Who doesn’t enjoy a delicious all-you-can-eat meal, tabehoudai, where you get to sample all kinds of dishes. For those of you that are new to Japanese cuisine, there is a lot for you to try. The beauty of all-you-can-eat places or buffet restaurants in Japan is, they are affordable, yet the quality is exceptional. Here is everything you need to know about all-you-can-eat places in Japan and some of the best tabehoudai places.
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In our previous blog, we talked about different places you can enjoy all-you-can-drink and explained the word in Japanese is “Nomihoudai”. Here is another “houdai” for you, “Tabehoudai”. “Tabe” means “eat” and “Tabehoudai” is “all-you-can-eat”.
All-you-can-eat style in Japan
When you think of all-you-can-eat, you might think of buffet. One of the main differences between your typical buffet and the all-you-can-eat in Japan is, buffet is where the customers serve themselves, choosing from several big dishes. Although buffets also exist in Japan, most buffets tend to feature international cuisines or foreign cuisines, with cheaper options.
All-you-can-eat in Japan is usually where you order plates of food and have them brought to you, instead of taking from big trays or platters. It might be seen as more delicious or carefully prepared since the chefs will be creating each individual plate of food and not in bulk.
Most all-you-can-eat places in Japan can be found in various types of restaurants, such as Izakayas, Yakiniku restaurants, shabu shabu restaurants, western restaurants and specialised restaurants. The option of Tabehoudai restaurant is usually relatively affordable, perfect for those that want to have a good meal while hanging out with friends. It’s not common to be able to find this option for more high-end restaurants.
Although affordable and decently-priced, you will find that the quality of all-you-can-eat food and a lot of the buffet in Japan is typically good and the meal delicious. There are a lot of choices for you to pick from and if you are in Japan, you should definitely try out one or more of these choices.
Tips and Hacks
Before we break down about each type of all-you-can-eat in Japan, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- One great way to save money in Japan, is to visit restaurants during lunchtime. Regardless of whether you are getting all-you-can-eat or not, lunch menus are usually quite similar to dinner menus, except they are cheaper. So, if the restaurant that you want to visit is out of your price range for dinner, try to see if they have a lunch menu.
- In Japan, although the word “buffet” is used, the word “viking” or in Japanese “baikingu” is more commonly used in restaurants. You will see advertisements that say “viking” in English. Don’t get frightened, it is just an interesting Japanese-English phrase.
- If you can’t finish and leave food behind, some of the restaurants have the right to ask you to pay a penalty, usually around 5-10 dollars. Although most of the time, if you just have a little left-over, the restaurants won’t bother, but they will likely ask you to pay the penalty if there is quite a lot of food behind. So be careful not to over-order.
- Most Tabehoudai places in Japan have a time limit. The common time limit you get, same as all-you-can-drink places, is around 2-3 hours, with the call for your last order usually 30 minutes before your time is up. Make sure to order before or during the last call.
- In general, the prices displayed in Japan can sometimes be the price with tax included, and sometimes with tax excluded. Consumer tax is 10% so keep that in mind with figuring out the cost of your meals.
- When you’re in a group and decide to go with the all-you-can-eat menu, typically everyone has to take the deal. So, make sure that everyone is on the same page and has a rumbling stomach, ready to get filled up.
- The easiest way for you to figure out what deals are available in different restaurants is through Hotpepper or Tabelog. They are famous Japanese information sites. They will show you the exact deals and even coupons you can get at each place. They usually have very up-to-date information on different menus. If you don’t understand Japanese, you can message us and we would gladly help you with any questions you might have.
If you are a morning person and want a delicious and filling meal for breakfast, then you will love breakfast buffets. Breakfast buffets in Japan are offered in hotels or hostels, similar to other countries.
If you are staying in a hotel or hostel, you would probably have the option of getting a breakfast buffet with your stay. However, if you’re not or if you live in Japan, there are surprisingly a lot of hotels that welcome you to pay for the breakfast buffet. Some of the hotels offer breakfast buffets for just around 10-20 dollars, perfect for you to fill your stomach before your day.
