Looking for part one? You can find it here. Come back when you’re done! Or just read this one first. The order doesn’t really matter.
Food markets and street stalls
Sit-down restaurants in Japan tend to be quite expensive. A nice alternative is buying food from food markets and taking it to your hotel, hostel, or AirBNB. Most of the foods listed here came from Keihan Food Market, branches of which can often be found attached to Keihan Department Stores. Others were bought at stalls that we happened to pass by.
Tonkatsu is meat, usually a pork cutlet, seasoned, covered in batter, and deep fried. I prefer to eat it as part of a meal with rice, egg, and spring onions, but this small size (¥151) is good for snacking on. Like many of the single-serving offerings at the food markets, this one comes with a small packet of sauce and disposable utensils.
If you bring your own while you travel, thanks for helping save the earth! And be sure to let them know before they give you your food.
Locally called “korokke”, croquettes originated in France in the late 1800s. Though many cultures have their own version of the recipe, it is the founder of classical French Cuisine, Auguste Escoffier, who is credited with being the first to write it down and pass it on.
We were walking around Kyoto and passed by a cafe window where croquettes were on display. That’s where I got the plain potato croquette on the left. On the right is a cheese and mushroom (mostly cheese) croquette I got at a food market. They were priced at ¥200 and ¥367 respectively.
Crab and cheese waffle
The walk from Himeji Castle to the train station is a long one. Among the wide streets and tall buildings, we saw a bakery of sorts advertising what looked like a corn dog. Upon closer inspection, we saw that it was a kind of crab-and-cheese-stuffed waffle, so we lined up. They cost ¥300 apiece. It was good to have something hot to munch on while we walked in the cold.
Kuromon Ichiba or Kuromon Market houses about 150 shops where you can buy fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, seafood, and even candies and houseware. It’s a short walk from Dotonbori. If you’re going by train, alight at the Nipponbashi Station on either the Sennichimae or Sakaisuji lines. You can also walk to the market from Namba Station.
Most of the mochi I had eaten before came out of a box, at room temperature. So I was surprised to feel how warm this mochi was when I bought it from a sweet old lady for just ¥150. It’s also a lot bigger than the mochi that usually comes pre-packaged.
Many stalls sell strawberries, bananas, watermelon slices, cantaloupe slices, pineapple slices, and other fruits on sticks to enjoy (carefully) while you’re walking around. If you want strawberries, you can choose between all red strawberries, all white strawberries, or a mix of the two. I opted for a mix. The white strawberries were a bit sweeter and had a slightly different texture from the red ones.
White strawberries need a large space to grow, and only about 10% of strawberries turn out white, which makes them more expensive. The skewer of three strawberries cost me ¥500 (about $4.50 or PHP 234.00). In the US, just one good-sized white strawberry can go for $10. Special breeds like to Kokota strawberry can cost as much as $22.
Some spaces in Kuromon Market are wide enough to accommodate dine-in guests. At the counter, you’ll be asked if you’re going to eat here, and if you say “Yes”, you’ll be shuffled off to the tables where you may have to share the space with a stranger or two. I sat down for a meal of salmon sushi (¥448). The salmon slices had a nice amount of fat in them and came with a little packet of soy sauce. It was a nice light lunch for a day that included a lot of walking, eating, and walking while eating.
Grocery and convenience store finds
If you want to spend less without going hungry in Japan, it’s always a good idea to get some of your snacks and meals from grocery stores and konbinis. You can even shop for little souvenirs, delicacies, and gifts at some of them – a much cheaper alternative than getting them at the airport. I wrote about more of these on my first Japan food blog.
Onigiri is a rice ball, usually with some kind of filling, wrapped up in nori. The filling can range from pickled plums to tuna salad to pork. I got this one from a grocery store near the hotel. It’s stuffed with mildly spicy salmon flakes.
On my last trip, I bought an onigiri mold, and I’ve used it to make tuna onigiri, corned beef onigiri, and whatever-is-left-over-from-yesterday onigiri. You can get a wide variety of onigiri flavors for under ¥200. Bigger ones may cost slightly more, but they also have more filling, so it’s worth it if you’re extra hungry. We usually have onigiri in combination with cup noodles and a boiled egg.
You’ll come across many tourist spots in Japan that will require you to do a lot of walking. If you’re eating on the go or if you just want to eat light, you can get a sandwich and bring it with you. I got a teriyaki burger at a grocery store for only ¥89. At the same grocery store, I got an egg salad sandwich for ¥135. I even got a dessert sandwich at a convenience store: a vanilla ice cream sandwich for ¥148.
