Japan is a gourmet country, with sushi, ramen, udon, the list goes on and on. Each food has its own specialty restaurant, and the owner will probably offer you the best dish. However, if you want to enjoy Japanese cuisine in a more convenient and affordable way, fast food restaurants are the best place to go. They are everywhere in Japan, and their menus are usually relatively cheap! And don’t underestimate the quality of those foods, it’s cheap but still delicious which makes it the best way to save money during the trip. Here is our list of popular fast food restaurant chains in Japan!
- Family-friendly restaurants
- Soba and Udon
- Set meal
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Gyudon, a Japanese soul food, is the best combination of sweet and spicy stewed beef and rice. You can get some simple and basic types of gyudon as well as the unique and seasonal ones at the restaurants. There are three main gyudon chains competing with each other for the best taste and uniqueness on the menu. These chain restaurants also offer takeout.
Sukiya is a nationwide chain of gyudon restaurants, and boasts the largest number of gyudon chain restaurants in Japan. Sukiya’s standard gyudon is known for its deliciousness and reasonable price and offers different sizes of gyudon, ranging from mini size to extra large. This system is quite popular since you can choose your favorite size.
Matsuya is one of the most famous gyudon chain restaurants in Japan. Its regular menu item, “Gyumeshi,” has a thick, sweet flavor that makes it hard to stop eating once you start. The restaurant also offers curry, udon, and limited time set meals.
Yoshinoya is a global gyūdon chain that has expanded not only throughout Japan but also overseas. Its main product, gyūdon, has a standardized flavor and continues to pursue the same delicious taste. In addition to Yoshinoya’s gyudon, there are also butadon (pork bowl) and beef kalbi bowls (beef rib bowl), which is also a crowd pleaser.
Sushi is probably represents Japanese cuisine in the biggest way. It’s very simple with fresh seafood and vinegared rice. The popular sushi chain restaurants are conveyor belt sushi restaurants called kaiten sushi where they offer 2 pieces of sushi on a plate for only 100 yen (~1$)!
They don’t only have seafood, but you can also enjoy a variety of unique sushi(even meat sushi) at each popular kaiten sushi chain.
Recently, the popularity of Kura-sushi has taken Japan by storm. Kura-sushi is committed to the policy of providing safe, delicious sushi, and does not use major additives such as chemical seasoning, artificial sweetener, synthetic color or artificial preservatives whatsoever in their 200 seasonings they use in their restaurants, from sushi ingredients to soy sauce.
One of the most unique features of Kura-sushi is the gachapon game to win the toys! Put five plates in a slot after finishing them and you get a chance to play a game. If you win the game (it depends on your luck), a small toy will come out!
The take-out system is also very popular, and you can make a reservation by using your smartphone and then simply pick it up at your local Kura-sushi restaurant. If you want to have a sushi party at home, then Kura-sushi is your best choice!
If you want to eat good sushi at a reasonable price, Sushiro is the perfect place to go. Most of the sushi on the menu is less than 150 yen. Sushi items such as tuna, salmon, and shrimp are available for around 100 yen per plate and they are amazingly delicious. Side dishes such as ramen, karaage and desert are also popular.
Sushiro is a conveyor belt restaurant, but also launched takeout only shops throughout Japan.
There are many types of rice-bowl dishes in Japan besides Gyūdon. They are called donburi. The taste varies depending on the ingredients that are poured over the hot rice.
A bowl of tempura served on hot rice is called “tendon”. It often costs over 1,500 yen if you eat at specialty restaurants. However, at Tenya, one of Japan’s best tendon chain restaurants, you can easily enjoy tendon for around 500 yen. Of course, you can also get it to-go. Enjoy the harmony of crispy battered tempura and hot rice!
One of the most popular donburi chain restaurants is Nakau, which continues to offer a wide variety of donburi. Nakau’s most popular menu item is oyako-don, a rice bowl meal topped with cooked chicken and egg (oyako means a parent and child in Japanese). Nakau is not limited to oyakodon, but continues to produce a variety of other products such as Katsu-don (a cutlet rice bowl), Curry, and Kaisen-don (sushi bowl).
Hamburgers are a typical American fast food. Since McDonald’s first came to Japan in 1971, it has been very popular among people living here. And not only McDonald’s and other chain restaurants from the States, Japan has developed their own version of hamburger chains over the years.
Mos Burger is a hamburger chain restaurant that started in Japan. Their standard hamburger, Mos Burger has a perfect balance of a thick slice of tomato, special meat sauce and a juicy meat patty. It is a classic product that has been loved for its consistent taste over a long period of time.
Freshness Burger is a high standard hamburger chain that operates mainly in the Kanto area. Its menu is priced higher than others but it’s popular. Their secret is that they literally use the freshest ingredients for their burgers. The classic burger, their basic and popular item, is very filling with a juicy meat patty, pieces of fresh lettuce and a slice of tomato.
