We have wanted to visit Japan for years. The country`s culture has really fascinated us, and the idea of visiting the home of Ninjas and Samurais, exploring the Mecca of technology, feasting on delicious food, hiking the Japan Alps, seeing lots of temples and castles, as well as wander the streets of the cool and urban Tokyo have had a magic pull on us.
But the rumor that Japan is very expensive, has led to us postponing our visit to Japan up until now. During our one year of travel through Asia, we decided that Japan had to be on the list this time! I have never heard anyone say a bad word about Japan or their experiences in the country, except for the costs.
Ok, I will be honest with you, Japan is not cheap, not compared to other Asian countries. But it is not the prohibitively expensive country people may think it is. We found Japan to be comparable to countries in Western Europe, and in some cases actually cheaper. Tokyo is cheaper than both London and New York, and not to mention our home country Norway! 🙂
There are so many great things to do in Japan and so many beautiful places to visit, so if you go to Japan, of course, you have to explore the country and see its sights. Let us break it down and see how much does it really cost to visit Japan, and how can you save money when visiting Japan.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Japan
Let’s start with food since obviously, we all need food wherever we go. 🙂 Here is the good news: To our surprise, the food was actually quite inexpensive! Fair enough, you can find super fancy and expensive restaurants in Japan too (especially in Tokyo), but it is easy to find cheap food.
Eating cheaply was actually the thing that helped keep our total cost per day down. Japan does not have a street food culture like Thailand and China, but there is always a delicious and cheap noodle restaurant nearby. There is no tipping in Japan, as it is considered rude, so that will save you some bucks.
You will also find good and cheap food options in convenient stores (even 7-Eleven and Family Mart), which are both healthy and tasty compared to other countries convenient stores. We were really surprised by the great selection of pre-cooked dishes in the convenient stores.
For instance, will a bento box (lunch box) with rice, fish, meat, and vegetables cost about 4 us$. Here you will also find a variety of options of rice balls with different meat or fish filling for 1 us$. A tray of sushi cost around 4 us$.
Cheap and Healthy Japanese Fast Food Restaurants
If you want to step it up a bit and sit down while you eat, there are cheap fast food restaurants that serve a bowl of rice with some fried meat or fish and vegetables for about 5 us$.
There are noodle bars basically on every street corner in Japan, where you will be able to get a big bowl of ramen, udon or soba for about 7 us$. These restaurants also serve tea (hot or cold) for free!
Sushi Train Restaurants
If you are a sushi lover, then Sushi trains restaurants (where sushi goes around on a band and you just take the ones you`d like) are a great option. Expect to pay about 2 us$ per plate.
Many restaurants have food that can easily be shared, like tempura, sushi and sashimi, where you can eat together with friends and probably pay around 17 us$ each.
The all-you-can-eat buffet Baikin (or ´Vikings´ as many restaurants calls it on their menu, hehe) is, however, the ultimate dinner option, where you can stuff yourself for about 20 us$ (there are however very expensive ones too!).
If you wonder why the buffet is called Vikings in Japan, here is an excellent article that explains it.
Cheap Lunch Deals
Most restaurants in Japan offer lunch deals, which are basically their dinner dishes but at a reduced price. So one option can be to have lunch as your main big meal of the day and eat a smaller meal (like noodles) for dinner in the evening.
If you, however, want to eat western food some days, expect to pay more than for Japanese food. Also, if you are a fresh fruit and vegetable lover like me, then forget about eating much of that while in Japan if you want to save money. Fruits and vegetables are very expensive!
The next thing everybody needs when traveling to a foreign country is accommodation. So unless you have a friend or family in Japan that you can stay with, this will be one of your major expenses.
If you are on a backpacker budget and don`t mind sleeping in dorms, then you can find hostels for about 20 us$ a night for a dorm bed.
A step up from dorms, and unique for Japan, are capsule hotels where you sleep in a private enclosed box instead of dorms. You will share the bathroom and common areas with the other guests. Each capsule has a reading light, outlets and sometimes a small TV. Expect to pay around 35 us$ for a capsule per night.
These hotels are however only in the big cities in Japan. Traditionally capsule hotels are only for men, but lately hip new capsule hotels have opened and are catered towards travelers, and also include women.
If you are really on a low-budget then a Manga Kissa can be an option, if you don`t find anything else (last way out I would say…). These are 24-hour comic book internet cafes that contain private booths where it is possible to sleep.
Manga Kissa ddoeshave bathrooms with shower but can be very loud so don`t expect to get much quality sleep. For about 20 us$ you can get overnight hours in a Manga Kissa. We spent a few hours at a Manga Kissa in Tokyo during day-time, but never tried to sleep there.
We prefer our own room, so the option that suited us best were so-called “business hotels”. In Japan, it is very common that locals (especially businessmen) spend the night at a hotel rather than going home if they have been working late or been out with the guys from work.
The big cities in Japan have therefore a lot of small business hotels with reasonable prices. Just don`t expect these rooms to be large, they are actually quite tiny, but clean, come with private bathroom and have all the amenities you need and could ever think of!
You can get a business hotel room for about 70 us$ (for a twin or double room). These hotels usually don`t have a restaurant and don`t offer breakfast, so no food is included in that price. But all rooms have a water boiler and some even have a microwave, which can be used to make simple dishes like noodles.
You can just pop by these hotels without reservation, or make a reservation online through the typical search sites. There are several inexpensive business hotel chains in Japan. We stayed at hotel MyStays Asakusabashi in Tokyo, a good business hotel chain, and it was great!! Highly recommend it!
If you want more tips on accommodation options at any budget in Tokyo, read our complete guide to where to stay in Tokyo.
If you plan on visiting Kyoto, check out our guide to the best hotels and areas to stay in Kyoto, also budget ones.
To sleep in a traditional Japanese inn – a Ryokan for a night or two is an absolute must when visiting Japan! Ryokans are however quite expensive, and cost between 140 us$ and 230 us$ per night per person. This price includes a lovely traditional Japanese dinner in the evening and breakfast the next day, and free onsen (hot spring) if they have an Onsen.
We stayed at Yamakyu Ryokan in Takayama for one night and paid 150 us$ per night for two persons (75 us$ per person). This was the cheapest Ryokan we could find in Japan and included a delicious traditional Japanese dinner, breakfast, and onsen. It was very nice and we loved it! Highly recommend it if you want to try a Ryokan but don`t want to go broke.
Of course, there are also plenty of international hotel chains in Japan, but these are quite expensive, between 100 us$ and 200 us$ per night per room.
Then there is transportation, which, of course, you have to use if you want to see more than just the city you fly into. Transport is expensive in Japan in general. But there are some tricks to use so that you don`t necessarily have to rob a bank.
The railway system in Japan is the best in the world! There are trains everywhere, they are always on time, they go fast and are very clean and easy to use. I would say trains are the number one transportation you will and should use while traveling in Japan.
Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass)
In order to save some money, my best tip is to buy a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). A Japan Rail pass is a prepaid ticket that gives you almost unlimited use of Japans extensive train system. The pass is available for periods of 7, 14, or 21 days.
The cost of a Japan Rail pass is 425 us$ for 14 days Ordinary JR pass (The green is first class and cost 600 us$). This sounds pretty expensive, but it is “only” 30 us$ a day and you can ride unlimited.
Here is why a prepaid Japan Rail Pass will save you money: A train ticket between for instance Tokyo and Kyoto cost about 120 us$ one way, and the ticket between Kyoto and Hiroshima cost about 100 us$ one way. So going by train Tokyo-Kyoto-Hiroshima-Tokyo will in total be 120+120+100+100 = 440 us$, which makes the JR pass worthwhile, and that is only three cities.
So if you do plan to travel around in Japan, a JR pass is a must! This pass is however only available for foreign tourists. We bought ours in Bangkok, at a travel agency in one of the big shopping malls.
The easiest and least expensive way to buy a JR Pass is to order it online from an official Japan Rail pass vendor like www.jrailpass.com before you leave home. They will send you a voucher that you exchange for the pass at a ticket office in Japan. You have to do this within three months of purchasing the voucher.
⇒ Click here to check JR Pass prices & buy a Japan Rail Pass
Seishun Juhachi Kippu Pass
Depending on when you’re going to Japan, you might be able to purchase the “Seishun ju-hachi kippu” pass which allows for rail travel at about half the cost of the Japan Rail Pass.
It is a seasonally available railway ticket, which gives you five days of unlimited, nationwide travel on local and rapid JR (Japan Railways) trains for only 108 us$ for five days, or 22 us$ per day. The five days do not need to be consecutive days. It is, however, only available three times a year during school holiday seasons.
The pass can be used by people of any age and is available to foreign tourists as well as Japanese nationals and foreign residents of Japan. However, there is no child fare. The Seishun ju-hachi Kippu can be bought at most JR stations across Japan. It is a non-personal, transferable ticket, meaning that it can be used either by one person on five days or be shared by up to five different people.