Besides dining in hotels, a few bakeries also offer all-you-can-eat bread. Cafe Rendezvous offers a morning buffet with over 30 different options for 1,500 yen (around 15 dollars). All of the bread served here are freshly baked every morning, with options such as bread loaf and croissant. Another great bakery with all-you-can-eat bread during breakfast is The koe lobby. They offer a tabehoudai bread buffet and a choice of the 6 types of main dishes. If you just want the “Bread buffet”, you can have it for just 594 yen (around 6 dollars).
Coco’s curry, a popular Japanese curry restaurant chain, started offering breakfast buffet from this March, 2020. The tabehoudai feature freshly baked bread, especially croissants at the shop, along with a lot of different options, such as scrambled eggs, salad and Japanese style side dishes. Each shop offers something different and the price is around 7-9 dollars. Keep in mind that not every Coco’s curry shop offers this breakfast buffet, so make sure to check before you head there.
There are many places to get buffet in Japan. There are buffet restaurants that run all day while some only offer buffets during lunchtime. As mentioned in the tips, a lot of restaurants offer cheaper meals during lunchtime and some restaurants even offer all-you-can-eat options in Japan.
You can find lots of restaurants that offer lunch buffets, especially in the business districts or university towns. There are mostly international lunch buffet options, Chinese buffet, Thai buffet, Indian buffet and more. A lot of them are priced at around 10-15 dollars for all-you-can-eat for lunch.
International buffet restaurants
There are also international buffet restaurants that offer tabehoudai of various different cuisines. Most of them are catered to families, with a great deal. Although the food might not be as authentic or delicious as specialised shops, they are great for you if you are on a budget and want to try out a wide range of dishes.
Assort is a buffet restaurant in Japan that provides assorted all-you-can-eat menus and the food is of good quality, despite the low pricing. They also have limited and seasonal dishes available during fairs. They attract a lot of customers to see this chef showdown. For lunch, it costs 14-15 dollars and for dinner, it’s only 17-18 dollars for adults. There are also discounts for children and seniors, perfect for families to visit, making it a great buffet in Japan for families.
Italian Buffet restaurants
Shakey’s Pizza is a popular buffet in Japan for many people. They create and serve freshly baked pizzas. All of the pizzas they serve are thin-crusted, so you don’t have to worry about getting full off the crusts. They offer the traditional pizzas such as margarita and cheese, but also Japanese style pizzas such as teriyaki chicken pizzas and dessert pizzas, such as chocolate marshmallow pizzas and apple custard pizzas. They also include pasta, potato, salad available in the tabehoudai. All of that costs around 10 dollars for lunch and 15 dollars for dinner.
Pizza Salvatore Cuomo is another Italian chain that specialises in all-you-can-eat pizzas, made with the delicate pizza artisan. They offer 100% mozzarella cheese from Italy. They are similar to Shakeys except the atmosphere is a little more classy. It is a great place to hang out and enjoy filling up on delicious Italian food.
Japanese all you can eat restaurants
A lot of the Japanese-style all-you-can-eat restaurants you can find in Japan are specialized restaurants. They tend to focus on one type or one style of Japanese food, instead of covering a lot of different types. Instead of buffet-style, most of these all-you-can-eat restaurants operate on a per-order system, where you either order from a tablet, or ask the waiters to take your orders.
Izakayas are great places to visit where you can order small plates of food and a few drinks while hanging out with friends. You can usually get karaage, yakitori, gyoza, small Japanese appetizers in these restaurants. A lot of izakaya offer courses and some of them also offer all-you-can-eat deals. All-you-can-drink options sometimes automatically come along with all-you-can-eat courses. You can enjoy a wide range of Japanese izakaya food options as well as drink options.
A lot of izakaya offer seasonal tabehoudai options, featuring seasonal fruit and seasonal seafood. It is popular for izakaya to offer all-you-can-eat oysters or all-you-can-eat crab during the winter season. Depending on the specific time you visit the izakaya, sometimes you can get exclusive offers and deals, making it cheaper.
One of the most famous izakaya chains is Kinkura. You can find Kinkura in a lot of the major areas of the country and they are famous for their kaarage, deep-fried chicken. You can get all-you-can-eat along with all-you-can-drink, called Nomi-tabehoudai, for 2980yen (around 30 dollars) for 3 hours. This includes 50 different types of options for you to choose from, of course including their famous kaarage.
