Trains in Tokyo are unbelievably convenient and reliable. They are rarely off schedule and have stations in every major location throughout the city.
If you would like a quick train pass that works on all trains in Tokyo, you could always purchase a SUICA card (I always use it).
This can be filled with any amount of money and all you do is swipe through all train gates, use if on most vending machine, easy pay in convenience stores and more. In the end, you can keep it as a souvenir – heres some more information about them - Tokyo Suica, Pasmo
One of the main places that people can grab a cheap bento or snack in a convenience store (called “combini”). You can get heated bento, Japanese onigiri (rice dumplings), hot drinks, beer and other fun snacks. They are also a great place to buy Japanese snacks as souvenirs. Major chains are 7/11, Lawson’s and Family Mart, then there are Mini Stop, Circle K or Sunkus. There are many other small ones, but you pretty much can’t go two blocks in Tokyo without seeing one of those combini.
For inexpensive and healthy meals, it’s also a great idea to check out supermarkets or mall food courts. They usually make traditional and western style bento, heat them up for you and give you utensils. They are great to take to parks for a mini picnic (most people in Japan just buy prepared food for picnics). If you do plan some time out in a park, there will always be a food stall or small restaurant that sells snack foods and small dishes for next to nothing.
Izakaya are fantastic places to try a wide range of traditional Japanese style and sometimes unusual creations at a low price. There are izakaya all over the city. Shibuya is especially full of them.
* Every mall in Tokyo will have top floor restaurants and while they will certainly have many lovely selections, they will also be more expensive. They are a great opportunity to try traditional Japanese dishes since most malls will have one floor with mostly Japanese style restaurants.
Here’s a site that shows you 10 of the top izakaya -
Top Izakaya Tokyo
Some of the malls that have great restaurants are:
- Takashimaya in Shinjuku
- Oazo or Marunouchi Building in Marunouchi (area near Tokyo Station)
- Any Atre mall
Finally, hotels like the Four Seasons, Peninsula, Hilton and so on will have beautiful Japanese restaurants.
For some other inexpensive food places, try:
CoCo Ichiban (Japanese curry) – (logo is at the top left corner in yellow)
Yoshinoya (beef rice bowls) - (logo is at the top left in orange and black)
Tenya (tempura bowls) – -though their brand is written in Japanese, you can easily find them if you look for their blue and yellow logo (top right corner of the revolving images on the site)
As mentioned earlier, izakaya are fantastic.
There are also quite a few “one coin bars” around the city. There are a few in major areas like Shibuya and Shinjuku or even Ebisu. They will literally have a sign that says “one coin bar” and it’s easy to ask anyone because they all understand this term. These places generally have drinks at ¥500 –which is quite cheap in Tokyo, trust me.
Alcohol is readily available in many vending machines (though you might need to swipe id at some) and all combini will have beer if not more (many places will sell wine, chuhai, sake and more).
Asakusabashi Station (East Exit) – There is a chain called Shimojima that has about 5 different buildings full of items from traditional Japanese to supplies, food, housewares and more. Their main building is approximately 3 minutes from the East exit and has about 8 floors of things to look through.
The Asakusabashi area is great to find many different traditional items from toys, food, kimono accessories, faux flowers and decorations and Japanese party supplies. There are many shops that sell inexpensive Japanese gifts, even little stalls run by very old Japanese grannies (I used to buy traditional Japanese furoshiki and tenugui 70% cheaper than anywhere else from one granny in this area).
Harajuku (Takeshita Exit) – Walking down Takeshita street will certainly be an interesting experience. Here you will find many clothing shops (mainly for younger people) but also the largest 100 yen shop in Tokyo. Daiso is famous for many people as the cheapest place for souvenirs and this one has about 5 floors full of stuff from housewares, stationery, decorations, to toys, clothing, snacks and more.
Asakusa – Also a great place to buy traditional items. The entire area is filled with sweet shops, small toy shops, souvenir shops and many stalls, but because it’s a very common tourist spot, some things may be more expensive than Asakusabashi.
Shibuya (Hachiko Exit) – If you are looking for Japanese fabrics (like kimono style fabric) there is a great little shop near the station. When you exit from Hachiko, walk towards the l’Occitane shop on the left (when facing the giant Starbucks), you’ll see tons of fabric on the street and a small shop filled.
Clothing/Accessories – If you would like to find some nice clothing, try Uniqlo and Muji. They are near all of the major stations (like Shinjuku, Shibuya, Akihabara, Ginza and Omotesando ) throughout Tokyo. They have many different styles, great quality and inexpensive compared to most other places. Muji also has many different items for home, stationery, toys and also fun snacks and food.
Train Stations – There are many train stations that have a shopping area in the basement area where items are usually cheaper than normal. Some of the stations are: Shinjuku, Shibuya, Tokyo, Ikebukuro and Ueno.
* Avoid large malls like Isetan, Marui (0101), Takashimaya or Daimaru because they are very expensive.