First Kitchen is a fast food chain operated by Wendy’s and has their chain restaurants mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. First Kitchen’s Bacon Egg Burger has been the most popular burger since the establishment of the company. It creates a beautiful harmony with fluffy grilled eggs, crispy bacon and special tartar sauce.
There are family-friendly restaurants which have a variety of kid’s menus and most of the items on their menu are inexpensive. The atmosphere is slightly similar to an American diner, and you can find a wide range of restaurants from Italian to Japanese.
Saizeriya is a very popular chain of family restaurants in Japan. They offer decent Italian food at reasonable prices. Every menu item is inexpensive with pizzas ranging from 400 to 500 yen and pasta from 400 to 700 yen. Therefore, it’s quite popular not only among families but also among students and young people.
Steak, pasta, Japanese food, hamburgers, salads…. If you want to eat and enjoy almost anything and everything, Jonathan’s is great! Jonathan’s is a well-known family restaurant chain in Japan and they are mainly located in the Kanto area. You may struggle with what to pick from a wide variety of food on the menu. After your meal, you always have the option of finshing with a tasty dessert!
Soba and Udon
Soba is buckwheat noodles that are made by grinding buckwheat seeds into a powder, kneading it with some flour and water and then boiling it. Udon is a thick noodle made with flour. Both are popular types of noodles in Japan and people usually eat them with hot dashi soup stock or iced water. Here are the best chain restaurants to eat soba or udon at in Japan!
Fuji Soba is a soba chain restaurant located in many train stations in Japan. It’s a standing restaurant, but many of them have seats so that you don’t necessarily have to eat standing up. Therefore, the turnover rate is quite high so it is perfect for business people who are always busy and don’t have much time for a meal. The standard menu only costs around 300 yen!
Hanamaru Udon is a udon chain that has developed its flavor from Kagawa Hanamaru Udon that started in Kagawa Prefecture. It is well-known as “the Kingdom of Udon”. The self-service style helps keep the prices low. In spite of the low price, they continue to pursue the quality of the authentic taste by carefully selecting the ingredients and making the noodle dough kneading process authentic.
Like Hanamaru Udon, Marugame Seimen is a nationwide udon chain offering delicious udon in a self-service system. The most important thing about Marugame Seimen is that their noodles are carefully made in the store. Therefore, you can enjoy fresh udon at any time. “Kama-age Udon”, one of Marugame Seimen’s signatures, is a hot udon in a wooden vat (a normal size) for 290 yen. Tempura is recommended as the optional topping.
Japanese curry is usually served with rice, and the flavor of the curry differs from Indian curry, almost making it seem like a completely different food. India, the motherland of curry and rice, exported it to Great Britain first. Then, curry and rice was brought to Japan by British people during the Meiji period. Nowadays, it’s always at the top of the list as one of Japanese people’s favorite foods.
CoCo Ichibanya is a Japanese curry chain restaurant popularly known as “Coco Ichi”. It has now expanded not only in Japan but also to other countries such as the U.S., the U.K., and China. The big advantage of CoCo Ichi is that customers can customize the spice level, quantity, toppings, and even the type of roux to their liking. You’ll surely find a curry to your liking at Coco Ichi.
Go Go Curry
Go Go Curry is a curry chain restaurant that operates mainly in Ishikawa Prefecture and Tokyo. The gorilla logo on the exterior and interior really grabs peoples attention. The curry and rice served by Go Go Curry is called Kanazawa Curry and its roux is quite dark, thick, and rich in flavor. Their signature dish, loin cutlet curry is curry and rice with a big loin cutlet and is filling and delicious.
Teishoku (定食) is a well-balanced set meal, usually consisting of rice, miso soup, and a main dish. This is a typical Japanese meal and you can easily find it for a reasonable price. It is very popular and often sold at all restaurants including Izakaya during lunch time. There are even some chain restaurants that serve teishoku style meals.
Ootoya has opened many branches mainly in the Kanto area. The thing about this restaurant that attracts people is that they cook every set meal in the restaurant before serving it. You can enjoy a hot, freshly prepared meal for around 1,000 yen. If you want to get a good balance of nutrition and energy, Ootoya is a great option.
Every fast food restaurant has it’s own strong points and therefore appeals to different people. If you want to save a bit of money, some chain restaurants even offer coupons. Also, a lot of places offer takeout if you would rather eat at home instead of at the restaurant. There are lots of cheap and even healthy fast food options in Japan for you to try. Which one do you want to try the most?
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Mao Goto is a Japanese freelancer who was born in Hayama, Kanagawa prefecture, and raised in Tokyo. Since 2016 she lives in the Taito Ward, home to a lot of Japanese culture hotspots such as Asakusa, Akihabara, and Ueno. She has been interested in the field of English education of Japan and got her Master’s degree in March, 2020. A lover of photography, travel, sweets, and cross-stitch. Contact her via Facebook.
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