For students and professionals just starting their careers in pricey Tokyo, finding ways to economize is a must. Unfortunately, the cost of housing in the city means a lot of young singles end up in pretty cramped living quarters. In my old apartment, the only refrigerator I could cram into the place was so small there wasn’t enough room to keep both my beer and my drinking water chilled. For the record, it takes about two months to get used to drinking lukewarm H2O.
This lack of space also makes it difficult to stock up on groceries to use in cooking your own lunch to bring to school or the office. As a result, many people buy bento, boxed lunches with rice and some sort of side dish. You can get passable bento at any convenience store, and in recent years even some full-fledged restaurants have started selling them on the sidewalks of business districts in the afternoons.
Bento tend to be somewhere in the range of 500-1,000 yen (US$5-10) though, so the cost really adds up if you’re buying one a day. Trying to cut our expenses even further, we sent our reporter out with 500 yen and a mission: go get lunch, and bring back change.