However this pass is NOT valid for the fast Shinkansen trains, so your travels will be much slower, and require more planning to find connected routes.
If you are only going to stay in Japan for a short period, and only be staying in one city (for instance Tokyo) and use that as a base to see the city and the surrounding area, then the JR Pass will not be necessary.
A couple of subway rides in Tokyo is 2-3 us$, and the local train (takes a lot longer than the Shinkansen) is quite cheap. Slow local train cost on average about 5 us$ per hour ride.
Kansai Thru Pass
If you plan to stay in the Osaka area, the Kansai Thru Pass is a good value. This cost about 50 us$ for three days, and is excellent if you plan to go to Kyoto one day, Nara the next and Himeji the third day. This pass also includes buses.
There are also several other “special price packages” like this in some cities. For instance, if you want to go on a day trip to Nikko from Tokyo, like we did, there are special tickets for the train Tokyo – Nikko and back, which also includes bus in the Nara area.
Bus is also an option when traveling in Japan, especially when going to small rural places. There are daybuses as well as overnight buses between most places in Japan. We took a bus in the Takayama area, as there were no train options for the small remote villages we wanted to visit. Our impression was that the buses are not especially cheap either, and they take a lot more time.
For instance, a bus ride between Tokyo and Osaka takes around 10 hours, while the train uses 2 hours. Better to go with the train if possible, much more comfortable and the perfect way to see a country in our opinion.
There are also bus passes available. A 3-day bus pass cost 92 us$ while 5 days cost 138 us$.
In the big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, there is a very easy and accessible metro system. If you know you will travel around the city a lot, day passes can save you money. There are however several metro lines, operated by different companies, so that can get a bit confusing. You have to know what metro lines you want to take and buy the right day pass to match those lines:
- Tokyo Metro 1-Day Open Ticket – cost 7 us$ and covers only the Tokyo Metro subway lines.
- Common 1-Day Ticket – cost 10 us$ and covers both the Tokyo Metro subway lines and Toei Subway lines.
- Tokyo Combination Ticket – cost 15 us$ and covers every line in Tokyo (JR lines, all Tokyo Metro subway lines, and Toei subway lines).
- Special Ticket for Visitors from Abroad – If you bring your passport you can purchase the Tokyo Metro 1-Day Open Ticket for 5 us$ (instead of 7 us$), or you can buy a 2-day Tokyo Metro ticket for 8 us$. We bought the 2-day Tokyo ticket a couple of times. The only hassle with these tourist tickets is that they are only sold at a few places: Narita International Airport, Haneda Airport or Bic Camera Store (at Yurakucho, Shinjuku Station East Exit, and Akasaka-mitsuke Station). So unless you happen to be near any of these places, it is not worth it.
If you can`t figure out how much to pay in order to get from A to B, just buy the cheapest ticket and use one of the fare adjustment machines that are at the exit gates once you get to B. Then you settle the difference at the end of your journey and you will get the correct ticket. We did that a lot in Tokyo! 🙂
Taxis are very expensive in Japan! Well maybe not compared to back home in Scandinavia and some cities in Europe and the USA, but much more expensive than other Asian cities.
We did take Taxi on some occasions when the train and metro had stopped for the night, or we had run out of time and had to jump in a taxi in order to get to a site before it closed. Taking a taxi in Japan is something everybody should try out. We have never experienced such politeness, cleanness, and professionalism as Japanese taxis. We felt like we were driving a limousine with a private driver!
When you go to Japan, you most likely want to see temples, shrines, gardens, and museums. Each of these has an entrance fee. And although each of them usually only cost around 500 – 1000 JPY = 5 – 10 us$, it all adds up to a pretty decent amount in the end.
Examples of museum ticket prices:
- Manga Museum in Tokyo – 800 JPY = 8 us$
- Tokyo National Museum – 620 JPY = 6 us$
There are however some parks, temples, and shrines that are free. Usually, only parts of the park, temple or shrine are free while some parts you have to pay to enter.
3rd of November is Culture Day (bunka no hi) and a national holiday in Japan, celebrated all over Japan with free exhibitions and parades. This day there is free entrance to most museums in Japan. So if you are in Japan on this day, take advantage of it and visit as many museums, exhibitions, concerts, and artisan workshops as you can for free!
Although there are a lot of ATMs around in Japan, most of them don’t accept foreign-issued cards, only Japanese credit cards. The best place to find ATMs that do accept international VISA cards is 7-Eleven which is in all big cities in Japan. If you are heading out to remote areas of Japan, make sure to withdraw cash in one of the big cities before you go.
So is Japan expensive to visit? Yes, Japan is expensive compared to some other Asian countries. But not compared to Western European countries, the USA, Australia and certainly not compared to back home in Scandinavia! As with all travels, you have to expect to spend money, but you will not need to spend more money in Japan than on a vacation to say Norway, New York, the UK or Australia.
Japan has a rich culture and is an amazing country to visit, so you should not miss it just because you think it is too expensive. If you make an effort, carefully plan when you go (avoid high season when the Cherry trees blossom in April/ May and autumn between September/October), buy a JR Pass, do your hotel bookings in advance, and you can travel Japan fairly cheaply.
If you want more tips on things to do in Japan and where to go in Japan, check out our recommended 2 weeks itinerary for Japan!
We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Hover over the image below and press the red “Save” button to pin:
Have you been to Japan, and did you find it expensive? Do you have any money saving tips for traveling? Please leave a comment in the comment area below. If you found this useful, please share on social media! Thank you! 🙂
Food was actually my biggest expense but only because I just kept eating. I lucked out with accommodation and I had friends that let me impose on them. Out of the 7.5 weeks I was in Japan, I only paid for one week at a hostel and that was in Tokyo. Again, I was very lucky.
Hehe, yeah Japanese food is super delicious so it is easy to over-eat! 🙂 We did splurge in between and ate at nice restaurants some days, both Japanese and Western. Lucky you who had friends you could stay with in Japan, that saved you a lot of money.
Japan is really a country to visit, things are very cheap,the food there is very cheap and delicious. But accommodation is expensive.I would love to visit Japan or rather stay over a month.but I don’t have a place to stay.I want to visit Japan,most especially 7-Eleven cities, which is one of the big cities in Japan.
I’m looking to go for a vacation between the dates 24th dec till 8th jan. Any recommendations on a hotel that’s not to far from tokyo city centre and not that expensive
Tokyo is an expensive city when it comes to accommodations. We did a lot of research for cheap hotels in Tokyo and ended up staying at Hotel MyStays in Asakusabashi. It is a brand new hotel, very clean, has everything (even washing machines for clothes), fast cable internet in the room (remember to bring an ethernet cable), and the staff is very nice and friendly. The rooms are small, but has everything one need and is very comfortable, modern and well designed.
It has a great location, with a food store in the same building which is open late in the evening. There are plenty of nice restaurants in the area, and the subway station is close by. We liked it so much that we also stayed at this hotel on our way out of Japan. It cost 84 us$ per night on the dates you will be there.
If you want to book this hotel, please book it through this link (affiliate link): https://nerdnomads.com/mystays_asakusabashi_tokyo_a
Have a great trip to Tokyo!
Great post! Japan gets such a terrible reputation when it comes to cost, but is such an amazing country. Awesome job at summing things up!
Thanks a lot Katie!! Yeah, everybody keeps saying that Japan is sooooo expensive, and it sure is compared to other Asian countries. But you can actually do your Japan trip to a cheap one too.
Do you think you need to learn a little Japanese before visiting Japan, or I can manage with English?
We don’t know any Japanese except “hello” and “thank you” and we got along just fine. They certainly appreciate it if you know a little Japanese, but you can travel Japan just fine without it.
Have a great trip to Japan!
I would love to try the Capsule Hotel for one night.
Great options here – you hit the price mark for every budget. Kudos!
Thanks Maria! We did unfortunately not try a capsule hotel, but I`m sure it is a fun experience, unless you end up getting a super snorer as your neighbour, hehe.
I’ve always heard that Japan was super expensive. Great to see that there are cheaper alternatives there.
By doing some effort in preplanning your Japan trip, you can make it cheaper. And Japan is actually not more expensive than USA, Australia and Europe.
Awesome tips and info! I hope to visit someday soon! 🙂
Thanks a million Cailin! 🙂 Japan is a great country to visit!
Your post is very helpful. Every point is given in detailed manner.
Thank you so much, Reshmi! 🙂
You have made us excited to travel there. It has been high on our list. Thank you for all information Maria. I can’t believe the Manga Kissa. That’s crazy it’s a comic book Internet cafe and you can sleep there. Thanks for laying out the prices too. Great to see it is not as expensive as some people say, 🙂
Hi Lesh! Thanks! So glad that you found this article useful! Yeah the Manga Kissa internet/manga cafes are everywhere in the big cities in Japan. Great fun to visit during day time, but a very noisy and not so comfortable place to sleep I can imagine, hehe 🙂 .
