Travelling usually results in eating out for every meal which can be a shock to your bank balance. Tourists are enthusiastic to sample authentic Japanese food making them easy prey for overpriced tourist traps.

For this reason, chain restaurants can be a haven for financially challenged travellers.

Eat Cheap in Tokyo with Japanese Chain Restaurants

While ideally you would dine on the finest cuisine three times a day, there isn't usually enough time or money. In Japanese chain restaurants, you can often get a full meal for 500 yen (that’s about $5). Many of these restaurants also provide free, unlimited green tea so you don't have to worry about buying a drink.

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Branches of famous chains can be found in any area of the country, and easily looked up on Google Maps. If you’re in a hurry to grab lunch there is usually no queue and the food will be brought out straight away.

If you believe chain restaurants can’t be ‘authentic’ then take a look inside. There will be very few fellow tourists. Locals eat at chain restaurants on a regular basis, what could be more authentic than that?

Here's a guide to some popular chains...

Sushiro (Sushi)

Kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) is a must-visit for every tourist to Japan. If you're worried about racking up a big bill while snatching delectables off the conveyor belt, these chain restaurants dish them out at 108 yen per plate (about $1). Even if you wolf down ten, you're only looking at about $10 for the whole meal. Ordering is also incredibly easy as it's all done via touch screen with various languages available.

But watch out, these kaitenzushi can be popular, and depending on the location and timing you may have to wait a long time. Apart from Sushiro, other very similar chains include Hamazushi and Kurasushi.

Marugame Udon (Udon Noodles)

You can get a full size bowl of udon for as little as 290 yen ($2.90) at this well-known chain. First, go to the counter and pick up a tray, and if you like, a small plate for tempura. Once you've placed your order and the noodles are prepared, they will hand the bowl over to you. Follow the counter to the cash register, picking up any tempura you want on the way. This restaurant is definitely a fast pick, since you already have your steaming, delicious bowl of udon upon payment.

Marugame Udon has no English writing on its sign, so this is what the restaurant usually looks like:

If there's no Marugame in the area there's a similar chain called Hanamaru Udon.

Gindaco (Takoyaki)

Takoyaki from street stalls in Osaka can't be beaten. But how can you complain when Gindaco roll out these octopus encasing batter balls at 550 yen for a tray of 8? Apart from the classic mayonnaise, sauce and seaweed topping, there are some other interesting takes on the original including egg and cheese toppings.

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Depending on the restaurant, some are standing only. While you may lament a lost chance to sit down, in the evening these branches are particularly atmospheric with people coming straight after work for some takoyaki and a highball (whiskey and soda).

Tendon Tenya (Tempura)

This fast food joint specialises in tempura bowls (tendon), a deep fried assortment of fish and vegetables (sometimes meat) piled on white rice and topped with sauce. Their classic tendon is only 500 yen and extremely filling. You even get a small soup on the side included in the price.

Sukiya (Gyudon)

The last entry in this list isn't a well known Japanese dish overseas, but is seen within the country as the ultimate fast food. A simple gyudon (beef and onions on rice) is only 350 yen. Anyone can enjoy this dish, even complete newbies to Japanese cuisine. The abundance of gyudon chains mean you can try this cheap bite pretty much anywhere you travel.

This type of restaurant also sells Japanese-style curry, thicker and less spicy than Indian curry, it's a genre all of its own.

Other gyudon restaurants include Yoshinoya and Matsuya.

Chain restaurants overseas may get a bad rep for being unhealthy or inauthentic. While not exactly haute cuisine, Japanese fast food chains provide good, hearty food perfect for tired, penniless tourists!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.