Japan has a lot of places that are all-you-can-eat and I cannot stress how much I love them or how convenient they are! All-you-can-eat buffets are not exactly a foreign concept, you can easily find them in most Western nations, however what is so special about some of Japan’s restaurants is that as well as offering all-you-can-eat menus, there are also all-you-can-drink offers.
Nomihoudai [飲み放題] are a huge favourite among foreigners and Japanese alike, because for a flat fee, you may drink as much liqueur as you want. Some have even been as cheap as 800円, although the average tends to be 1500~2500円. This most typically includes just about anything–spirits, cocktails, beers–and they are unlimited for a certain amount of time, typically 90 minutes.
Many karaoke places will also offer nomihoudai options.
Even tabehoudai [食べ放題] , all-you-can-eat, are unique in Japan, in that the food actually tends to be pretty good quality. Buffet restaurants in the USA and UK–at least the ones I have been to–usually are not all that great, but you make up for it by eating until you want to puke or feel as if you are about to burst, but here in Japan there are restaurants like Sweets Paradise and Sweets of Ninja that are themed.
SP, for example, is a place where for roughly 1480円, you may eat as much as you want of pastas, curries and, more importantly, cakes and desserts. The cakes are great quality–the ones that one would find probably going for 400円 per slice in a bakery–and there is tons of variety.
SoN is much the same, but with more variety in savoury foods and a special crepe station offering various fantastic flavours, and also boasts a small labyrinth and a ninja theme. I simply adore SoN, it just a place that you can get your belly billed and have a good time as well.
You may even get other tabehoudai for as little as 700円, and the food is still miles better than your average buffet in other countries.
Meat-lovers like myself will also enjoy yakiniku tabehoudai, where you can eat as much meat that you fry yourself on a personal grill for as little as around 1500円.
I am a huge fan of Chifaja, a popular Korean BBQ tabehoudai chain. For around 2,050円, you may get not only 90 minutes of high-quality meats but desserts, drinks [including booze], and a wide range of other dishes [rice, kimchi, sushi, Korean meal sets, and salads].
These are all-you-can-eat places are very simple ideas, but bloody wicked.
Nomihoudai make for great nights out just spent chatting in izakaya and getting wasted for a flat fee, and tabehoudai are just plain great places to eat for people who like to stuff their faces every now and then for a good price.
Meat is one of the most expensive types of food to buy here in Japan…So when you get the urge to splurge on meat, tabehoudai are the way to go.
I am currently in that starving artist/student phase, so when it’s been almost a month since I last had meat or a good amount of protein, I will go to Chifaja to get my fill cheaply. It is a lifesaver.
On top of the nomihoudai & tabehoudai, food and drinks in general are just lovely and great quality. The portion sizes may occasionally leave a little to be desired–some are extremely tiny yet cost the same as a larger bottle of a different drink or dish, but Japanese food is delicious and Japanese snacks are better still.
There is a whole range of food that you can eat quickly or on the go, including aisles of 100円 savoury and sweet snacks, as well as delicious individual pots of ice cream for as little as 60円, for those times when you just need a little something sweet. The variety of instant and pre-made food is also excellent.
In my local supermarkets, there are giant sections of the store devoted to pre-made sushi, karaage and other fresh, fried foods and entire meals [bentos] made up ready to go, and most of these are reasonably priced. Unlike a lot of places elsewhere, taste and attention to detail tend not to be sacrificed in favour of speed or convenience. Regardless of the fact that Japan has one of thee lowest rates of heart disease and one of the healthiest diets in the world–you’d find it quite difficult to believe if you were to see the amount of friend food and carbohydrates they consume–most Japanese people love and adore good food, and you can definitely tell when you eat out in Japan.
Overall, Japan is a food lover’s paradise and you can find all sorts of delicacies to enjoy. Whether you are craving comfort food or going for more local food, you can be sure you will find it in Japan.