Japan has a reputation for being an expensive place to travel, which causes many people to reconsider their plans to go there if they’re on a tight budget.
But after visiting some of the most popular destinations in the country, I realized that it’s possible to explore cities like Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto without breaking the bank.
Specifically, dining in Japan (and even popular tourist destinations like Kyoto) can be affordable when you know where to go.
These small establishments serve up flavorful, traditional Japanese dishes in generous serving sizes without charging a premium.
If conveyor belt sushi, Japanese ramen, traditional Japanese curry, and souffle pancakes are on your Japan foodie bucket list, you’ll fall in love with these places to eat instantly – before you even consider the menu price.
These seven restaurants in Kyoto are some of my personal favorites that deliver a delicious meal for a reasonable price in the heart of the city.
The 7 Best Restaurants In Kyoto
595-5 Uraderacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8041, Japan // +81 75-212-8221
No trip to Japan is complete without sampling souffle pancakes, and in Kyoto, the affordable place to try them (without sacrificing quality) is ELK. This quaint restaurant’s interior is decorated like a coastal cottage with white wooden finishes and artwork that transports you.
There are multiple levels with dining seating, meaning that you get a great view of the city from the windows on the second floor.
But the highlight is definitely the flavorful pancakes which come in a generous serving size.
The orange caramel and chocolate banana flavors are decadent. The restaurant is located in Nakagyo Ward and is open seven days a week.
You can dine in from 11 AM to 7 PM on weekdays and 11 AM to 8 PM on weekends.
598 Uraderacho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8041, Japan // +81 75-241-2205
Ichiran is a famous Japanese ramen restaurant that can be found in several cities across the country. In Kyoto, it promises a nourishing and satisfying meal on a tight budget.
You can select the specifics of your ramen order by filling out a paper menu card upon arrival and then you sit at individual seats, cubicle style, facing the kitchen.
It’s a private dining experience (perfect for solo travelers!) that even offers the opportunity for refills on noodles. Ichiran in Kyoto serves up Hakata-style Tonkotsu ramen (with a rich pork broth), promising a hearty, soul-warming meal that leaves you full and satisfied.
You sit facing what seems to be a wall when looking towards the kitchen but the curtain lifts and a chef places your order on the counter in front of you before closing the curtain again to allow you privacy while dining.
The experience is unique and the food is a generous serving the price. Depending on what variety of ramen you order, meals at Ichiran can be as affordable as $7.00. This was my favorite ramen spot in Japan for dining on a budget!
As a bonus, the restaurant is located near Gion, the historic part of the city, meaning you can have a delicious bowl of ramen noodles just a 15-minute walk from one of the most picturesque areas of the city.
185-4 Zaimokucho, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8017, Japan // +81 75-211-1484
For a unique dining experience in Kyoto, you can make a reservation for a memorable evening at Kichi Kichi Omurice. This restaurant is always busy, so booking in advance is a must.
The restaurant is operated by head chef Motokichi Yukimura, a quirky personality with true talent in both the culinary arts and performance.
He puts on a show for guests as he prepares his Westernized Japanese cuisine in an open-air kitchen for onlookers.
The omurice dish (the restaurant’s signature) is a delicious omelet served hot on a bed of rice, and the presentation is spectacular.
When it’s ready, chef Motokichi Yukimura himself comes to your seat and flips the omelet out of the pan onto your plate, atop the bed of rice.
Then, using a knife, he slices the omelet open so that the soft interior of it flows down over the rice. His enthusiasm and attention to detail all enhance the dining experience and are certain to make this one of your most memorable dinners in Japan.
Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, 604-8055, Japan // +81 75-211-3882
For the budget-conscious traveler, the perfect place to dine in Kyoto is Nishiki Market. This shopping street spans five blocks and is home to hundreds of shops and restaurants.
I tried everything from fresh crab to Melonpan to mochi to matcha-flavored desserts here and it’s all freshly made and delicious.
