Finding Fast Food
How to Dine Like the Locals - Quick Eats on the Go Japan is known for its masterfully prepared cuisine, When you are looking for a quick and affordable bite to eat in Japan, there are plenty of local options. In a country where convenience is king, you do not have to look far to sample the country’s take on fast food.
If you’re here in the summer it’s only a matter of time before you find yourself in the middle of a Japanese Matsuri (festival). Some of the most amazing street food that Japan has to offer will be tucked behind colorful stands with gleefully shouting vendors. Depending on your sense of adventure, you can enjoy plenty of exotic tastes like “ika kushi” (grilled squid), “takoyaki” (battered octopus), and even desserts like chocolate-dipped bananas.
Other yatai food stalls can be found in various areas around town, typically away from the more modern and sterile business and residential areas. You can get a lot of the same things you’d get at a festival, but often with a wider selection and colorful characters to eat with.
As the one-stop shop for hangover cures and rushed lunches, gyudon (beef bowl) chains like Sukiya and Yoshinoya are one of the most popular options for a quick, cheap, and filling meal. These are considered the Japanese equivalent of a fast food burger chain.
Open 24 hours a day, you are sure to find some interesting local characters enjoying the staple menu of thinly sliced beef over rice, complemented with a small salad and hot miso soup. Starting at 510 yen for a set meal, it’s a must whether you are a budget traveler and or a local resident.
One of the more traditional fast food options are the classic noodle, though in many varieties of preparation and location.
Ramen is of course the most popular variety, and can be had just about anywhere until quite late at night. Once you start to learn the different types of ramen and all of the options it will never look the same.
For a real local experience you can even find street ramen carts that pop-up in the late evening, catering to exhausted salarymen and the weary traveler. The unique experience is a must for those traveling in Japan as a chance to enjoy a slowly disappearing offering in the fast food world.
“Standing” noodle bars can also be found in cities, especially near train stations. This is truly fast food, as you order and eat standing up, and then head back out on your way.
Bento Lunch Vendors
If you find yourself wandering in any commercial area in Japan during lunch time, it can be a challenge to find something to eat. Keep an eye out for bento carts that pop-up near office buildings before disappearing again in a few hours. As they aim to keep the salaryman population well-nourished, you can be sure to enjoy a healthy meal that is hand prepared especially for you.
Of course, these days there are even more options to get bento meals, including supermarkets and convenience stores, so it’s very difficult to find yourself hungry without a proper meal available, regardless of the time of day.