I've been living on Kakinotane since I got here, help!
March 5, 2008 9:40 PM   Subscribe

Living cheap in Tokyo?

A five-parter:

1. Please point me to the cheapest places to eat and drink in Tokyo.
I've read about a few places that slash prices on fish and meat at the end of the day; do you know of any?

2. Recipes: I have a rice cooker and basic kitchen stuff - what should I stock up on, and where should I go for essentials? Quick meals to make?

3. Clothes. Apart from Harajuku, where else can I find low prices?

4. Drinks: Cheap? Dive bars?

5. Dollar stores and Pawn shops: where and what?
posted by Taksi Putra to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Re #1 and #4, you may find this site interesting:

posted by thewalrus at 12:11 AM on March 6, 2008

1. You can eat at (public, at least) university cafeterias starting at ¥200. Convenience stores are of course plentiful, inexpensive, and get fresh food (including salads) delivered at least three times daily. If you're coming out of the US, this is not your US 7-11.
3. Do you want low or low and quality? Uniqlo (ユニクロ) is low and quality. It's like Old Navy, if the products were better, or Gap, if the prices were lower. Some trendy, some classic.
4. Rice and furikake (varieties of seasoning). Okonomiyaki is easy to make (if you'll settle with a frying pan instead of the awesome table). Noodles, noodles, noodles.
5. Dude, you've heard of the ¥100 shops right? (hyaku-en) They're like American dollar stores, but only in scheme. You will actually WANT what they're selling, and most of it will be of usable quality. They're everywhere.

thewalrus' link is fun reading. Make sure to see the parts on "only in Tokyo tourist experiences" like buying used porn from a homeless guy and "things that are weird about Kanji." I'll never forget the bug-factory rainbow.
posted by whatzit at 2:52 AM on March 6, 2008

Pawn shops

there are used furniture stores sprinkled here & there. . . there are also pawn shops but that seemed a bit too close to the yazuka world to mess with . . .

keywords you'll need:


Good Day Books in Ebisu has got the best selection & prices, plus you can exchange old books for credit with them.

As for cheap cooking, I think it's really hard to beat the prices for Japanese fast food . . . Tenya, soba places, gyudon chains, etc. And yeah, try the onigiri in the morning from a convenience/corner store. . . it's the perfect breakfast.

I think there's Don Quixote stores in Tokyo now . . . those were coming in as I was leaving, but from what I gathered they're pretty ghetto.
posted by panamax at 3:10 AM on March 6, 2008

I've recently discovered the joys of Hanamasa, a grocery chain that seems to cater to restaurant owners, so a lot of the stuff is in bulk. The two I've been to are small but have HUGE fish and meat sections. Lots of import stuff, too. Good prices. If you like fish, eat it, it's healthy and cheap. If you don't like fish, learn to like it.

You can try Costco, there's several in the Tokyo area. If you've got a large fridge the Y4000 membership can pay for itself eventually, if you go there fairly often. Again, bulk is key.

Hyaku en shop! I'm always amazed at what you can find in those shops. The gloves I've worn all winter? Hyaku en. And they're warm. Just tonight I bought a paring knife half for 100 yen half out of curiosity if it would be sharp enough to cut an apple, and it cuts just fine (for now, anyway). Check out the 100 shop on Takeshita Dori in Harajuku, that's prolly the biggest one I know of in Tokyo.

Check out the 300 coins bar in Shibuya, right across from Tokyu Hands (and downstairs). They rent out for parties a lot, so don't be surprised if they're closed to the public on a Friday or Saturday night. Everything is 300 yen, even the food.
posted by zardoz at 6:31 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

This won't actually save you any Y, but I highly recommend picking up Maekawa Tsukasa's great manga, 大東京ビンボー生活マニュアル ("Guide to Living Cheaply in Greater Tokyo").

It's from the mid-80s, so I'm sure some of the suggestions and set-pieces in it are dated, but it might make living on the cheap in Tokyo feel more romantic, and spiritually worthwhile.

That said, there are some good cheap meal ideas in there, and a helpful diagram showing how to repair a broken umbrella found at the train station.
posted by ryanshepard at 7:03 AM on March 6, 2008

1.Go buy food at the "discount" hour. This approximately half an hour before the supermarket closes, they'll sell fresh food up to 50% cheaper.
the best thing is that it's not only limited to supermarket, it's the same system in any place that sells fresh food, which means bentoya and more importantly the usually very expensive food floor of department store.
There's also the countless cheap restaurant chains, yoshinoya is the most famous, their staple dish is the Beef Bowl, there is also Sukiya, Matsuya etc..

3.I'll second Uniqlo for clothing, great quality and very low price especially in the sales bin, you can get huge supply for very cheap.
There's also a lot of used clothes shop in the small streets of harajuku but they're disparearing steadily.

4. That's a tough one, a beer under 400 yens is really hard to find in Tokyo. Try to stay away from places that cater mainly to foreigners, those are very expensive. Before entering a bar check if there's a cover charge, specially if the prices are suspiciously low. Stay away from "well known neighborhood" like roppongi, shibuya, ebisu... you can probably find cheap places to drink there but you won't have a lot of choices. Try to go to "dirtier", less hip neighborhood, like Koenji or shimokitazawa where you can still find cheap bars. Right next to shimokitazawa station there's an entire block that's going to be demolished in the next couple of years. As a result the rent there is extremely low, people operating bars in that block all sell very cheap beer. It's right next to the station when you take south exit i believe.
If you can choose always order domestic beer by the bottle, it's way cheaper than the tap.
posted by SageLeVoid at 7:59 AM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

Since nobody's mention kaitenzushi yet, if you crave inexpensive raw fish, the conveyor belt places can be pretty good. (A selection of mouth-watering flickr photos.) My favorite is in Shibuya, up the hill: Daidokoya, which is mentioned in this Metropolis article. Some are even as low as ¥100 per plate, although the places that cheap are usually rather, er, industrial.
posted by Rash at 1:18 PM on March 6, 2008 [1 favorite]

My favorite kaiten sushi is Gansu Sushi, which has branches in Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Shimo Kitazawa. If you happen to see it, it is awesome. Just fyi.

105 yen for most things, HUGE pieces of fish.
posted by allen8219 at 1:59 PM on March 6, 2008 [2 favorites]

#3 & #5 Recycle stores like Hard-Off (Mode-Off for clothes).

#4 - Happoshu is a beer alternative that is a fair bit cheaper. Also Yamaya is a good place for cheaper alcohol and western foods.
posted by cwhitfcd at 4:40 PM on March 6, 2008

#2 - Pretty sure at a 100-en shop you can pickup premade packets of bolognese sauce and curry for 105 yen each.
posted by cwhitfcd at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2008

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