Is eating out expensive?
Not as much as you might think. While you can spend a lot on food in Japan if you want to, there’s also an amazing variety of cheap and delicious food on offer. The Japanese don’t put up with poor quality food as a rule, so you can expect even the cheapest convenience stores, ramen bars and family restaurants to be tip-top.
Will there be anything my kids can eat?
Everyone’s kids are different (we know we don’t need to tell you that). But the chances are, whether they’re adventurous or uber-picky, your children will find something they love to eat in Japan.
Western food is widely available in cities, particularly Italian, French and American. Even when it isn’t, there are lots of Japanese-style foods that appeal to Western kids. Ramen noodles, okonomiyaki pancakes, yakitori grilled skewers, donburi rice bowls and Japanese-style curries are some that have been a hit with our kids.
If you’re really stuck, no matter where you are, you’ll always be able to cobble together a picnic from a konbini (convenience store).
We have a vegan / celiac / allergy sufferer in the family. Will they be OK?
Yes! (With a little forward planning). Japan is fairly new to dietary requirements, but it’s getting better all the time. Vegan, celiac or allergy sufferer: food can still absolutely be a highlight of your holiday.
One big thing to note is that, because dietary requirements are rare in Japan, it’s not enough just to say that you’re vegan or gluten-free. You need to be specific about what you can and can’t eat, and if you have an allergy you’ll need to explain what precautions the chef needs to take. Even foods advertised as vegetarian can contain fish stock (dashi), so it’s a good idea to double-check before you order.
When we have clients with dietary requirements, there are several things we always do to take the stress out of eating in Japan. First, we explain their needs in advance to any Japanese-style inns or experiences where meals are included. Booking it yourself, turning up on the day and then telling them you can’t eat this or that will put them in a pickle. Of course, you can book somewhere yourself and email ahead – but trust us, it’s not a smooth process! We also know which inns and experiences are able to modify their meals to suit various requirements, so we can hand-pick the right accommodation and activities for each family.
For families who want to dine out independently, we can make reservations in advance for high-end restaurants. For everything else, we provide destination guides packed with recommendations. We also arm all our clients with a Japanese-English cheat sheet outlining their dietary requirements so restaurant staff can understand their needs at a glance.
If you’re still concerned, travelling on a Small Group Tour is a great way to ensure that you always have someone to help with dietary requirements, read menus, book restaurants and make recommendations. We often have families join our tours, and they always have a wonderful time.
How will we find good restaurants?
If you travel with us, we’ll provide you with destination guides packed full of first-hand recommendations from our staff. They’re an invaluable source of information on what’s good to eat in every corner of the country.
That said, don’t be afraid just to walk into somewhere that looks popular and smells delicious. It’s very rare to come across a restaurant in Japan where the food isn’t excellent. In well-trodden destinations, even the smallest restaurants are likely to have some form of English menu, and will often display a sign outside to that effect.
If you’re staying at a hotel with a concierge desk, they can make reservations and recommendations for you – and can sometimes even snag a table at a famous restaurant even when it’s “full”!