How to survive Japan on $10 a day

When I was 14, I had a dream. My dream was to visit Japan.

However that dream was held on for 10 years. One whole decade. I was 24 when I first visited Japan. And the reason why it look me so long was that Japan was way too expensive for a regular Malaysian fresh grad like me.

Yearssssssss later, I still get people telling that they are putting Japan on hold as their travel destination because it is too expensive to travel to.

So today I would like to change a little of that misconception, because nowadays, honestly, I sometimes think that certain things in Japan are so insanely cheap that I feel worried for them. Gyudon chains are rivaling to bring the price down down down down, supermarkets are all fighting to offer the lowest price. Want more customers? MAKE IT CHEAPER!!

I was like  オイ、日本!大丈夫かよ?!(Oi  JAPAN!! Are you really okay?!)


So, let’s say you have gotten your flights and accommodation sorted out (which budget hugely relies on how wise you are, since it could vary greatly depending on season and level of luxury) and have splurged all your glorious yen on shopping. Now you are left with a budget of S$10 (¥800) a day for the rest of your trip.

Here’s how you do it (in short):

1. Go window shopping.

2. Go for sightseeing nearby by foot

3. Spend ¥200 each for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

4. You are still left with ¥200 to buy yourself a nice dessert from 7-11 for supper, or to spin a Gatcha Gatcha machine.

5. Go H2o. Tap water is safe for consumption in Japan.


The big question is now, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO SPEND ¥200 ($2.5) FOR A PROPER MEAL?

It is. I tried.

So here are some of the things you need to know:

1. Combini

I always had an impression that combini are relatively pricier because of the premium you pay in exchange for convenience. But it isn’t always.

You can get an onigiri for ¥100+ but obviously that doesn’t really qualify as a proper meal. Most bentos go for about ¥300-500.

However I discovered something awesome, and it is hidden in the frozen section, where most tourists will just skip through.

If you stay in a vacation apartment with a microwave, here are some of your options:

Cha-han (fried rice): ¥108.

$1.40!!! RM4!!!

I bet you can’t get fried rice that tastes so awesome even in Singapore/Malaysia for that price.

I felt like being a little luxurious, so I added mentaiko on top (¥200+ per pack, I used only 1/5 of it).

So that was my less than ¥200 meal. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Other options:

Rich Cheese Carbonara Pasta and Sea Urchin Cream Pasta. Waaaaaaa sounds like a fancy deluxe meal!! It’s ¥238 for Carbonara and ¥399 for that Sea Urchin cream pasta.

I had the Sea Urchin cream pasta twice because it was too yummy.

Where to find USD2 Carbonara (that doesn’t taste like rubbish) anywhere else in the world? It is of a very good size too, I shared with with Junya.


2. Don Quijote

(called “Donki” in short by the Japanese.)

By now you should already know about this legendary Japanese discount store. It is most famed for its cosmetic/snacks/lifestyle goods, but did you also know that it has a fresh grocery section?

Check out some of the grocery prices and you will have to find your eyeballs from the floor.

Let me show you how to shop for under ¥100.

¥28 bean sprout. $0.36.

¥28 tofu. This is getting too ridiculous. Seriously like… WEI, NEED TO DO UNTIL LIDDIS OR NOT?

Well, wait for it.

¥39 Natto. And it’s for a pack of 3 boxes. That’s ¥13 per box. I don’t even. (anyway the catch is each person is limited to buying only maximum of 2 packs. The third pack onwards will cost ¥48 lolol as if it makes a difference.)

Honestly I don’t even remember the last time I paid anything equivalent to ¥13. Probably for usage of public toilet in Malaysia.

One of my favorite soy milk, usually selling ¥100+ in combini, but only ¥78 in Donki.

If you have a fridge in your hotel/apartment, buy the value box of 1000ml for 45% cheaper.

1000ml 100% grape juice at ¥98.

Matcha drink for ¥50.

At this point I wanted to beg Japan to stop being so cheap because my heart is aching. Like… STOP BEING SO RIDICULOUS. JUST TAKE MY MONEY.

Fancy some alcohol? All sort of fruity cocktails at ¥108.

Feeling peckish? Calbee Ebisen at ¥78 each.

Think you have to give up on ichigo because Japanese fruits are just insanely priced? Here’s a more budget one. Tochiotome at ¥398. This is not the cheapest one I’ve seen though.


4. Depachika/Supermarket

Depachika (デパ地下), the basement food market in Japan (if you stay in the city center) or supermarkets (if you stay a little further out).

They are the best place to score for a nice dinner at a cheap price. Food stuff at the food market is relatively expensive, but not when you go at the right time. In Japan there’s the “Depachika War” during 7-8pm, where housewives start to gather around the food corner for the shop staff to place the red and yellow sticker on their ready-to-eat packaged food.

(image from Google)

Yes! We are all waiting for this sticker! Most of the food stuff will get a discount sticker when the supermarket is about to close, from 50 yen off to half price!!

The good thing is that unlike the combini, you get a wider variety of food from Chinese dishes and onigiri to roast meat, yakitori, steak and more!!

You can buy them for your dinner or even for next day’s breakfast/lunch!


5. Lawson 100

Lawson 100 is like DAISO, except that it sells food, including fresh produce.

