If I were a student or on a tight budget, I’d eat every day in one of the Japanese chain restaurants such as the Yayioken chain. Japan has all the usual American suspects, such as McDonalds and KFC, but the food there is as trashy as it is everywhere else and, for the price of a hamburger, you can eat very well in a Yayioken. The method is that you select your meal in the restaurant lobby using a machine like the one shown in the photo below. The machines are easy to navigate, even for a westerner, as the selections are illustrated with photos. If there is any doubt, the restaurant window has plastic models (a little garish for some tastes) of all the dishes on offer. In exchange for your money you get a ticket, which you hand to a waitress, who will take your drinks order (alcohol is served) and bring your food. There’s no queuing. A meal of grilled mackerel, with a bowl of rice and miso soup (pictured above) is 590 yen (£3.58). A large bowl of chips as another pound. The Yayioken chain is as good an illustration as any of the choice and value available to Japanese who want to eat out.