Broke & working on the road in Japan


It’s easy to come up short when you’re traveling solo nonstop and you’ve only got yourself to rely on — or even when you decide to splurge a few too many times on a short but really great holiday. But it’s never fun and never easy to go in for a banana at that street market only to recoil your hand out of an empty pocket.

So whatever the situation, I hope you don’t notice the funds are getting light before they are absolutely gone, but even in that case, there’s a couple of things you can keep up your sleeve for a sticky situation in Japan or the rest of the world.

First, Get a Credit Card

While it’s not a tip per se, I think traveling with a credit card is one of the smartest things I ever did. Not only does it give you some leeway room with expenses, many also allow you to accrue travel points that will pay off later.

Not sure which one to get? Visa and MasterCard are both widely accepted in Japan (and the rest of the world) and you can make sure to create notifications for purchases, a small withdraw limit and more customizations that will make you feel safer about traveling with plastic.

Take Your Camera

Selling photos to huge conglomerates such as Shutterstock and Getty Images seems like something only Nat Geo photographers get up to, but the truth is there’s lots of money if you’re into taking lots of snaps while you’re on the road (and the more remote, the better). Hokkaido, Okinawa and Hakata — here we come!

Or to make it even easier, download an app like Twenty20. You can upload your masterpieces straight from your phone and your buyers purchase straight from you. The best part? It doesn’t have to be travel photography, and you control all of the licensing yourself. Hook it up to PayPal, and you’re ready to roll (in the dough). Notes that for remote places in Japan, you might need a Virtual Private Network to sort out the geo-location blockers, but it’s just a precaution so keep snapping away.

Write for a Living

Travel writing seems like it doesn’t pay, but you just have to get a little creative. Great websites, such as Hubpages and Parachute by Mapquest, that lend a hand to people who are really passionate and can actually offer great advice. While both require you to prove you’re worthy of the payout, if you’re passionate, those traits will definitely shine through in your application and work, and you’ll get picked up right away.

Note to self: Make sure you have a little bit of a squash fund before investing time in these because it can take a couple of weeks to receive your first check, and you definitely don’t want to be waiting a month to eat.

Try a Work-stay

Shakespeare and Company, Paris’s most famous bookstore, may be the best example of a work-stay gone awesome — the owner provides beds and books to people willing to work in his shop. But hostels all over the world are totally into trading a free bed and breakfast for help with reception work, housecleaning, bar management and food prep — just ask at the check in.

Places like The Tomato Guest House in Kyoto offer stays in exchange for light work and include a bicycle as a perk. You can also put artistic skills to use all over places where travelers frequent — many guesthouses are always on the lookout for some fresh interpretation from locals and travelers alike.


Japan is one of the cleanest places you will ever visit—the trash men sometimes run during their shift for efficiency and the trash trucks coming to pick up play simple tunes like ice cream trucks in the US because, you guessed it, they want you to know they’re coming to pick up.

In a country that values keeping a green face, it’ll be a little harder than picking up glass bottles in the streets of Berlin for a euro or two, but if you can put together a couple of clean PET bottles before your next visit to the supermarket, you’ll be rewarded with a payout. Just make sure you wash beforehand—no one likes a sticky bottle.

While I hope you never need these tips, things are known to happen everyday, and it’s better to be prepared than not, right? So start working on your artistic hand, your turn of phrase and your camera finger because you’re definitely going to need it.

Until next time...may you have safe, happy and fruitful travels.

© Japan Today

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Came back home with ¥63000 and now I need to go back to spend it!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Broke? Get a credit card!

Sage advice.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

****Perhaps the homeless should apply for credit cards.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The only trucks I have heard playing music are for kerosene and yaki-imo.

Just curious, what city has garbage trucks that plays music?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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