(image from Google)

Most of the things are 100 yen. One whole Daikon, 100 yen. One pack of mixed vegetables, 100 yen. Even their eggs are 100 yen!!!! I saw a pack of 10 fresh eggs, 100 yen. Each egg is ¥10.


Sometimes as a housewife, I think I will save SO MUCH money if we lived in Japan.


So, you get the idea.

Basically you can conjure up a damn awesome meal for the whole family for… something like 500 yen? And judging from the prices you have just seen, it is damn well possible to spend 200 yen or even less per meal if you cook at home. I always love TKG (tamago kake gohan), so all you need is a bowl of rice (less than 100 yen for sure), break an egg (10 yen), a choice of natto topping (13 yen). That’s 123 yen, feel free to grab that 50 yen Ocha from Donki.

True, if you live in Japan, you gotta pay a lot of things… this tax that tax, salary is so-so… they all add up. However as a traveler to Japan, the choice is all yours. It is entirely possible to spend your days very very very luxurious, or super, super, super budget. In fact I’d say you could spend less than if you visit KL or Singapore. Of course that’s IF you can resist the urge to buy allllllllll the limited edition Japanese snacks hahaha. I know I can’t. 😛

I hope that people who used to have an image of Japan being an expensive to travel to, can see it in a different light after reading this blog post.

Well, if all options failed, Sukiya’s breakfast sets start from 220 yen.

Now you only need the discounted air tickets.

Do share if you know any other hacks to survive on $10 a day in Japan!

28 responses to “How to survive Japan on $10 a day”

  1. Jamma says:

    Your story and my story is the sameee! I have been wanting to go to Japan since I was a kid and after 10 years I really did went and I have no doubt Japan is the country I loveeeeeeee most so I will keep goin back every two years if possible ahahaha! And I also keep telling people japan is not as expensive as it seems!

  2. missronic says:

    U make me wang to go japan now! Lol..

  3. Japan’s combinis are basically my reason to live. They’re so good.

    Charmaine Ng | Architecture & Lifestyle Blog

  4. Yuxing says:

    Not to mention these affordable stuff are of good quality too!!! HOWS?!! <3

  5. wendy says:

    There’s also 業務スーパー (gyoumu supa) if you happen to find yourselves in a suburban area. it’s a frozen/bulk food paradise. i remember one pack of tofu was like 35yen and a pack of 30 frozen gyoza being around 300yen, the icecream you buy from conbini they also have but for only 80 yen! i survived a year in japan thanks to 業務! I think you would love it too cheesie!

  6. F Lee says:

    love the post, and would love to go to japan one day! any of these cheap foods muslim friendly? it would be awesome if you could recommend some cheap but halal food!

    • Antitanggs says:

      Hello, I’m Muslim and I live in Japan 🙂
      Apparently it is quite hard to find Halal food restaurant here.
      I usually cook in my dormitory and shopping in a supermarket called Gyoumu Supa, there you can find many imported food with halal logo and even halal chicken which price is cheaper than usual chicken (around ¥900 for 2 kg!)
      As for restaurant, there’s halal ramen restaurant in Tokyo and Osaka (because all of ramen shops in Japan are not halal).
      And if you’re buying snacks, please read the ingredients carefully. If there’s kanji 乳化剤 (emulsifier) and 豚 (pork) please don’t buy it. But if the ingredients say 乳化剤(大豆由来) emulsifier derived from soybeans, Insha Allah it’s safe 🙂
      Hope it’s helping you 😉

    • cheesie says:

      I will try to compile a blog post 🙂

  7. Joelle says:

    Donki is opening in Singapore soon! Don’t think the prices will be so cheap though. Let’s wait and see.

  8. Elaine says:

    Hello Cheesie.

    I am a reader from M’sia and I have been following your blog since 3 years ago and I always look forward to reading your blog posts regarding your life, family and especially about Japan. You have reinforce my love for Japan. I have been to Tokyo a couple of years ago and this coming July I will be heading to Kyoto and Osaka. Woo hoo!! I would love to make discovering all prefectures in Japan as one of my life goals, just like you do.


  9. bubulala says:

    Hi Cheesie!!!
    Depachika War in anime form~


  10. Antitanggs says:

    Cheesie… I used to think Japan is so expensive too. But I have lived in Japan for 8 months and I can survive with ¥50,000 per month!! It’s possible to save our money in Japan especially if we visit suburb area or inaka. The food price is way cheaper than food in Jakarta. Also you can buy cheap food from big day, Entetsu, or kyorindo (super drug store) and since most shop in Japan close at around 8 pm, the food is discounted starting from 6:30 pm. No need to worry what to eat for dinner.

    P.S I hope I can meet you in Shizuoka Prefecture. I live in Hamamatsu city and I like this city better than Osaka! Haha
    Please visit Hamamatsu one day 😉

    • cheesie says:

      That’s amazing!!! Thanks so much for sharing :))) I have just seen a feature article on Hamamatsu, would love to visit it some day!! :))

  11. Nang linn says:

    I’m going there in dec.. booked JAL flight n still looking for accommodation.. what’s the best shopping area in Tokyo and recommended food/restaurant in Kyoto ? What time n weekday is the the best to go to USJ at Osaka?

  12. gensdetat says:

    Hi Cheesie!

    Been a silent reader for a while. Wanted to share your blog to my friends visiting japan via fb but it seems that its blocked as Fb deemed your website as unsafe. Not sure if you are aware of it but just want to let you know!

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