I will be visiting Japan for the second time next spring and even though it will be my second time visiting, I found this extremely helpful. A lot of good information here 😀 Thanks!
Hi Chanel! Thank you so much! So glad to hear that this is useful for you even though you have been to Japan before. I really want to go back to Japan too, you are so lucky! 🙂
So much information here! Definitely bookmarking this for that day I finally make it to Japan. I always thought it was expensive, but I could live off of all the different noodles, so maybe I can make it a little cheaper 😀
It`s good to know that it is possible to travel to Japan and not be totally broke. I agree, Japanese noodles like soba, ramen and udon are the best, and cheap too! 🙂
What a timely post! Just last night the two of us were contemplating planning a trip to Japan sometime next year, said we need to stop postponing it to someday
Wow, that`s great! You definitely should visit Japan next year, you will love it there! The best time to visit is during spring (cherry blossom season) from March to May, and autumn (autumn foliage) september to november. But these are also the months when it is most crowded and most expensive of course. 🙂 We visited Japan in July to August (five weeks).
Japan is number one on our bucket list, but the price has always put us off. it’s great to hear that food isn’t that expensive! Thanks!
Food is not expensive in Japan, at least not compared to Western countries. Of course you can find fancy and expensive restaurants here too, and in general western food is more expensive than Japanese food. Japan is such a great country, so you should definitely visit some day!
I am going to visit in June is it unbearable due to the weather? What is it like?
June is rainy season in Japan. We visited in July/ August, and it did rain but not every day and usually only for a short period of time (one hour or two) when it rained pretty heavy. Just bring an umbrella or rain coat and you will be fine.
Have a great trip to Japan!
I recommend to visit Japan for two weeks during the cherry blossoms or two weeks in the beautiful autumn (fall) colour. We (a couple from Australia) were there for two weeks during the hanami/ sakura/cherry blossoms and enjoyed every day. Bought 2-weeks JR passes and used on Shinkansen + Express trains+ normal trains, ferry to the Shrine island. Based in Kyoto, we visited Tokyo, Kanazawa (with the famous Kenroku-en), Osaka, Nara, Himeji, Kurashiki, Takamatsu (with the famous Ritsurin Garden), Hakata and Kagoshima,etc.. The weather was nice too.
Hi Mary and Jimmy,
Sounds like you had an amazing two weeks trip to Japan! Would love to visit Japan during cherry blossoms, guess we will have to book plane tickets and accommodations months ahead. Thanks for all these tips about places to go and what to see in Japan! Very useful!
Happy traveling! 🙂
Really good article. I’ve lived in Japan for 3 years and I’ve watched the exchange rate go from painful to wonderful. It’s definitely not as expensive here anymore and you can really get by. Though luxury ryokans and hotels can cost you a pretty penny upwards of $600-$1000USD a night. I’m shocked at how expensive ryokans can be but there are plenty more affordable options as well. But having a rail pass makes it a thousand times more affordable!! Unfortunately since I live here I can’t get one and it costs waaayyy to much to travel on Shinkansen. I also have a travel and photography blog and frequently write about Japan if you want to connect 🙂 – Stephanie
Hi Stephanie!! Thanks for dropping by! Yeah, we got a bit of a shock when we started to do research about Ryokans as we really wanted to stay at one at least one night. 🙂 Luckily we managed to find a pretty cheap one. It really was a great experience with delicious Japanese food and onsen included in the price! Loved it!
Too bad people living in Japan can`t buy the Rail Pass! Talked to several Japanese people who were a bit pissed at that, that is it only for tourists.
Your blog is awesome!! Will definitely check it out some more in depth. Love your photos, they are beautiful!! Will connect with you on social medias too. -Maria-
This is a very interesting post. I guess if you’re smart about things you can always find a good bargain. My husband and me were apalled by how expensive Australia was, but by being creative we managed to stay within our budget ánd have a great time.
Found you through #SundayTraveler
Thanks Esther! 🙂 Will definitely ask you for advice when we are heading to Australia next year, as it seems like a very expensive country! I really agree, one can usually find a way to make even expensive countries affordable.
Hey Esther, wat leuk jou hier ook te zien! 🙂
And Maria, we’ll probably be going to Japan this summer! 😀
Ah, lucky you Yvon. We love Japan! Have you decided which places you will visit? Have a great trip to Japan!
Food would be our biggest expensive. I’d just eat and eat to try everything on offer 🙂 Thanks for linking up with us.
Hehe, luckily the food prices are actually not so bad in Japan. I agree, Japanese food is the best! 🙂
Definitely bookmarking this! I’ve been wondering whether or not Japan was expensive for a long time, and it sounds like it’s quite affordable. I’d love to go!
You should definitely visit Japan Margherita! You will love it! Yep, a Japan trip can be done affordably when you know a trick or two. 🙂
Eating at a sushi train restaurant in Japan is actually on my bucket list! It’s weird, because Japan has never called to me the way some other Asian countries do, but so many people I know love it, so I would like to travel there someday. Thanks for all the tips! 🙂
Sushi train restaurants are the best! You definitely should visit Japan, or at least Tokyo. It is such a crazy and cool city! 🙂
I’d like to try that train. It’s cool.
The Shinkansen trains are soooo cool! It is one of, or maybe the fastest train in the world too! Nerd facts: The maximum operating speed is 320 km/h. Test runs have reached up to a world record 581 km/h. Pretty crazy! 🙂
Hey guys! Love this article! So helpful. I too will be in Bangkok before leaving for Japan for Christmas… do you remember which shopping mall/travel agency you bought your pass from? And would you recommend doing this? Thanks so much!
I can’t remember exactly where we bought ours, since we just happened to see it while strolling around a shopping mall in the Silom area. But here is a link that lists all the authorised Japan Rail Pass agents: http://japanrailpass.net/eng/en005.html
As you can see there are many in Bangkok, and also quite a few all over the world. But yes Bangkok will be a good place to buy one, if you don’t live near an agent. The price should be the same wherever you buy one, with some small exchange variations.
Have a super trip to Bangkok / Japan! Two of my absolute favourite places! 🙂
I’d heard that Japan is super expensive, too – it’s part of why I’ve never seriously thought of going! It’s nice to know that it doesn’t have to be that way.
Also, I’m going to start calling all buffets ‘vikings’ now. Just because.
I have to admit that traveling in Japan on the cheap is a bit challenging, but absolutely doable. Hehe, me too, “vikings” sounds way cooler than “buffets”! 🙂
This is a super-useful post. I’m bookmarking it to refer back to as I start planning a Japan trip. My whole family loves Japanese food – we’ll certainly be eating lots of it!
Thank you so much Fairlie!! We love Japanese food too, and there is a lot more to it than just Sushi. Have a great trip to Japan!! 🙂
Coming January I Will Visit to Japan. So, How can make my journey enjoyable? I expect to better advice for me.
could you tell me how can I visit most popular landmark and Historical Heritage within one week’s.
thanks for your helpful stories.
Hi M.M. Uddin!
With only one week to spend in Japan, I would advice you to stay in Tokyo and Kyoto, and do day trips from there.
For instance can you spend three days in Tokyo and do a day-trip from here to Nikko (https://nerdnomads.com/temples-of-nikko), and to Mt Fuji (we did not go to Mt Fuji because the weather was so bad…).
Then you can spend the rest of your days in Kyoto, and do a day trip to Nara and a day trip do Osaka or to Hiroshima (https://nerdnomads.com/miyajima-island, https://nerdnomads.com/peace-memorial-ceremony-hiroshima).
It is very easy to travel in Japan by train, as they go everywhere and the Shinkansen train goes very fast! In order to save some money, my best tip is to buy a Japan Rail Pass (JR): http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en001.html
Have a great trip to Japan! You will love it!!
Wow, this is such a wonderful post – just what I was looking for! I am heading to Japan later this week and am a bit nervous about totally going over my budget. You have some great tips here!
Wow, you are going to Japan this week? You are so lucky! 🙂
It’s such a cool country, one of our absolute favourites. It’s familiar, yet totally unique. You’ll understand what I mean once you get there 🙂
Really happy that you found our tips useful. Japan is expensive, but it is totally possible to explore and have a great time without blowing the budget. Have a wonderful trip!
Hey there! I found your page through Pinterest. My husband and I and our son want to visit Japan in the future. What did you do in regards to the language barrier? I’m trying to learn Japanese now, any suggestions? Thanks! Enjoy your travels 🙂
We picked up a few phrases of Japanese on the trip, enough to order some food, but we really only speak English. Most of the younger Japanese understand some English, but they are often too shy to try to speak it themselves. In popular tourist spots like Tokyo and Kyoto, there are English speaking tourist information offices and maps available.
