The late Anthony Bourdain once said, "I love Tokyo. If I had to eat only in one city for the rest of my life, Tokyo would be it." Not only does this city have some of the best food options, but many of them are budget-friendly. This itinerary takes you on an expedition through several of Tokyo’s neighborhoods to give you a taste of the cuisine that makes it one of the world’s -- and not just Bourdain's -- favorite dining destinations.
1. Fuel up for the day with an onigiri. Begin your day with a quick stop at either Family Mart, 7-11, or any other konbini (convenience store) for an onigiri, a triangle-shaped, seaweed-wrapped rice ball, which is a beloved Japanese snack. Salmon, cod roe, tuna and mayo, and pickled plum are all popular fillings. If you can’t figure out what's inside from the packaging, we suggest rolling the dice and enjoying the surprise once you take a bite.
Price: about 100 yen (approximately $1)
2. Have a seafood breakfast at Tsukiji’s outer market. While Tsukiji is well-known for its tuna auction and specialty sushi shops, the real reason to visit is the fresh seafood, which you'll find in the outer market stands. Get a thick cut of toro sliced to eat as sashimi, or take your pick of all kinds of grilled seafood, like unagi skewers or oysters on the half shell. After you’ve had your fill of savory bites, try the tamago (egg omelette) on a stick at Marutake. Price: about 200 yen ($1.85) for grilled unagi skewer, and approximately 100 yen ($1) for a tamago skewer
3. Get your fill of charcoal-grilled meat at Buta Yarou.
Stroll through Ginza’s high-end shops and on through the Imperial Palace to work up your appetite before you reach Buta Yarou in Ochanomizu. The line usually snakes up the stairs to the small, unassuming third floor shop for good reason. Place your order by vending machine and you’ll be rewarded with a bowl of marinated grilled pork over rice topped with chopped green onion. Bowls come in three sizes, though a small order is pretty filling -- especially because you'll want to leave room for more snacks, bites, and meals throughout the rest of the day.
Price: About 500 to 900 yen ($5 to $8), depending on size
4. Stop by Gindaco for takoyaki.
Hop on the Chiyoda subway line to Meijijingu-Mae Station, where you can visit the peaceful Meiji Shrine and Harajuku’s Takeshita Street. Of course, while you're in the area, be sure to visit Gindaco to try takoyaki (balls of grilled dough stuffed with octopus). The delicious dough balls are crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside; they're served piping hot with a generous amount of sauce and mayonnaise. Go for the original version first, but stuffings like cheese and green onion are also worth a try.
Price: 580 yen (about $5) for 8 balls
5. Enjoy a well-priced sushi dinner at Sushi Zanmai.
For high-quality sushi at reasonable prices, make your way to Sushizanmai, a casual, 24-hour eatery. Take a seat at the bar and make your selection of nigiri from an English picture menu before passing off your order form to the chef. Some of our favorite menu items are chu-toro (medium fatty tuna), engawa (flounder fin), and ebi (sweet shrimp).
Price: around 100 to 400 yen ($1 to $4) per nigiri, or about $24 for 12 pieces
6. Close the night with a bowl of Afuri Ramen.
After bar-hopping your way through the nightlife district of Roppongi (Tokyo's lively entertainment district), there’s nothing better to end a boozy evening than with a bowl of ramen at Afuri. Half of a soft-boiled egg and a few slices of grilled chashu pork top the noodles. Known for its light, citrusy yuzu-flavored broth made with chicken, fish, and seaweed, the ramen here won’t disappoint.
Price: about 1000 yen (around $8)