Japan Cheap Eats #3: Matsuya | Kyoto

This is part of a series about eating on a budget and I've titled the series, "Japan Cheap Eats". Many people think Japan is expensive, but I'm here to prove them wrong! We found many budget options and I wanted to share them with you!

Just like most countries, Japan has many fast food restaurants. They have Mickey D's, Wendy's and my personal fave, KFC. You know me and fried chicken, we're soul mates. In addition to these places, they have even better options. They are on a completely different level when it comes to fast food, which isn't surprising, because it's Japan. Throughout the country, they have various gyudon shops. Gyudon literally means beef bowl and it's incredible. Delicious simmered beef and onions are served over white rice. The first gyudon place we visited was Matsuya in Kyoto and it was an awesome experience.

After an afternoon of hiking through Fushimi Inari Taisha, Markus and I were starved. Up to this point, we ate a lot of mart food and we wanted something a little more sophisticated. We scoped out a few places that were within our budget. We almost settled on some burger place, but then we happened to walk by Matsuya. It was like a beacon of light and we couldn't help but go in.

Places like Matsuya have everything down to a science and it's really efficient. The inside is set up like a diner and usually manned by one or two people. I think they wanted to limit as much human interaction as possible. You don't even order through the employees, but through a ticket machine. It's actually kind of cool. I liked that there wasn't any pressure to make an order right away, especially in a place where I don't speak the language. After we placed our orders, we sat down and gave the guy our ticket. He quickly whipped up our order and it was ready in less than 5 minutes.

The gyudon itself was really delicious and I enjoyed the flavors. The meat was both sweet and salty and was complimented by the rice. It's not going to win any awards, but it gets the job done. It's a great healthier alternative to burgers and fries. Overall, we both enjoyed Matusya and gyudon so much that we stopped at almost all the other similar shops. If you're in Japan, this is definitley a great budget eat and something that should be tried, even if it's to use the ticket machine to order your food!

Cost Breakdown:
Large Beef Gyudon Bowl: 480
Medium Beef Gyudon Bowl: 380
Miso Soup: free with beef bowl
TOTAL: 860 yen or $8.41

Japan Cheap Eats #2 | Nagasaki

This is part of a series about eating on a budget and I've titled the series, "Japan Cheap Eats". Many people think Japan is expensive, but I'm here to prove them wrong! We found many budget options and I wanted to share them with you!

Previously, I posted about eating cheap in Japan. As most people know, Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Everyone always talks about how expensive it is, but Markus and I were determined to enjoy Japan despite being on a budget. One of the best ways to control your budget is eating frugally. For most of our time in Japan, we ate really cheap, but there were times that we splurged. I mean, I couldn't travel all the way to Japan and eat at 7-11 the whole time!

Another really cheap place to eat is the grocery store. Japan, like Korea, has really great supermarkets. They are filled with ready to made meals at reasonable prices. There is so much variety and it always took us a long time to decide what to eat. The food is made fresh daily and really affordable. They have everything you could want, sushi, bento boxes, salads etc. It's a really great alternative to eating fast food, which is always the last resort for us. When Markus and I got sick of going to marts, we always trekked to the nearest grocery store. 

For our second cheap eats, we decided to go a bit healthier. We didn't want to overload on ramen and fried foods. Markus and I always split everything, so that we can have a nice variety of tastes and meals. For this meal, we chose a salad, grilled eel with rice and sashimi with udon. Everything was really good. I couldn't believe that our meal was only $10. It was also nice to eat something that felt fresher and a bit healthier. If we spent all our time eating instant ramen and fried chicken, I'm sure our bodies would've hated us!

Cost Breakdown:
Salad: 105 yen
Salad Dressing: 20 yen
Grilled Eel with Rice: 498 yen
Sashimi with Udon: 398 yen
TOTAL: 1021 yen or $10.06

Japan Cheap Eats #1 | Nagasaki

This is part of a series about eating on a budget and I've titled the series, "Japan Cheap Eats". Many people think Japan is expensive, but I'm here to prove them wrong! We found many budget options and I wanted to share them with you!

Earlier, I posted about cheap eats in Japan and promise that I would post more. Markus and I knew that Japan was gonna be the last international trip that we would make for a year or two, so we wanted to make the most of our trip there. We had one problem, we couldn't spend as much as we liked. We saved quite a bit of cash while working as ESL teachers in South Korea, but we didn't want to go overboard. In a country like Japan, it's SO easy to spend all your money. Markus and I knew that we would probably never have a chance to fly to Japan for free, so we took full advantage of the opportunity.

It's a pretty well known fact that Japan is expensive, but if you know the tricks, it's surprisingly affordable. When Markus and I travel, we try to be smart. We don't do everything on the cheap, but we try to spend our money wisely. One of the ways that we made the trip affordable was eating cheap. Thankfully, Japan has many economical options and many of these options are really yummy.

Our main go to place for budget eats were the marts or convenient stores. In America, most people in their right mind would not eat a meal at a convenient store. In Japan and even Korea, it's a popular place to get cheap and yummy eats. In Japan, there are so many options and on our first night we really pondered our selection. One of my favorite snacks in Korea was samgak kimbap. It's also known as onigiri in Japan. Basically, it's a triangle of rice that is mixed with a vegetable or protein and then wrapped in seaweed. We ate every version available in Korea and in Japan, there were even more offerings. The best thing about samgak kimbap? They're so cheap. The cost varies between $1-$2. For our first cheap eat, we got two kimbaps, a fried chicken patty, a huge U.F.O. ramen and a Suntory beer.

As for the taste of everything? I would say average and quite good. It was filling and it didn't taste bad at all. The kimbap were okay. We got one with a weird root vegetable and one with fish eggs. I loved the fish egg one, but I love fish eggs. The root vegetable wasn't my favorite and it tasted like salty rice. The ramen was pretty yummy and had a nice flavor. The fried chicken patty wasn't anything special and tasted like you expect. I've always wanted to drink something by Suntory, ever since I watched Lost in Translation. One of my favorite scenes is when Bill Murray is shooting a commercial for Suntory. It's great and I made it a life goal to have a Suntory drink in Japan.  The beer itself tasted like a pale ale. Nothing really special.

Overall, I enjoyed our first cheap eat in Japan. Although, between the ramen and the fried chicken, I was feeling a bit heavy. I love ramen, but the sodium content is really too much and this meal completely lacked veggies. By the end of our trip, we were mart experts and had it down to a science. I can't wait to share more Japan cheap eats with you!

Cost Breakdown:
Samgak Kimbap: 240 yen
U.F.O. Ramen: 300 yen
Fried Chicken Patty: 350 yen
Suntory Beer: free with chicken purchase
TOTAL: 890 yen or $8.71