Hananomai is another popular izakaya chain that many people visit regularly. They are famous for their seafood and sashimi dishes. The content varies by the shop of a particular region and the particular store. They offer an all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink course for 4500yen (around 45 dollars) for 3 hours. It is a great way to try out various menus that you have been curious about.
If you are hoping to check out smaller and more local izakayas, not a lot of them probably have the all-you-can-eat option. You can check out the popular Japanese restaurant website, Hotpepper or Tabelog, to see what special deals are available. Their websites are only available in Japanese. If you need any help, feel free to message us on Facebook messenger or Instagram.
Yakitori is Japanese skewered meat, usually, chicken served with either salt or tare, a dark sweet sauce. There are many izakayas that specialise in yakitori in Japan and a few of them are huge chains that have opened up shops all over Japan.
Torikizoku, or “Toriki”, is famous among both Japanese people and foreigners. Despite the cheap price, the food quality is high, voluminous and delicious. Everything that is served here, including all drinks and food, costs 298yen excluding tax, around 3 dollars each. Torikizoku mainly serves yakitori, including some other options such as appetizers, karaage, rice dishes and ramen.
If you are drinking with a group of more than 4 people, then you are eligible to try out their Toriki dinner, their all-you-can-eat and all-you-can-drink option. It costs 2,980yen (around 30 dollars) for the 2-hour course. You can order anything from the menu, which is not the case for a lot of the deals in other restaurants.
There is usually a line for up to a couple of hours of waiting time. If you are interested in checking this place out, try to go earlier in the evening, or go to one that is a little outside of the main areas to make sure you don’t have to wait in line.
Yakiniku restaurants are another type of restaurant that usually offer all-you-can-eat deals. For those of you that are interested in affordable yet delicious yakiniku options, there are many yakiniku restaurants that could be great for you. Most affordable yakiniku restaurants offer all-you-can-eat as well as all-can-drink options.
Anan is a great Yakiniku place that offers some of the cheapest and delicious options you can find. In Anan restaurants, you grill your meat on charcoal, bringing out freshness of the meat, adding a bit of a delicious aftertaste. Ordering individually, each beef plate costs around 3-5 dollars and chicken costs less. The quality of the meat isn’t the best you can get, but not bad at all.
All-you-can-eat here at Anan costs as cheap as 1900yen (around 19 dollars) for 100 minutes. You can pay an additional 1300yen (around 13 dollars) and for 30 dollars, you will get all you can eat and all you can drink!
Gyugaku is another great yakiniku option. It is one rank higher than Anan and costs a little more, but provides amazing deals with their all-you-can-eat options. The all-you-can-eat options start at 2,980yen (around 30 dollars). They have two more options, one with aging beef and one including seafood. If you are on a budget, the first option already offers some great meat for your meal so you don’t have to worry about paying more. TEach branch is also a little different so make sure to check out your options.
There are a lot of other yakiniku restaurants that offer great value and if you’re a meat lover, you should definitely check out the different all-you-can-drink options!
Shabu Shabu restaurants
Shabu shabu is perfect to be eaten during winter, since it is hot and can warm up your bodies. You can enjoy shabu shabu with meat and vegetables. It is considered to be quite a healthy option. Most shabu shabu restaurants offer various different types of broths for you to select from, and a wide range of dishes and sauces to go into your broth.
Most of the shabu shabu restaurants specialise in all-you-can-eat courses, since it is a meal where cooking small amounts of meat, vegetables and side dishes is easy and it is fun trying out the many different options.
Shabu shabu restaurants serve different ranks of all-you-can-eat courses, each including a different range of dishes and options. If you want to try out different types of meat, then for just a few hundred yen, a few dollars more, you can get a course that covers a wider range of food.
Some of the most popular shabu shabu restaurants include Shabuha. Shabuha is one of the cheapest and most popular shabu shabu china restaurants. It offers all-you-can-eat delicious meat and fresh vegetables. In addition to the regular menu, shabuha offers limited-time all-you-can-eat menus, changing things up for its customers.