Japan is not the easiest place to travel language wise, especially in more remote areas, but don’t let that stop you. It is surprising how far you can get with a few phrases, a bit of sign language and a smile 🙂
If you can plan a month’s stay, there’s a very cheap alternative to hotels, and that’s renting a “gaijin apartment” on a month-to-month plan. There are two companies that I know of in Tokyo, and I hear of one in Osaka, where you can rent a very nice, if small, furnished apartment in the 90,000-120,000 range (about 850-1000 $US). In 2007 and again in 2012 my friend and I each rented an apartment from Sakura House, which is the largest company that offers them in Tokyo. They only rent to foreigners, usually students or businesspeople on short-term assignment. When we ran the numbers, my friend and I decided that dividing 850 by 30 came out almost as cheap as a hostel, but with all the privacy and facilities of a hotel. Plus unlike a hotel, you can keep your stuff wherever you want, cook whenever you want, and come and go as you please, and no one comes around making you leave so they can clean up. To get an idea of what they’re like I made a video walkaround of my apartment in Monzennakacho, Tokyo. http://youtu.be/AvNgrYqvzyo
Hi CptNerd, nice to meet a fellow travel nerd! 🙂
Thanks for your great tip about gaijin apartments! Have never heard of this, but it sounds perfect. Will definitely check this out the next time we visit Japan. Since the hotels were so expensive in Japan, we could not afford to stay as long as we wanted. Your apartment on the video looks nice, and not bad for 850 us$ a month in Tokyo! Thanks again! Happy travels!
Thanks, if you’re interested in more info, here’s the company I rented from, they have lots of places in the Tokyo area:
Great info. Thank you for sharing so much to help budget, a very important when figuring out any travel plan. I’ve wanted to go to Japan for a long time but was hesitant given the rumors about how expensive it it. It’s good to hear another point of view and dispell those rumors.
Thanks Brooke, so glad to hear that you found this helpful! Japan is expensive compared with other Asian countries, but it is possible to do it on the cheap. Thanks for commenting!
Hello! I moved across the page and on Accommodation line do not see a tent. So there is the cheepest way for the night rest. I talk from my personal experience. I had very strong wish to visit Japan and solved the money problem in this way. Of course you can use hotel when there is the rainy time, you can take care about yourself using the thermal bath, because Japan is the land of onsen. But in any case respect locals anywhere.
Thanks for the tip, Tery! It’s nice to know that camping in a tent is a good option for budget travel in Japan 🙂
Be careful Espen! Campsite in Japan is different as you imagine in Europe. If there is campsite on navigator it is more possible use for a car. Use park.On the spot you will see better.Also read more info about camping on internet.
Japan is also great for Senior travellers! I went as my 60th birthday present to myself as I was an international Karataka in my 30s, but had never been there. I travelled with a group from England,Festival of Japan, run by Jill Clay, who took us to temples, parks, restaurants, and craft centres. We got the Japan rail pass and travelled on 5 different Shinkansen. We stayed at both business type hotels and ryokan, visited temple markets and bought fabrics and household goods, we watched artisan print and sword makers and had a private geisha tea party! It was no more expensive than the UK and absolutely breathtaking!.
Wow, sounds like you had an awesome trip to Japan, Denise! So nice to hear that also seniors travel and enjoy foreign countries and cultures. I am trying to convince my parents to go on a trip to Japan, I will definitely show them your comment. I think you will inspire them to finally take the leap and go to Japan.
Thanks for your great comment!
Now in Japan is sakura blooming time. Do not miss this moment! This is very spectacular!
Ah we would love to visit Japan during sakura blooming time! It looks gorgeous!
Thanks for the great link Tery, showing the blooming season in each area of Japan. Very useful!
Thank you so much to give such a fantastic review of Japan. We have never been there but planning to go. You have given us so much info, thank you so much. Can they speak English?
Do not disturb yourself with English. You will be OK.
Do you have experience how to communicate with people who does not speak? With the time you will get experience. Speak slow and clearly. You can use gestures or take printed pictures with yourself, say the essential words for the distant places you want to visit where no speakers in English. Usually locals, when catch what you want take your hand and manage you to the right direction or give another sort of help.
Thanks for your comment jeffkhan, so happy to hear that our post could be of help for you when planning your trip to Japan.
We don`t speak any Japanese either, but it was no problem communicating in English and with hand gestures. Japanese are really polite and helpful, and very friendly people. In the big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto most people speak English, especially the young, and at tourist sights/places the guides speak perfect English. So you don`t have to worry about language barriers. Just buy a detailed map or get one at your hotel with both English and Japanese writing of the streets, and you will be fine.
Have an awesome trip to Japan, I`m sure you will love it just as much as we did!
Your blog is interesting but not complete. Here is a little history why Japan appears relatively inexpensive…we lived in Japannfrom 1986 to 1997 and my daughter is currently living and acting in Tokyo…so we have visited nearly every year since we relocated to Hawaii.
When we first lived in Japan, it was outrageous expensive … And seemed to be prosperous…offering lifetime employment to employees. Mi taught as an adjunct professor at a famous japanese university…Gakushuin … Where the emperors family attended. Now, at that time, when students graduated from university there were 2-3 positions available so students could be choosy. However, around 1995-1996!the Japanese economy started a long long economic recession…some would say depression for a variety of reasons…so that…
Lifetime employment passed into history, when students graduated from university there were 2-3 students fighting for the same position. So a new kind of life started for Japanese students..’arbeito’ from the German for part-time or temp work…and older men who were promised lifetime employment for themselves without an occupation…and it is and was very difficult for these ‘redundant’ workers to find new jobs…so something that didn’t exist when we were first in Japan began to spiral…homelessness!!
The recession hasn’t end irregardless of prime minister Abe.
Due to the above, yes, things have gotten much less expensive, relative to the past in Japan.
Thanks a million for your great comment providing us with some background. I am really glad Japan has gotten less expensive compared to back in the 80`s. We loved Japan, especially Tokyo. I can totally get why your daughter chose to live and work in Tokyo. Such a great city!
This was so helpful!!! Great Post!
Thanks a lot Alexandra! 🙂 Happy to hear that it was helpful to you!
Excellent article, the only things I would disagree with is the cost of business hotels, which can be found for $50.00 and I find Japan cheaper than most other Asian countries, like Taiwan (also amazing) and South Korea and China. For those looking for out of the way greatness, I highly recommend Tokushima, on the 4th largest island of Shikoku! The best think about staying cheap in Japan, is there are no bad areas, so you’ll never be in danger due too your budget, unlike almost every other country.
Thanks for commenting Jerry! There are definitely countries in Asia that are more expensive than Japan, but also countries in Asia that are a lot cheaper. So it depends which Asian countries you compare Japan to. We have not been to Taiwan or South Korea yet, would love to visit them one day.
Thanks for the tip on Tokushima! Hope to check it out on our next trip to Japan. Will definitely put it on our bucket list. I totally agree, Japan is very safe with very low crime no matter what area you visit or stay in. We always felt safe while traveling in Japan.
My teenage sons will be visiting Japan for 2 weeks with classmates. We have prepaid hotel, museums, and transportation. They just need to take care of lunch and dinner for 9 days and snacks for both weeks. I’m wondering if they should just take all cash or will a prepaid card work for them to take our money? They have never been outside of the U.S.A. and I’m excited they have this opportunity, but also nervous. Any advice you can give me will be appreciated. Thanks.
Lucky boys that have the chance to go on a trip to Japan! They must be so excited. US and european credit cards does unfortunately not work in most Japanese ATMs or banks. But all 7Elevens have international ATMs where at least our Norwegian credit cards (Visa) worked fine. So in the big cities it was no problem taking out cash using our Visa cards, as there are plenty of 7Elevens. In more remote areas and small villages it is best to have cash. So it depends where in Japan they will be traveling. I would recommend bringing some cash just in case.
Japan is generally very safe with very little theft, so you should not worry about your boys. It is probably the safest country to visit in Asia regarding crime, and it is no problem having cash on you as pickpocketing is not common in Japan. I have never felt safer traveling anywhere, even my home country Norway.
I am sure your boys will have an awesome trip and make memories for life! Wish them a great trip! We loved Japan, I am sure they will too.
What Maria said! 🙂 Plus, be glad they’re having this wonderful adventure in Japan, rather than Europe or anywhere else in the world! Just have them read up, so they do not unintentionally offend the wonderful Japanese people. They should learn just a little Japanese, because unlike Paris, the slightest effort to speak the language, is met with praise and encouragement and any help they may need. I hope they enjoy and become fans of Japan!
I booked a last minute trip to Japan for 10 days as flights were so cheap,
fingers crossed i can eat cheap and under budget whilst there after looking at this!
