All-You-Can-Eat (or “Viking”, as they call it in Japan) is almost just as popular as it is in any other country. Who doesn’t like (a fair amount of) choice, and a free flow of food?
The first thing people would try to look for is AYCE sushi. Because why wouldn’t you? It’s Japan. It’s famous for sushi, and AYCE sushi is totally a thing. But AYCE sushi is not all that common in Japan, and if it is available, it is on the pricier side of the AYCE scale. But you don’t necessarily need to go to AYCE sushi - there are a lot of great 100 yen rotating sushi shops out there to satisfy your needs!
And since you’re in Japan, why not try some other types of Japanese food? Let’s talk about some other AYCE options here. Here are some options that won’t break your wallet:
Shabu Sai is a shabu shabu, sukiyaki and (kind of) a sushi restaurant all in one that offers 90-minute AYCE options. It’s mainly a shabu shabu restaurant, so your main option is shabu shabu, but you can opt to have sukiyaki sauce in your pot instead of soup and have AYCE sushi added on the side (just don’t expect quality sushi).
For their premium shabu shabu course for just a bit over 2000 yen, you have a choice of 2 pork types and 2 beef types (you can order as much as you like), plus a vegetable bar with a decent selection of vegetables and noodles. You have a choice of 2 soups shared between your group. Drink bar and alcohol are an additional cost.
You can also add the option of AYCE sushi on top of your shabu shabu course.
Personally, Gyukaku for me is still on the expensive side with courses starting at about 3000 yen, but it’s one of the cheaper AYCE yakiniku options in the country for the quality (which is really not that bad at all). There are cheaper options, but I personally think those restaurants have very poor quality meat, try to rip you off by giving you a starting platter of assorted meats you don’t necessarily eat (then charging you extra for the unfinished food - which you didn’t order) or just extremely bad service.
Most Gyukaku stores allow you to order with an iPad, so the process is usually quite fast and painless. The selection varies depending on what AYCE course you choose; the more premium cuts and usually things like beef tongue will be more expensive. You can also order a la carte at Gyukaku if you don’t think your party can do the AYCE course.
They have a good side dish selection as well, ranging from soups, pickled veggies and of course the carbs if you need some rice to go with your meats.
I also notice that while there are Gyukaku restaurants in other western countries like Canada, Gyukaku there is not AYCE - so I do highly recommend you try it out.
I love Kushiya Monogatari, and so do all my friends I take with me to the restaurant. This restaurant is a kushikatsu (battered skewers?) AYCE, and the fun part is that you get to make the food yourself. While it can be a bit dangerous for young kids since there is a pot of scorching hot oil in the middle of the table, I think it’s a great experience for older kids and I think they might enjoy rolling the skewers in the batter and frying it themselves.
The price of this AYCE is about 2000-3000 yen per person (depending on location), with a 70 to 90-minute time limit. I believe you can pay more for more time, or at least they used to have this option - I’m not sure if that still exists.
They have a range of things you can fry - beef, pork, chicken, mushrooms, bell peppers, takoyaki (yep!), taiyaki and sometimes some seasonal limited time selections. Some stores even have a good selection of rice and noodle dishes, and of course, desserts.
There are a ton of other AYCE restaurants in Kansai and all throughout Japan, but if you are in Kansai and you’re traveling on a smaller budget, I highly recommend the above restaurants.
There are also some hotel buffets in the range of 2000-4000 yen; which isn’t necessarily cheap, but it is cheaper than other buffets of slightly better quality. Those buffets are also usually a good mix of foods from different countries, which is not what this list is about.
I hope that helped some people!
Please keep in mind that most if not all AYCE here in Japan have a time limit.