The best part is the ability to pick and choose what to buy based on budget. Just remember, it’s considered rude to eat while walking in Japan so you’ll need to find a place to sit down and eat before moving onto the next market stall.
Nishiki Market doesn’t have official opening hours that apply to every vendor – it varies from store to store. However, the majority of shops and stalls in this market area are open daily from 9 AM to 6 PM.
This makes it a fantastic place to have a long lunch or enjoy a midday snack. Don’t count on eating at Nishiki Market for dinner because upon arrival around 5:30 PM-6:00 PM (or later) you’re likely to find most vendors have shut down for the day.
440 Ebisucho, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto 604-8005 Kyoto Prefecture // +81 75-222-0634
Conveyor belt sushi is definitely the way to go when trying to eat sushi on a budget in Japan. In Kyoto, you can’t go wrong by dining at Musashi Sushi.
This cozy and modest conveyor belt sushi restaurant is a great place to grab a quick lunch or enjoy a casual dinner in the heart of the city. The price of the meal is based on the amount of plates you accumulate.
As the sushi comes around on the conveyor belt, look at the color of the plate and the prices listed to determine how much your chosen bites will amount to when it’s time to pay the bill at this Kyoto restaurant.
Musashi Sushi in Kyoto is located in Nakagyo Ward and is open seven a days week. You can dine here from 11 AM to 9 PM, making it the perfect meal option for lunch or dinner.
411 Matsuyacho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8105, Japan // +81 75-342-5185
Japan has lots of delicious foods in its culinary repertoire, far beyond sushi and ramen. Japanese curry is a must-try while in Kyoto and the three locations for Coco Curry in the city offer an affordable place to indulge.
The aromatic curry is available with different meats or in a vegetarian variety. It’s served piping hot on a bed of rice and is perfect for warming up on a cool fall or winter day in Japan’s cultural center.
Coco Curry was established in 1978 and is popular among locals and travelers. It’s possible to customize the rice portion, the spice level, and the toppings (meat, seafood, or vegetables), creating nearly 40 varieties of curry dishes to choose from.
The vegetarian curry option starts at the low price of 607 Japanese yen, which is around just $4.00. It really is affordable to eat in Kyoto with delicious options like this specialty curry shop.
420 Matsuyacho, Shimogyo Ward, Kyoto, 600-8105, Japan // +81 75-353-0114
Soba noodles are another affordable meal option in Japan and, fortunately, Kyoto has plenty of wonderful shops to try. From “tachi-kui” (stand and eat) options to sit-down diners, the soba noodles (made of buckwheat flour) are usually served in a hot broth with toppings like an egg and green onion.
Sobanomi Yoshimura is a well-reviewed and budget-friendly place to indulge in this Japanese dish in Kyoto.
Soba noodles in Japan are eaten year-round, but some varieties, like cold soba noodles, are typically reserved for eating during the summer months when the weather is warm. It’s also traditional in many parts of the country to eat soba noodles on New Year’s Eve.
Dining at a stand and eat venue in Kyoto is a great way to get a glimpse of local life and maybe even interact with some people who live in the area! You can count on the crowds drawn in by the best soba noodle shops in Japan being local residents rather than tourists.
For travelers who want to see Japan but aren’t prepared to pay high prices, it’s still possible to get a comprehensive taste of the country’s most famous dishes in Kyoto.
While eating more affordably in Kyoto won’t land you at a restaurant with a Michelin Star in most cases, it doesn’t mean sacrificing the chance to try authentic local cuisine.
From curry houses to conveyor belt sushi to unique breakfast spots, Kyoto’s foodie scene offers something for everyone and every price point.
These budget-friendly Kyoto restaurants are worth marking on your itinerary for future exploration of the beautiful and historic city.
Check out some of the other restaurants guides here.
Robynne Trueman is a Canadian writer and traveller, with a BA in English from the University of Waterloo. She is always searching for her next destination and loves sharing travel information with others. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking with her dog, practicing yoga, or jet setting somewhere on her bucket list. To view some of her original works, check out her personal blog at www.truemantravels.com.