Good for you, Mitch, I wish I could get back there myself. You’ll have absolutely no problem eating healthy, satisfying and under budget. Relax, enjoy and take it all in! I recommend comfortable walking shoes and walk down every little alley you see, there’s always something unique and amazing, tucked away in the most unexpected of places! Don’t forget to climb the Tokyo Sky Tree! I’m obsessed with it, have been even before it was built. Also, if you drink coffee, make sure to go to Starbucks and get a coffee jelly frappuccino!
As a Japanese, I totaly agree with your sammary and very impressed with its volume of information! Such an fantastic job!
One reason why ppl feel like it’s expensive for travelling to Japan is, i guess, that you need long holidays if you come from Europe or somewhere far away, which increases the total cost during the trip. Maybe? On the other hand, food/eating-out (except fruits) and publications are probably the cheapest among the developed counties.
I haven’t traveled to Norway yet. That’s ashame! …. I know you have a lots of fresh seafoods and the beautiful nature 🙂
Thank you so much for commenting! We love Japan! Your country is so beautiful.
Yes, I agree, for a European or American to travel to Japan it`s best if you have a long holiday. Then you get to fully see Japan and its culture. Eating out is not that expensive if you avoid the fanciest restaurants, and Japanese food is awesome! Well worth the money eating Japanese food in restaurants instead of making your own.
You should definitely come visit Norway. Lots of Japanese come here both winter and summer to see the Northern Lights and Midnight Sun. I think you will love it.
Thank you Maria for that amazing summary about Japan. My boyfriend and I are planning be there in August 2016, since my son lives in a military base in Iwakuni. What do you recommend to do in Tokyo during 3 days? Also, according to your experience, what are the recommend places to visit in Japan during 2 weeks?
Again, thanks for that excellent en detailed report.
Wow, how exciting that you are going to Japan next year to visit your son. I am actually working on a guide to What-to-do-in-Tokyo and a travel guide to Japan. I will send you an email when it`s published on our blog.
Hi again Martha,
I have now published our two week Japan itinerary. Hope this will help and give you some ideas of what to see and do during your trip to Japan to visit your son. Check it out here: https://nerdnomads.com/japan-two-week-itinerary.
Hai, if you are traveling whit a few people like us, two adults and two kids it’ an idee to rent a house. For exaple on AirBnb you wil find plenty of private houses for around a 100 us a day, it’s cheep compared to a hotel and you can cook your one meal.
Renting a car or motorhome is also verry nice, with a motorhome you have a place to sleep whit you and for 4 people you can manage for around 150 us a day, be aware of the highways, there expensive. If you park outside a town for the night it is normaly no problem.
If you are a fruit lover, go to the big supermarkets, they most of the time have a smal sale place of ripe fruit, fruit is hard to sell if it’ s not spotless so the price wil drop fast and the taste is at its best.
Greatings and happy travels, Henny
Thanks for that great tips about renting an apartment and a car/motorhome! We have rented an apartment through AirBnB in other countries, but in Japan it was actually not cheaper for us than a business hotel since we are only two people. For more people, I agree, renting an apartment is a good idea. We have never rented a motorhome. I`m not sure I would drive myself in Japan, as most of the signs are in Japanese which I, unfortunately, don`t speak or read at all.
Awesome tip about getting ripe fruits on sale. Will definitely check it out as I love fruits! 🙂
This is excellent, I’m researching a trip to Japan and this is the perfect starting point – thank you!
Thank you so much!! So happy this could be of help to you when planning your trip to Japan.
Have a great trip to Japan!! 🙂
A truly complete article! Regarding accomodation in Tokyo, maybe you can add there are also guesthouses and apartments for rent for those who want to stay more longer than few weeks. ^ _ ^
Thank you for this article.
Thank you so much! I will definitely add guesthouses and apartments, thanks for the tip. You can find a lot of great apartments in Tokyo on Airbnb.
Loved your article….
My friends and family are planning to go on a trip together and they want to go to Eastern US or Greece…. When I suggested about Japan, they started talking about the rumors that Japan is expensive……
So, which city is the best and cheapest in terms of food and transport (within the city)- Tokyo, New York or Athens ?
We have not been to Athens, unfortunately, so I can`t say anything about the costs there. As for New York and Tokyo, I would say New York is more expensive, especially when it comes to food (if you don`t eat at McDonald`s that is) and hotel. Transport costs in New York and Tokyo is about the same.
If you Google around, you will find plenty of most-expensive-cities-to-visit-lists. On these lists, both New York and Tokyo is ranked high up, but New York is usually ranked more expensive than Tokyo. Athens is by far the cheapest among these three cities, normally ranked 50 or so.
Good luck with choosing which one to visit! I`m sure you will have a great time no matter what.
I’d love to know when is the best time to go to Tokyo, like, the cheapest month to travel.
Thanks in advance!
The cheapest months to travel to Tokyo and Japan is during winter, from January to March approximately.
Avoid spring from late March, April, and May when it`s cherry blossom season which is super popular. Also, avoid autumn, September to November, as autumn leaves (color changing) is highly popular. Autumn leaves are in November in Tokyo and Kyoto. New Year is also expensive in Tokyo. These months are expensive, especially regarding accommodations.
We visited Tokyo and Japan in July and August, which is the rainy season and not too expensive.
What helpful information you have provided! I am planning a trip to Japan next April/May 2017 – yes I know, a busy expensive season, but I have been wanting to see the Cherry Blossoms since I was about 9 – and that was a very long time ago!
Travelling with my husband, you have guided me and given me great ideas for my 2 week vacation, which I may have to stretch to 3 weeks now!! I will be using this info as my guide and recommending it. Thank You.
Awww, thank you so much! So glad that this could be of help to you and your husband when planning your Japan trip.
We have also written a two-week best-of-Japan itinerary which you might find helpful: https://nerdnomads.com/japan-two-week-itinerary
So cute that you have wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms since you were 9! Then it`s definitely something you should do, even though it is a bit more expensive. I`m sure it is totally worth it! I really want to see the Cherry Blossoms myself one day.
Have an amazing trip to Japan and enjoy the beautiful flowers! Thanks for commenting!
Hey ! Glad i found this ! Some great advice. I amy well get in touch with some questions as i am planning my trip to Japan 🙂
Thank you! Please send us all questions you might have, would love to help you out when planning your Japan trip.
Just send us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form up on the menu.
Have a great trip to Japan!
I am currently living in Japan for one year in the Saitama area which is just outside of Tokyo but easily accessible by train. However there are no discount train tickets or options if you are using the metro or JR lines outside of Tokyo even if your just outside. You need to be careful & make sure the area your in & where your travelling to, can get these cheaper tickets.
It only takes me 40 mins to get to Shibuya on the metro but I use the Saikyo line from saitama & tickets are full price so be careful of the lines your using.
Use Google maps to check the cost of your trips, as there are many options at different prices.
I do not find the convenient stores cheap. They are just like in the USA, convenient but your paying more for this convenience. There are lots of little food stores around where I would suggest to buy products. Best option to shop for food if your here longer than just a holiday, is to go to the local food stores in the evening as the food products will reduce in price usually up to 30%.
Starbucks in Japan do not use the points system on their cards like other countries so I would suggest other coffee options. Lots of coffee shops do offer a card with a points system.
I hope this helps.
Thanks a lot for this helpful information and tips, Oliver! Really appreciate it!
The Japan railway system and tickets can be pretty complicated and difficult to understand, so it`s a good point to check Google maps for the cost of each train trip in advance.
And great tips about buying food at reduced price in the evening! Love that! Here in Norway, we use an app called “Too Good To Go” where you can order left-over food in the evening at a low price. Use it all the time as food is pretty expensive here.
Thanks again for all these great tips!
My Friend and I are planning our trip to Japan at the end of March into April next year, for 2 weeks. I have found your Blog very helpful… Thank You! 🙂 I read somewhere on your comments that the time we are travelling to Japan is a good time to travel there as it is Cherry Blossom season :), but just means it’s extra busy and expensive ! Which is fine but we want to try plan and book our itinerary ASAP in case hotels get fully booked etc. Below is our itinerary , please can you let me know if you think this is ok? and if we can get to all of these places using the Japan Railway Pass?
Tokyo – 3 nights
Hakone – 2 nights
Takayama – 1 night
Kyoto – 4 nights
Osaka – 1 night
Hiroshima – 2 nights
Tokyo – 1 night
Your help would be greatly appreciated ! 🙂
Thank you so much! Glad our blog could be of help when planning your Japan trip.
Spring is Cherry Blossom season, and the peak season when it comes to visitors so you should definitely book hotels early.
Your itinerary looks great, and yes you can get to all of these places with the Japan Railway Pass. It is a bit similar to our recommended Japan itinerary: https://nerdnomads.com/japan-two-week-itinerary
Have a great trip to Japan! You will love it and the colourful Cherry Blossoms!
