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In my hunt for good, cheap meat in Japan, my eyes are drawn to a yellow sign shining like an oasis in a sea of sushi. I’m just about to step inside when there, on the other side of the street, I see an orange sign also vying for my attention. Which of these two castles of beef will satiate me? This is a dilemma faced by anyone who’s ever spent any length of time in Japan. Trust me, if you go there you will too! Let’s take a look at the “competitors!”


Matsuya was my first exposure to purely Japanese fast-food culture, and I loved it! There are a couple of reasons why.

First, there’s absolutely no problem even if you can’t speak Japanese. Just look at the little pictures on the machine. Then decide what you want, put your money in the slot, and press the correct button (if the button under the item[s] you want turns red, then you’ve put in enough dough–just press it!). A little meal ticket will come out. Just pass it to the Matsuya staff member behind the counter and you’re good to go. All you have to do is smile!

Second, Matsuya is hella-cheap! The pork set, pictured above, includes a heaping bowl of steaming pork goodness, miso soup and a side-salad. Throw in an egg, which you can crack open and pour on top, and the whole thing comes to a measley $5.00! Don’t be like some of my buddies and eat there every week, OK? Word to the wise: Beef bowls are OK here, but pork is where it’s at.

Matsuya’s curry, while a bit on the sweet side for me, is filling and surprisingly spicy. Give it a try too!


Now onto the other side of the street! This is Yoshinoya, the other fast-meat chain that’s been in indirect competition with Matsuya for awhile. They’re very comparable in terms of price and overall offerings, but different enough to point a few things out.

First, I don’t typically go here for pork–I guess that Yoshinoya prides itself on “Yoshi-gyu,” or Yoshinoya beef, which is to say that meat is their focus. The “gyu-tan” beef bowl above, with an egg melting deliciously in the middle, is my personal recommendation to you.

Second, even though it’s a meat place, Yoshinoya threw me a curveball with their chicken bowl, which tastes more upscale than it should given the price. Generous doses of “nori” seaweed, plus the ever-present egg, make this a filling but comparatively healthy treat.

So, who wins in the battle of the cheap meat-eat? Let your stomach–and your wallet–decide!

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