Prepaid tempura plan is totally the way to go, and even lets you choose fried chicken if that’s what your heart desires.
Spring is the start of both the academic and business year in Japan, which means that from April, a lot of people find themselves with a new commute. Because of that, students and members of the workforce make a trip to the nearest station to buy a new teikiken, or rail pass.
But there’s an entirely different kind of teikiken being offered by udon chain Hanamaru Udon. Instead of taking you to your destination, the Tempura Teikiken helps transport delicious tempura to your stomach.
▼ The Tempura Teikiken
Once a day, holders of the Tempura Teikiken can get a free piece of tempura with their order of udon at any Hanamaru branch. Since prices for Hanamaru’s least expensive option, the basic kake udon, start at just 130 yen (US$1.15), you can get some noodles and tempura for the same cost as a bottle of tea from one of Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines.
▼ Hanamaru’s kake udon
What makes the Tempura Teikiken an amazing value, though, is that it only costs 300 yen! Since Hanamaru’s a la carte tempura pieces range from 100 to 140 yen this means that after just three meals, the pass has paid for itself.
▼ In addition to six types of tempura (shrimp, kakiage mixed vegetables and shrimp, chikuwa fish sausage, chicken, squid, and sweet potato), Tempura Teikiken holders can also select Japanese-style karaage fried chicken or a croquette.
And there’s no need to worry about your spouse and children feeling left out as you gleefully enjoy your free tempura, because the pass also extends its one-free-piece privileges to family members who’re dining with you.
In 2016, Hanamaru offered a total of 140,000 Tempura Teikiken, and quantities will once again be limited this year. The Tempura Teikiken goes on sale March 24, and is valid from April 1 to May 7. Dividing the pass’ 300-yen cost into those 37 days means that your tempura could be costing less than 9 yen (US$0.08) a piece, once again making this a great time to be a tempura fan.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he says tempura shrimp is always a good choice.
[ Read in Japanese ]