. Don’t miss the takoyaki vendors making these little balls, their skill is quite amazing! And if you’re looking for a real explosion of flavor, bathe them in plenty of takoyaki sauce!
Usual price: between ¥400 and ¥600 for 8 balls
Where to try them: You can find them in most places to eat in Tokyo, but if you are looking for a reliable place go to Gindaco, one of the most popular takoyaki chains. It is always a safe bet and they are all over Tokyo.
The kakigori is basically a bowl of crushed ice with syrup, but what makes it so special is that it’s exceptionally soft and fluffy, with a powdery texture that looks a lot like freshly fallen snow. So add syrup, condensed milk and your choice of toppings and you have a little “winter treat” to enjoy in the middle of summer. That looks good on me, doesn’t it?
Usual price: ¥1000 – ¥2000
Where to try it: in several Japanese bakeries, but you certainly have to make a stop at Atelier Sekka, where the ice comes from Mount Fuji and the syrups are handmade.
This is a whole squid fresh from the grill, spiked on a stick and gently dressed with sweet soy sauce. The meat is chewy, but tender and succulent to the core. We know this for a fact (from squid, of course!)
Usual price: ¥500
Where to try it: local fresh produce markets are a great place to get this giant grilled squid. But when it comes to seafood, there’s no beating Tsujiki Market! Look for ikayaki stands in the Outer Market area.
These sautéed noodles are a classic among children in Japan and an essential dish in any Tokyo food guide. They are egg noodles mixed with fresh cabbage, soybean sprouts, carrots (and anything else you want to add), stir-fried and garnished with a good squirt of Worcester sauce.
Usual price: ¥350 – ¥700
Where to try it: Apetaito and Mikasa are two well-known yakisoba restaurants where you can order a good portion of this street food.
Japan has managed to perfect the art of fried chicken. Here they marinate it in sake, soy sauce, garlic and mirin, and then fry it in delicious bite-sized pieces with a thin cornstarch batter that gives it that extra crunchy texture. Mmmm… yummy!
Usual price: ¥300 – ¥400
Where to try it: karaage can be found in street food stalls, and especially in izakayas. Don’t miss the Kin-No-Torikara, a super modern izakaya worth visiting if only to try its delicious fried chicken!
Freshly made French fries
You’ve probably seen these fries a thousand times on the shelves of the Asian supermarket in your area, but here in Harajuku the wavy fries have their own label and they make them for you right there. Imagine: chips fresh from the fryer, seasoned and garnished with all kinds of spices… Mmm! A real work of art! We recommend the milk chocolate ones… or the cheese ones… or the soft Hokkaido milk ice cream ones… or all three at the same time!
Usual price: ¥230 – ¥410
Where to try them: at the Calbee Plus Store.
Onygiris are the largest and most voluminous version of sushi. This is a typical Tokyo meal that usually comes in the form of a triangle and is quite simple to make. It consists of a handful of very compact rice wrapped in a thin, crispy sheet of seaweed that often has a tasty filling inside. They are cheap and easy to carry, making them the ideal street food to take on the road if you are in Tokyo and are hungry – and especially if you are late for your train!
Usual price: ¥100 – ¥250
Where to try it: you will find onigiri shops inside the train stations and in the shops spread all over the city.
Who knew fried yams covered in candy would be so, so good? Sweet potatoes are already one of the best street foods in Tokyo, but daigaku imo goes even further! They are cut into pieces, fried and glazed with a wonderful mixture of caramelized sugar or honey. The result: an appetizer that is shiny, smooth, crisp on the outside and soft as a cloud on the inside. Served piping hot with black sesame sprinkled on top, it’s cheap, nutritious and totally irresistible!
Usual price: ¥700 per 400 grams.
Where to try: Chibaya, in the Asakusa suburb.
Oden is a typical Japanese food and the perfect antidote to those cold winter nights in Tokyo. The word oden refers to a wide variety of cooked ingredients, from fish cakes to tofu, to meat and vegetables, all cooked in a tasty dashi broth, very typical of Japan. And what’s best about it? That the oden can be personalized and you can add exactly what you want to it! You’ll be very warm and satisfied!
Usual price: ¥100 – ¥300 per unit
Where to try it: if you want to try a real oden, go to Maruken Suisan.
The yakitori are those chicken kebabs you were looking for! You eat them straight from the stick and they’re made from the typical chicken pieces… and also from the not so typical ones. In fact, they usually put everything on them: from the breast to the heart, and even the butt! To make them, they put the skewers on the coals until they are perfect, and then they spread them in tare sauce, a sweet soy sauce glaze of the teriyaki type. Another option is to take them with a dry marinade. In any case, they’re a typical Tokyo street food you can’t miss!
Usual price: ¥100 – ¥200 per unit
Where to try them: at any of the small izakayas or street stalls in Shinjuku Omoide Yokocho, also known as Memory Lane.