For lunch, they offer all-you-can-eat vegetables and Sangen pork for just 999yen (around 10 dollars) and for dinner, the cheapest course is the all-you-can-eat Sanyuan pork belly course, which costs 1599yen (around 16 dollars), making it the lowest price in the shabu shabu world. For those that are interested, they also offer an all-you-can-eat sushi option.
Similar to Yakiniku restaurants, you can get all-you-can-drink to go with your course, usually priced around 1000yen-2000yen for the length of your all-you-can-eat meal.
Other Japanese all-you-can-eat restaurants
There are a lot of other all-you-can-eat options in specialised Japanese restaurants. You can get all-you-can-eat sushi in different sushi restaurants. Kappa sushi is a popular conveyor belt sushi chain and has popularity among adults and children of all ages. The price per dish is 100 yen except for some menus, and the side menu is widely spread from takoyaki, fried, ramen, steamed rice, and fried potatoes.
All-you-can-eat is limited to certain stores, and for regular courses, you can order more than 80 kinds of sushi, side menus and desserts in total, and it costs 1,680 yen (around 17 dollars) for men, 1,580 yen (around 16 dollars) for women, with even more discounted options for children and seniors.
Another type of all-you-can-eat Japanese dish you can get is Okonomiyaki. It is a Japanese style savory pancake and you usually grill it at your table. Some of the Okonomiyaki restaurants offer all-you-can-eat options.
One of the most famous Okonomiyaki chains is called Okonomiyaki Dotonbori. They have the largest number of okonomiyaki chains in Japan. Their menu includes okonomiyaki, monjayaki, baked noodles, salads, seafood, yakiniku, single dishes, and desserts. The all-you-can-eat menus are available in three courses. The most popular Dotonbori course is a total of 50 dishes and it costs 1980yen (around 20 dollars) with offers for children and seniors too.
Other all-you-can-eat restaurants
Rather than offering all-you-can-eat with a huge menu, it is popular for restaurants to offer all-you-can-eat for certain dishes.
Some Japanese restaurants offer fried chicken tabehoudai, grilled beef tabehoudai with the course. This is a great option for those that don’t want to pay a lot, not that hungry or just want to focus on the signature dish.
Another popular all-you-can-eat option that you can find is fusion French restaurants or fusion Italian restaurants. These places usually offer all-you-can-eat for a certain popular food item, such as raw ham or cheese fondue. Korean restaurants also offer all-you-can-eat samgyupsal or all-you-can-eat cheese BBQ.
You can’t talk buffet in Japan without talking about dessert buffet! Recently, there have been more and more all-you-can-eat dessert restaurants in Japan.
Sweets Paradise, as the name suggests, is a paradise filled with sweets. Their tabehoudai offers 30 or more different types of sweets, including classic cakes, Japanese sweets, jellies and seasonal cakes. They also serve light meals like homemade pasta, allowing you to change it up a little. For 50 minutes all-you-can-eat, it costs 1100yen (around 10 dollars) and there are other plans that allow you to stay longer.
Marble Lounge in Hilton hotel is a popular place to enjoy all kinds of desserts. They offer different themes depending on the season. The most popular is the strawberry dessert buffet that is held every year from the end of the year to the beginning of May. Although the type of dessert changes with each season, macaroons are used for almost any theme. It costs roughly 4000yen (around 40 dollars) for the all-you-can-eat option.
One of the most unique ones that we have come across is a conveyor belt dessert restaurant. It is called Maison Able Cafe Ron Ron. It provides all-you-can-eat sweets on a conveyor belt, just like a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant. Approximately 35 kinds of photogenic sweets can be enjoyed here. For all-you-can-eat for 40 minutes, it costs 2,400 yen for men, 2,100 yen for women, 1,700 yen for children, and 500 yen for preschool children. Enjoy a wide variety of sweets, from classics such as macaroons, cakes, crepes, pancakes, and ice to special sweets with cat motifs.
As you can see, there are a lot of restaurants in Japan that offer all kinds of amazing tabehoudai, all-you-can-eat deals in Japan. If you want to enjoy a delicious, affordable, unlimited and filling meal, you should definitely give one or more of these restaurants a go! If you need help with reservations, suggestions for tabehoudai, or have any questions, feel free to reach out to us through Facebook Messenger or Instagram. We would be thrilled to help you with your journey.
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