Peace & Love
Completely loved your blog. It was very informative . Japan is no 1 on my bucket list. Will try to plan for summer of 2017. I’ve been planning for the last 6 months. Is summer ok to go there, I hope it doesn’t get too hot. Plus I’m going to try and learn some Japanese.
Thank you so much, Baljit! So cool that you are planning to visit Japan and that you are learning Japanese! Wow, seems like a difficult language to learn. To read Japanese seems impossible to me. 🙂
Summer is fine, we visited Japan in July/August, and it was perfect. Not too hot, but rain some days.
Good luck with planning your Japan trip, and good luck with learning Japanese! I`m sure you will have a great trip to Japan and that you will love this country just as much as we do.
I really want to visit Japan is such an amazing culture. But please tell me, how safe is Japan? I’m 20 years old and I’m a girl in some places, specially south america, it’s dangerous for a group of girls, around 20 years old, to travel “alone”. Like that case of the two raped and murdered girls in Argentina. I want to know if that case could happen in Japan. I would like to travel with my friend but I’m afraid to travel just with her and be exposed to that danger.
Japan is very safe, it is among the countries in the world with the least crimes. South America is much more dangerous statistically. So you should not worry about traveling alone in Japan as a girl. I have never felt safer than in Japan!
I saw Japanese culture in this page. But I wanna it with my real eye and visit more place like that tokyo. This travel may be 2 weeks. all in all this blog page help me to know japan.
It is always best to experience a country and its culture with your own eyes. Although we try to give an authentic and realistic picture of Japan, it is of course through our eyes and our impressions and experiences.
I recommend spending at least two weeks in Japan if you want to see more than Tokyo and Kyoto. This country has so much to offer and things to see and do.
Happy travels and have a great trip to Japan!
Planning a 3 weeks trip to Japan this year. Good tips!
Thank you so much, Ruta! Glad to hear that our article could be of help. Have a great trip to Japan! I´m sure you will love this beautiful country!
This was really helpful.. I want to plan a trip to Japan with my husband for our 10 year anniversary.. thanks a lot
Thank you so much, Wila! Going to Japan to celebrate your 10 year anniversary seems great! You will have so much to see and do in Japan. I think you will love this country.
Hello Maria ! First of all I would like to congratulate you for your great work of sharing your backpacking experience worldwide on this blog which is absolutely help full ! So, well done !! 😉
I already booked my ticket to Japan from the middle of April till first week of May 2017. I got a very good deal to be honest. I paid £425.00 round trip ticket to Osaka City From Edinburgh- Scotland. ! I am super exited with this trip and I stared to schedule it already. I am going to use your tips and guises posted on here !! So, I have few questions :
Do you think it is gonna be too expensive to go on that period of time ? talking in terms of accommodation, food, transport, etc ??
Have you been in Osaka ? Is there something to do or to see there ? Because want of the city I want really visit is Kyoto. I heard is extremely beautiful and unmissable !
How much money ( as average) do you believe that should I bring to stay 19 days in Japan ?
Thank you very much for your help and once again congratulations for your amazing blog !!!
Thank you so much! Wow, you got a great deal on your flight ticket from Edinburgh to Osaka! So cheap! Way to go!
I don`t think April/ May is more expensive than other months, as most of the Cherry Blossom season is probably over by the end of April. The train tickets are constant all year round, but the accommodation prices might go up in spring because of the Cherry Blossom. You should buy a JR pass before entering Japan, that will save you a lot of money if you plan to travel around the country.
Sorry, we have not been to Osaka yet. You should definitely go see the Osaka Castle if you head to Osaka, it looks amazing. They also have Universal Studios in Osaka and a big aquarium and a Science Museum (I love science museums 🙂 ).
Hmm, it is difficult to predict how much money you will spend on your 19 days in Japan. It all depends on what kind of accommodation you choose, how much you will travel around, how many sights you would like to see, and what kind of food and restaurants you eat at. You will probably spend at least 100 us$ a day, I think it is difficult to spend less than 100 us$. You have to stay in dorms and cut down on your food budget and sightseeing.
Have a great trip to Japan! I`m sure you will love this great country!
Hi Maria !
Thank you very much for your message!
Yes I was lucky enough to buy a very cheap ticket to Japan. Well there are actually very cheap tickets to Japan on April this year ! I did not thick about as long I find the ticket I bought it straight away !!
I went to the Japanese Consulate in Edinburgh and I got some brochures about places such us: Kyoto, Osaka, Tokyo, how to buy the JR Pass and they told me that is the best cheapest way to earn some money in Japan during the trip. So, Its good ! I already started booking the hostels around in japan and making my list of the places I’s visit and the most important ones due the that I only have 19 days. So, hopefully I can visit few of them, and head in some cities as well !
Thank you very much for you help and tips Maria !
Hello Maria ! I hope you are very well !
Maria I have a question. In order to save some money during my trip in Japon. I will buy the Japn Rail Pass, but my concern is about the days which I will be not actually travelling inside of Japan. For example: if I stay in Kyoto 3 nights and after the Japan Rail pass was activated and then I go to Tokio . Are these 3 nights ( “time off”) couanting in the Japan Rail pass as well ? which means 3 day lost of Japan Rail pass ??
I am really confused abuut this because I will be in Japan fpr more that 15 days and Not too sure if 7 days Japan Rail pass will be enough.. because I am planning to stay 2 nights in Kyoto, 1night in Nara etc and during that time no use my Rail Pass
Thank you soo much Maria foryour help ?
I know what you mean, this is always a tricky decision; when to activate the Japan Rail Pass. 🙂
If you spend for instance three nights in Tokyo after you have activated your Japan Rail Pass, you can use the pass on some of the local trains inside of Tokyo city. You can use the pass on the JR Yamanote Line and JR Line in Tokyo. That way the JR Pass is not “wasted” or you have a “time off” of three days since you can still use it inside Tokyo.
If you stay three nights in Kyoto, and head to Tokyo for three more nights, you can buy a single train ticket Kyoto-Tokyo and wait to activate your JR Pass after Tokyo. This might actually be cheaper, you should do the math. Or you should consider buying the 14 or 21 days JR Pass.
Hope this helped a little. 🙂 Have a great trip to Japan!
Hello. I am like really concerned about the costs. Is Japan more expensive than countries like Italy and Spain. How does it compare to The USA, China, Australia and New Zealand?
Japan is more expensive than other Asian countries like Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philipines, Sri Lanka and so on. It is comparable to USA, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe.
Here is a great webpage that has the world’s largest database regarding living cost: https://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/
You can check Tokyo, Kyoto and other places you plan to visit in Japan and compare it with cities in Europe, USA, and Australia.
It is a most excellent travel destination. A bit expensive, but well worth the trip. Anyway, your photos and tips are stunning!
Thank you so much, Paul! I agree, Japan is worth the money. And it is not that expensive, at least not compared to Europe and USA.
Happy travels! 🙂
Great job in putting this together! Japan is a beautiful country with rich and preserved history. It’s very unique and definitely offers a lot to see and do. It is in fact expensive travelling to Japan, but these tips and info you shared will definitely entice budget travelers to just go for it!
Thank you so much, Agness! I agree Japan is a wonderful country. Hope to go back there during winter to go skiing in the mountains in the Nagano area.
Happy travels! 🙂
Nice article! I live in Tokyo and I’m always surprised why people abroad think everything here is expensive.
One thought that I had is, many travel guidebooks say “tipping is rude” but nowadays, this isn’t so. Sure, tipping isn’t mandatory, but I feel that if you do receive great service you should still tip.☺
Thank you so much, Emi, and thanks for commenting! Great to hear from someone who lives in Tokyo about the tipping practice in Japan. I`m glad that tipping is not as mandatory and expected in Japan as in other countries like the US, but of course, it is always ok to tip when receiving excellent service.
I haven’t been to Japan but I am interested in going one day in the future. Though it doesn’t seem like an easy country for a vegan to visit!
Yes, I`ve heard that Japan is a bit difficult to travel in for vegans, but I know people who have done it. So you should not let that stop you from visiting Japan.
Happy travels! 🙂
Thanks Maria, We are going to Japan in May and have pre-booked everything and also plan on the Japan rail passes for 2 weeks. I cannot wait! We have the same view of wanting to go to Japan for the culture and food, and compared it with Europe, deciding on Japan instead (it really will be cheaper than Europe!). Thanks for all of the tips, they are really helpful to keep in mind.
Thank you so much for your nice comment! Lucky you who are going to Japan in May! I`m sure you will love it! Glad to hear that you find our tips helpful.
Have a great trip to Japan!
Im planning to visit Japan, hopefully this August with my mom and sister. It will be my treat for them. Is it better to stay in Osaka rather in Tokyo? Main attractions of my trip will be USJ, Disneyland and Mt. Fuji. Thanks for advise!