A favorite among locals and tourists alike, the Famichiki (¥170) is a boneless deep fried chicken fillet. It’s perfect for when you get a sudden craving for fast food. You can also get a serving of rice at Family Mart, where it’s sold, and make it a meal.
I opened this pack wrong because of how I wanted it to look in the picture. For easier eating, you’re actually supposed to tear along the broken line below the logo. But whatever way you open it, it tastes just as good.
Teriyaki chicken and pickled radish on rice
On my last day in Japan, I had done a lot of shopping and packing, and I wanted to have a chill dinner at the AirBNB. I bought all the components at the nearest 7/11 and stuck everything in the microwave. The serving of chicken was already cooked, so I laid it out on the plate and put some cheese slices on top of it. I had it with rice and some pickled ginger on the side to balance out the savory flavor. The whole meal cost less than ¥600 and I still had some leftover ginger and cheese.
Sit-down restaurants and shops
We hit Dotonbori the very first night we got to Japan because we wanted to eat – and that’s what you do in Dotonbori, aside from taking pictures by the bridge. We had all been before, and there was one place that stood out in my mind from my first trip. It’s where I had the best takoyaki I’ve ever had, so I needed to take my friends there. Takohachi offers ten pieces of takoyaki for ¥800, piping hot and smothered with Kewpie mayonnaise, with the bonito flakes still dancing in the steam. It’s a bit pricey compared to what you can get in the Philippines, but once you taste it, you’ll understand why. It’s fishy and delicious and filling, and most definitely worth coming back for.
I talked about the Ichiran experience in my Japan food blog from last year. The Select 5 is a must-try, especially if it’s your first time at Ichiran. This time around, I also took some of the magic home with a five-pack of noodles that comes with broth, flavoring, and chili powder.
Tonkatsu set meal
Across the street from Himeji Castle, there is a row of shops and restaurants where you can dine al fresco and people (and dog) watch. We had lunch after a fun but tiring tour of the castle to fuel up before heading to Koko-en Gardens. Click through to read more about the castle and the gardens, which you can get a joint ticket for at a discounted price.
I ordered a tonkatsu set meal (¥1,300) that came with a rice bowl, some pickled veggies, and a bowl of noodle soup. While we were waiting, we were also served some nuts which, our waiter proudly explained, are a specialty in Himeji.
I don’t usually go out of my way to eat at Yoshinoya in the Philippines because I prefer other Japanese restaurants, even for Japanese-style fast food. But Yoshinoya in Japan is a different experience, not just in terms of the food they serve but also the dizzying order-to-payment process. The branch I visited was packed with people in corporate wear on their lunch break. It took me a moment to figure out which line was which as there weren’t many signs in English. One line is for takeout orders; another is for paying. I spent a few minutes in one before observing and realizing that there was no line to sit down. Oops.
I settled in and ordered a bowl of gyudon (¥387). It’s one of the cheapest items on their menu, but still quite filling. I got in line to pay, told the cashier (after some back-and-forth) that I didn’t have a discount card, and was on my way with a full stomach.
Japan is known for high-quality, luxurious Wagyu beef, but beef is generally good there even when it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Toward the end of my trip, I wanted to have a nice sit-down meal without going too far from the hotel. I was exploring the stores in the Moriguchi Station and came across a restaurant called Beco. They advertised a steak meal for ¥1,518.
The meal included soup and salad served buffet-style, some potato wedges, and a drink of your choice. I had my fill of vegetables from the salad bar, which was a nice substitute for rice. There was also sauce to go with the steak, but the meat was so flavorful, I ended up not using much of it.
Although it’s named after the Spanish painter, Pablo originated in Osaka. It made its way to the Philippines in 2016. I witnessed the hype when people first got their hands on Pablo’s famous cheese tarts, but the shop was a long ways away from where I was living at the time, so I never got around to trying them. I was pleasantly surprised to discover how much cheaper Pablo is in Japan (¥900 or around PHP 420 compared to PHP 600 in Manila). We bought one to share and took it to the hotel.
The crust was flaky but didn’t fall apart when we divided the tart into pieces. The cream cheese filling was so light, nicely accentuated by the slightly sweeter layer of jelly on top. Considering the indulgence (and the price), I would save these tarts for special occasions.
Hungry for more?
Check out my food gallery from my 2019 trip to Japan and my Japan Master List for links to my beauty and skin care haul, tips for visiting Japan on a budget, blogs about tourist destinations all over the Kansai region, and more information and resources. Happy travels!