Breakfast On the Cheap: US vs. Japan

By Teri Bradford, Communication ’18

For five US dollars in the states, I’m almost guaranteed processed, sugary, and maybe even greasy breakfast on the go. A sweet yet savory pastry, a coffee with caramel, and maybe some hand fruit to balance it all out is what I’m all about. I perfected that order. So when I toured the Kansai region on the Japan field experience abroad, I was surprised to find a way of eating breakfast that I always wanted to exist, but never knew was possible. For five hundred yen ($4.50 USD), I could get a complete breakfast set that consisted of at least four different subtle yet flavorful foods to dive into before my day began.

Breakfast in Japan

My first breakfast set was at our hostel in Wakayama, Japan called Guesthouse RICO. When they said we’d eat at the hostel I was expecting, I don’t know, Japanese Cheerios? Instead, I was handed a tray with food that looked and was arranged in an aesthetically beautiful way. Pieces of thick, buttery, and fluffy toast accompanied by rich cheese caught my eyes first. Then it was the sweet but bitter Mikan fruit pieces sitting next to our slightly sour yogurt topped with homemade citrus mikan jam made by our Guesthouse RICO hostess herself. Of course it was all pulled together with a warm cup of tea. I gushed over my meal and took too many pictures before diving in and, trust me; it tastes as good as it looks. Every taste bud awakened before 8 AM? That was something I could get used to. Luckily, I had time to do just that because I tasted many versions of this meal over the next 12 days. One breakfast from a little café near the hostel still had the delicious toast that smelled heavenly, but also eggs that weren’t too runny with a dollop of ketchup. There was rich coffee instead of tea, two creamy but light salads with flavorful sauces, and a piece of pork where I expected bacon to be, that was tender and made with care. And of course I had to have one in Osaka for my last breakfast in Japan. It was bread, eggs, coffee, and the perfect send off.

Trying on local attire

Truly comparing Japan to the US involves a complex analysis. But in the case of “what can 5 USD vs. 500 yen get you for breakfast?”, the difference was clear. When I eat out in the US, I’m expecting a bang for my buck meal with as many components as possible, the actual quality being neither here nor there. The Japanese meals were well done, simple, filling, and not overwhelming. They were fresh, cheap, and always way better than I expected for the price. Am I going to replicate the meals at home? I don’t know if I have the time or the skills. Will I keep getting huge bagels that can hardly fit in the toaster (I’m looking at you Café Rachel)? Not as often, that’s for sure. My post-Japan mission has been to find something just as satisfying right in between.

When will you study abroad?  For more information about study abroad options, scholarships and the study abroad process, please contact or visit us at the Office of International Affairs in Falk Hall, lower level.