Lucky you who are going to Japan in August with your mom and sister! I`m sure you will love Japan!
Hmm, good question. I would say that you should stay in both Osaka and Tokyo. You should stay in Osaka when you visit Universal Studios (as this is located in Osaka), and you should stay in Tokyo (Odaiba area of Tokyo) when visiting Disneyland. It takes about 3,5 hours by train from Osaka to Disneyland, so it will give you very little time in Disneyland if you want to do this as a day-trip from Osaka since you will have to spend 7 hours on the train in total. There is also a Disney Resort located very close to Disneyland.
Mt. Fuji is located in Hakone, so if you want to stay near Mt. Fuji you should find a hotel in the Hakone area. Or you can take Mt. Fuji on your way from Osaka to Tokyo.
Have a great trip to Japan!
Thank you for posting such an extensive information about Japan.
Planning to go there next year.
This was such a great help for our planning.
Thank you so much for your comment, Sonny! Happy to hear that our blog could be of help to you when planning your trip to Japan next year.
Have a great trip to Japan, and good luck with the planning!
The most useful and professional blog I’ve read on Japan till now.
Awwww, thanks a million, Manoranjan! You are awesome! Your comment made my day! 🙂
I love japan, japan is a nice place . thanks for sharing
Thanks for sharing amazing article, Japan is so beautiful country.
Thank you, Haram! I agree completely, Japan is truly beautiful!
Thanks for the Article, good know about the prices there in details! I’m planning to backpack trip on a budget to Japan soon and it’s nice to kind of know in advance how much things are going to cost.
Thank you, Ahmed! Happy to hear that you find our arcticle about the cost of traveling in Japan useful! It is definitely possible to do Japan on a backpacking budget.
Good luck with your planning and have a great trip to Japan!
Thank you so much for sharing tips for travel backpacking, After reading this blog its is very easy for new travelers to travel around the world without any problem.
Thank you so much, Anabel! So glad you like our blog!
Happy travels! 🙂
Thank you for the tip, will be of great help when i plan to visit japan. no one likes spending more than they could.
Thank you! Glad this could be of help to you!
Happy traveling! 🙂
Hello,thank you for the useful information, can you tell me little bit about Japan clothing prices am opening a small boutique and will would like to go for some orders, do they have cheap quality clothes or not?
Japan is not that cheap when it comes to shopping for clothes. I think Thailand is better to head to for buying cheap clothes (like Chatuchak Weekend Market and MBK shopping center). You might find some cheap quality clothes shops in Tokyo, but I don`t know much about buying cheap clothing in Japan, sorry about that.
Everything in Japan is expensive because they try and block anything that Japanese would really love to buy to protect the local merchants. the only thing that is cheaper is the hospital because it is subsidized. Just dont get any major illness. All imported foods are insanely overpriced. even bicycles, many imported models go for 2000 USD and above. 3000 yen for a bicycle tire? 1000 yen for a cup of japan made peanut butter? 20000 a month to park your car? 300000 yen just to get a rental contract? 80000 yen for a 2 year shakken? the only thing cheap in japan is used items, Japanese hate used things so you can get them almost for free and flip them. Every item in my apartment is under 1000 yen or free. Japanese made products are overrated, mostly junk IMO. US made products are vastly superior. Bikes, refrigerators, tools. Japan is overrated, but its mysterious and weird so everybody wants to know about it.
Thanks for sharing your pint of view and knowledge on Japan! We come from Norway which is also an expensive country.
“US made products are vastly superior. ”
Bwahahahahahhahaaaaa….you are totally clueless.
very informative especially about the train tickets. thanks
Thanks, glad to be of help! Have a great trip to Japan!
I am planning a trip to Japan Next year (2018) in March. How much Money would you say is needed to get a rough idea?
Hmm, it really depends on what kind of accommodation you choose, if you plan to travel around much, what you plan to do, what you like to eat and so on. It is impossible to say, sorry about that. You can sum up the prices mentioned in this article based on your preferences on accommodation, transportation, and food.
If you plan to travel around Japan, you will save some money by buying a Japan Rail Pass, which comes in a 7, 14 and 21-day pass. Check the prices for Japan Rail Pass HERE.
Have a nice trip to Japan next year!
Excellent read! So many useful little details.
My wife and I have been meaning to go to Japan for a while now, but the costs kept putting us off. However, your blog gives it a whole new perspective. Next year, perhaps!
Thanks a million!! So happy to hear that you find our article useful and that you are considering going to Japan! It can be done cheaply as we describe here. I really hope you go next year, you will not regret it as Japan is a fantastic and fascinating land!
Hi!! Thank you for explaining everything! I always wanted to travel to Japan and i may have an opportunity now, i’m really excited! I just have some doubts, hope you could help me with them please… Is the Japan Rail Pass (JR) valid just for the traveling between big cities through all Japan? Is it also possible to do small trips or just the big cities? It is a personal pass, right? os can i use it for me and my husband?
Thank you very very much, loooved your post (and looking foward to the manga museum)
Thank you so much! Lucky you who are going to Japan! It is such a great country, you will love it!
Yes, you can use the Japan Rail Pass all over Japan, also short distances between small places and not only between the big cities. The pass is personal, so you and your husband need one JR pass each.
Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy the Manga Museum! 🙂
Hey Maria, thank you for writing about your experience in Japan it was definitely helpful and insightful! I had a quick question about why we should avoid high season? I’m guessing that everything gets more expensive during those seasons?
Thank you! Yes, as you say, accommodations get expensive during high season like Cherry blossom (March/April) and Autumn colour (September –
November) season. Many hotels get fully booked too, especially in the big cities, so you should book ahead.
Thank you for this very informative article. I have a question about traveling to Nozawa Onsen. I’m planning to go there this coming March 20 (via Narita Airport), then I’m going back to Tokyo on March 23. The shuttle bus which is the most economical and convenient doesn’t operate after March 11. So my options are taxi or train. I saw on Hyperdia that the cost of 1 way ticket to Nozawa is 11,000 Yen and Taxi for one way is 13,000 Yen. I thought traveling by train’s much cheaper so I might just not be understanding Hyperdia right. What’s the most economical option would you suggest? Thanks again!
Thank you so much! So sorry, but we have never been to Nozawa Onsen so I can not give you a in-depth personal advice.
It looks like both the train and taxi take about 4 hours from Tokyo to Nozawa Onsen Village, and as I can find out from doing some research is that your prices look right. The train ticket is about USD 97 while the taxi ride is about USD 115. Train tickets are not that cheap in Japan, that`s why it is most economically to buy a JR Pass or an other train pass if one plan to travel around the country.
Have a great trip to Japan and enjoy your time in Nozawa Onsen! It looks like a great place!
My wife and I have organised a trip to Japan next year arriving at Haneda Airport, Tokyo early on 24 May 2018 and departing from Haneda Airport, Tokyo late on 4 June 2018. A total of 12 days.
Our main places of interest to visit are Tokyo, Hakone/Mt Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka and anything else we can fit in.
We have calculated that it might be best to purchase a 7 day JR pass for the last 7 days of our trip, ie from 29 May till 4 June.
It is our first time to Japan so we need some advice.
This is our rough plan:
24 May till 28 May in Tokyo
29 May Hakone overnight
30 May Kyoto
31 May Kyoto
1 June Kyoto
2 June Osaka
3 June Osaka
4 June Osaka and back to Haneda, Tokyo for flight back to Australia
What suggestions can you offer us for this trip.
Your itinerary looks great! Good idea to buy a 7-day JR Pass and activate it once you leave Hakone and head for Kyoto.
We have a recommended 14-day itinerary that you can check out.
You can for instance consider going on a day-trip to Nara from Kyoto (40 min by train) or Osaka (50 min by train), or a day-trip to Nikko from Tokyo (2 hours by train), or head up Takayama/ Shirakawa-go (about 3 hours by train from Kyoto) for a day or two. Or go down south to Hiroshima if that is of interest. Himeji Castle is a beautiful white castle that you can easily go to from Osaka (1 hour by train). Himeji castle is regarded as the finest surviving example of prototypical Japanese castle architecture.
Have a great trip to Japan in May/ June!! I`m sure you will love this great country!
Thanks for your tips!
I will probably go to Japan at the end of the year and your article is very helpful!
However, don’t think I will sleep in a capsule hotel as I’m a bit claustrophobic ^^
Thank you so much! Hehe, I refuse to sleep in capsule hotels too as I think I would freak out because of the tiny space….. 🙂
Happy travel! Hope you go to Japan at the end of 2018 as it is a great country!
I just came back from Japan last January 6, 2018 after staying there for 2 weeks…
I’m planning to travel Japan again by late May i think for 30 days this time to explore Japan..
Nice place.. Good Food!!!
