Make lunch one highlight of your days in Japan, because food is an important and celebrated part of travel in Japan.
Japanese guidebooks introduce foods, cafes, restaurants, bentos, and food souvenirs to buy for your families, friends, and colleagues. Model day trips usually consist of visiting famous sights at your destination, eating local food or visiting a popular restaurant, and shopping for omiyage souvenirs. And those souvenirs are most often food items. Japanese travel programs also focus on local foods.
Don’t know where you should go? Go somewhere for the food – soba noodles in Nagano prefecture, okonomiyaki and takoyaki in Osaka, yudofu in Kyoto. Plan a trip to eat a local specialty as you would plan a trip to visit a local attraction. Or combine the two reasons to travel.
Going to Asakusa in Tokyo? Have tempura, sushi, or monjayaki at an old local restaurant, see Senso-ji temple, and buy some of the food souvenirs the area is famous for like ningyo-yaki cakes and kaminariokoshi crackers.
Going to Matsumoto in Nagano? Visit Matsumoto castle, eat fresh soba noodles, and buy oyaki dumplings with different fillings as a souvenir 日本威士忌.
Wherever you might visit in Japan, make use of the best lunch offers make time in your schedule to explore Japanese food.
1. Get a free upgrade. During lunch you can often get a big portion for the price of a regular one. I have seen this offered for ramen, tsukemen, and curry rice.
2. Get a free refill. Many restaurants serving teishoku style sets will offer you more rice or miso soup. At the tonkatsu restaurant Wako for example staff will serve you more miso soup, rice, and also more cabbage.
3. All you can eat. Just like a salad bar offering as much salad as you want there is buffet style all you can eat called tabehodai. Check lunch at the big hotels. Their tabehodai lunch includes a great variety of savory dishes and desert. The high quality food here is popular with Japanese visitors and the amount you eat is only limited by your appetite and usually generous time limit.
4. Lunch sets. Select a special lunch set at a sushi bar or traditional Japanese restaurant. You can expect to eat an exquisite selection for less than half of what you would pay at dinner time. These lunch sets are a good option if you want to eat at places that would usually outside your budget.
5. Bento box lunch. Boxed lunch is a good option if you want to eat outside at a park or will be on the train during the day. Of course convenience stores offer cheap lunches, but you can also get a bento that is a special treat. Check the restaurants and bento vendors near train stations. Eki-ben (train station bento) often uses local delicacies and is a celebrated class of bento in itself.