Wow, cool! Sounds like you had a fantastic trip to Japan! I agree totally, very nice country and delicious food! I can’t wait to go back to Japan as well.
We have only visited Japan during summer so I really want to visit it in wintertime, I can imagine it is completely different and not that many tourists. I also have a dream to go skiing in deep powder snow up in the Nagano area.
Happy travels! 🙂
Sorry if you have already answered this somewhere in the comments above, but I was just curious – how did you approach the issue of bringing money/exchanging currency? (I’ll be exchanging from US$.) Did you exchange most of your budgeted money ahead of time and bring yen with you, or wait until you arrived and use a service at a hotel/airport/etc? Or perhaps just used ATMs at the 711s that accept international cards? I’ve just been trying to figure out how much I might want to bring or how easy I can expect it to be to get cash when needed while out and about in Tokyo.
Thanks ahead of time for your input. I’ve been poring over your Tokyo blog posts in anticipation of a trip next month and the detailed info has been incredibly helpful in my planning.
Thank you so much! So happy to hear that our Tokyo posts could be of help to you when planning your trip!
We did not exchange any money into Yen ahead of our Japan trip, we only withdrew cash (Yens) at ATMs in Japan. We first withdrew Yen at ATMs at the airport when we arrived (they accept international cards). We later withdrew Yen when we ran out of cash at 7-11s as they have ATMs accepting international cards.
There are plenty of 7-11s in all the big cities in Japan, like Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, and so in. It was really never a problem finding a 7-11 with an international ATM. Out of the places listed in our recommended Japan itinerary, the only places that didn’t have a 7-11 was Shirakawa-go, Alpine Route and Nikko.
We also paid with credit cards when shopping in stores, paying at hotels and most restaurants.
Have a fantastic trip to Tokyo next month! I`m sure it will be great!
Aw but I wanna go when the cherry blossoms bloom
Yeah, cherry blossom is usually from late March to early April and is a very popular time to visit Japan. Therefore you should book accommodation well ahead and expect the prices to be pretty high, the same goes for plane tickets. But if you book ahead, it should be doable.
You know having lived here for almost a year now, I can say that if you come during the winter you should bundle up.. unless you’re heading to like Okinawa.. But, point being, some of the places around here in Fukuoka, Hakata jack up their prices for coats (that are nice) during winter… and dude, the humid cold death wind is pretty bad and I’m from Colorado.
We have not been to Japan during winter, but hope to head up to the mountain area of Japan for some skiing next winter. Hehe, yeah being from the Arctic of Northern Norway I can totally imagine how cold it must be. Have unfortunately never been to Colorado though.
Have a great time in Japan! Must be cool living there for a year, how long do you plan to stay in Japan?
till 2019 Julyish when the VISA runs out, but we could stay until early 2020 on a visitors pass.
I love skiing!! Yet to do it here just yet though,
We plan on staying until the end of 2019… but mostly likely longer because I think I’ll be in school longer then I thought, I’m picking up the language a bit slower then I’d like.
I love the tips! I’m currently planning to meet Tokyo next month. And I want to know everything about the region of Japan before making my first trip to that location. Thank you for sharing your experience with us:)
Thank you so much! Have a great trip to Tokyo next month!
This has been very helpful thank you,
I have been looking at package experiences for Japan, do you think this good work out cheaper? I have never been before and we are looking do as much as we can squeezed into about 2 weeks. Do you have any further advise on this?
Thank you so much!
We have a 14-days itinerary of our recommended places to visit in Japan. This itinerary is in our opinion the perfect mix between the new and old Japan, temples, and nature.
To get around Japan, you should definitely buy a Japan Rail Pass which will save you a lot of money. We have never been on a package experience, but they are usually pretty expensive. You can probably do your Japan trip cheaper on your own.
Have a great trip to Japan!
Hi. Would like to travel in Tokyo for about a week next week from India.
Request suggest some budget accommodation and travel mode for a tourist
Here is our recommended places to stay in Tokyo, divided into the different areas of the city, at different budgets: https://nerdnomads.com/where-to-stay-in-tokyo
Tokyo has one of the worlds best metro system. It is effective and cheap. You can buy a Pasmo Card to make it more convenient to take the Metro. Read more about the Pasmo Card here. You can use the Pasmo Card on buses and to pay at shops too.
Have a great trip to Tokyo!
Great post. Thanks for all your information. And one thing need to check with you: Japan is as safe as Singapore?
Thank you so much! Yes, I will say that Japan is as safe as Singapore. Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, with a very low crime rate. We felt very safe and nothing bad has ever happened to us when traveling in Japan.
You can find a list of the safest countries in the world here, where Singapore is no. 5 and Japan is no. 24.
You should, of course, follow normal safety precautions when traveling in Japan.
Just the info we needed! Thanks!
Hi Max and Jessica,
Awesome! Thank you so much! 🙂
Hi, I have recently booked a trip to Japan this coming october, im a bit nervous because we know nothing about this country, we are a family of four and the main reason we are going is becauese this has been my daughter’s dream for years now and decided to give her this gift for her 16th birthday. So we’re in now and rented a hotel mystays gotanda, do you think this will still be a good place to stay? And wish us luck because honestly i have no clue what we’re doing jajaja
Awesome that you have booked a family trip to Japan in October! Don´t worry, you will love Japan and have a fantastic time! It is a great country and very safe and easy to travel around since they have an excellent and extremely efficient train system that covers the whole country.
You don´t say how long you are staying in Japan, and if you plan to see more of Japan than Tokyo. But if you need tips on things to see and do in Japan, here is our recommended Tokyo Itinerary, and our recommended Japan Itinerary.
We have not stayed at the Mystays Gotanda Hotel ourselves, but we stayed at their sister hotel, the Mystays Asakusabashi Hotel and loved it! Their rooms are not the biggest, however, but that is common in Tokyo. The hotel really had everything, everything from bathrobes, slippers, water boiler, to washing machines where you can wash your clothes. Mystays Gotanda seems to have a nice location, right by Gotanda Train Station which makes it easy for you to get around Tokyo city. From Gotanda Station, you have access to three lines: JR Yamanote line, Asakusa line, and Tokyu-Ikegami line, which is convenient. Buy a Pasmo or Suica card that you can use to pay for the train tickets. You can use these cards within Tokyo and all the big cities of Japan.
Have a great trip to Japan in October! Don´t worry, you will have the trip of your life!
Hi Marie. We are planning to go Disney park for our child. Any advice please cos it will be our first time in Tokyo… stay near disney or not, do your reccommended hotel branch near to disney… winter, would it be too cold to play in disney… etc
Sorry, we have not been to Disneyland in Japan. But Disneyland is located in Tokyo, and they have their own resort where you can stay. It is called the Tokyo Disney Resort.
Or you can stay in the Odaiba area of Tokyo which is close to Disneyland. There are several hotel options in this area, here are our favorite hotels in the Odaiba area of Tokyo.
Have a fantastic trip to Disneyland in Tokyo!
Hello, my wife and I will travel Japan this coming January.
I just wanna ask if buying JR Pass is worth it during our stay.
We’re staying to Tokyo in 6days, then 5days to Osaka Kyoto and Hiroshima.
And 5days to Nagano then head back to Tokyo Narita after.
Yes, the 14 days JR Pass will definitely be worth it for you since you will be doing a lot of train travels: Tokyo – Osaka – Kyoto – Hiroshima – Nagano – Tokyo.
Have a fantastic trip to Japan in January! We are in Japan right now actually, in Osaka, will head to Hakone tomorrow. Japan is such an amazing country, I’m sure you will love it too.
We plan to visit Tokyo for 5 days and Fuji for 2. I understand you don’t recommend getting a JR pass. Does that mean we have to get a ticket per ride? Is there a day or week pass for the rail system around Tokyo?
Since you are only staying in Tokyo with a short trip to Fuji, I don’t recommend getting a JR Pass as most subway lines in Tokyo do not accept the JR Pass.
Instead, I recommend that you buy a Suica or Pasmo card. These are smart cards that you can buy at the airport (tourist information desk) or at any railway/ metro station in Tokyo. You top up the card with any amount you want. If you have money left on your card when you leave Japan, you will get this refunded. You can use the Suica/ Pasmo card to pay for the subway, trains, buses, and you can even buy stuff at 7-Eleven or other kiosks. Very convenient and save you a lot of hassle and time of going to the ticket machine every time you want to take a ride, and bringing a lot of coins.
We used this card to go pay for the bus from Tokyo to Fuji and back, and it worked perfectly.
Another option is to buy a Tokyo Metro Card, where you can choose between 24-hours, 48-hours, and 72-hours. You can find more information about these Tokyo Metro Cards here. But these are only valid inside Tokyo and can not be used to pay for your trip to Fuji.
Have a fantastic trip to Tokyo and Fuji! Hope you get to see Mt Fuji without clouds!