travel

5 reasons Japan is a budget traveler’s dream destination

15 Comments
By GaijinPot

Gone are the days when travel to Japan was exclusive to hedge fund managers and Nintendo geeks, and with it the assumption that it’s expensive, boring and difficult to travel here. From January to September of this year, the country has welcomed more than 24 million tourists, and expects at least another 6 million more by the end of December.

As the government carries out measures to make Japan more accessible to international travelers, we’re seeing transport get cheaper, hearing more foreign languages being spoken, watching new facilities being built and cheering as visa restrictions are relaxed.

What does this mean for thrifty travelers seeking the best in budget adventure? Here are five reasons why you should choose Japan for your next bargain trip.

1. The food is cheap

Osaka-Street-Food.jpg

Japan has the highest density of restaurants in the world, amounting to nearly half a million places to find grub on the go. Best of all, it can be really cheap. From ¥100 sushi-go-round (that still tastes better than any sushi you’ll find at home) to Michelin-starred ramen for under ¥1000, it’s extremely easy to feed yourself on a budget while traveling around.

Tip: Look out for chain restaurants that are popular with your everyday salaryman. Places like Matsuya and Yoshinoya serve protein-packed gyudon (rice topped with beef) for under ¥500 while izakaya franchise Kinno-Kura has a menu where everything—including alcohol—costs just ¥270.

2. There are discount passes galore

The JR Pass, which offers discount rail travel on pretty much the entire Japan Railway network is a steal from $277 for a 7-day pass. Jump on the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto then down to Hiroshima and loop back up north to Hokkaido simply flashing your pass to the station attendants along the way. The pass also covers the monorail to/from Tokyo Haneda airport, the ferry from Hiroshima to Miyajima, local JR buses and discounts at JR-affiliated hotels.

Private rail networks across the country also offer a big range of special train pass packages that include meals, souvenirs, and other freebies to encourage tourists to visit lesser-known areas. For day trips from Tokyo, for example, the Hakone Freepass and the Misaki Maguro Pass are two of the most popular.

Don’t want to take the train? There’s now also a similar pass for planes instead. The JAL Explorer Pass offers travel on Japan Airlines domestic routes for a flat fare of ¥10,800. This often works out cheaper than taking a train or highway bus, and you can reach faraway destinations that aren’t served by these networks. Travel in bargain luxury to places like OkinawaKochiFukuoka, and Hakodate.

Tip: On top of this, a lot of major Japanese stores like Uniqlo and Bic Camera offer tax-free shopping for those with temporary visa status. Show your passport and you’ll also be able to get discounts for different activities like cultural workshops, outdoor activities, and tours with some travel agencies.

Click here to read more.

© GaijinPot

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.

15 Comments
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This article has been debunked already. Japan is not a budget traveler's location. I can literally tour Europe for the reduced cost of the JR pass. While there are somewhat cheap hotels, your bang for your buck leaves much to be desired in Japan. As for food cost. There are some very cheap options on Sushi. But food in Japan is generally pricey.

Maybe my point of viewed is skewed because I am now making a Japanese salary versus what i have made in America and Europe. But with what Japan pays, Japan is incredibly expensive.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Taiwan is half the price or less lol I think this article title should be changed to 'How to Save Money While Travelling in Japan' but then it gives away that it's actually expensive. Southeast Asia, on the other hand, is actually a budget traveller's paradise still

5 ( +5 / -0 )

For me, the most contentious of the claims is

Japan is incredibly, majestically, awesomely diverse

This is not completely incorrect, there are deep mountains and tropical islands and harbours that ice up in winter, but you are not going there as a budget traveller. Budget travellers do not "kayak through mangroves", presumably in Yaeyama, because they will blow their budget going there, never mind 8000 yen a day or whatever it is on the kayak. They do not go to Yakushima or Ribun or Mt. Tateyama either.

Most budget travelers to Japan will do a version of the Golden route, and lots of the places they travel through will be very samey, especially if you are staying in backpackers and eating convenience store food. It's easy to say "go climb a mountain", but hardly any budget travellers to Bali climb the mountain there. Hawaii too. To find diversity in Japan you have to actively go (and pay) to look for it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Eating Tako Yaki for lunch and dinner might be cheap but decent food is expensive as well travel-night buses?

yeh, I took some of those when I was poor but the lack of sleep puts me on a plane or Shinkansen now!

And anything larger than a one mat room or a capsule room will soon have your credit card going aka...

4 ( +5 / -1 )

The idea Japan is cheap is only for student accepting whatever food proposed and surface where to sleep.

So many tricky situation where you end up in need to pay.

Current currency exchange is no bargain at all. And everything has gone up 2% higher since october...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I agree with the article.

The stereotypes of Japan being too expensive for the average tourist is without merit.

Sure, if you want to eat at Sushi Jiro everyday, stay at a five star hotel, and visit a hostess club every night, it's going to be darned expensive.

But Japan has decent accomodations for all budget levels, from hostels to business hotels that are small but clean for around 60-70 US dollars a night. Food is very cheap. You have street food, fast food, and even 7/11 food that is inexpensive and tastes better than most 'Japanese' food back in your home country. Public transportation is not bad and many famous sightseeing spots don't cost much money.

Don't believe the hype; Japan is as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be, without having to sacrifice anything.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

There's nothing cheap about travelling in Japan, its on par with Singapore.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Wouldn't call Japan a ' budget traveler dream's destination' but it's very reasonably priced if you have a bit of time. Seishin 18 kippu are very good value at 12,000 yen.

Food/eating is also fairly cheap if you know where to go; plenty of cafes & kissaten have morning sets ranging 300-500 yen (try getting that in Western Europe or oz/nz!) 500-1000 yen lunch sets are easy to find at proper/family owned restos. Same re accomodation, bike/scooter rentals, castles and other 'cultural' sites, very reasonably priced.

Again Japan's no Thailand, Bali, Laos etc but it's really not that expensive if you've got time (no need to travel by shinkansen/plane) and are flexible with dates.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are thousands of youth hostels and other hostels for very good prices. Cheaper rail passes and daily tickets. Guess people need to do some internet research before arriving here.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Compared to Australia, where I live, Japan is indeed a budget traveller's paradise.I don't understand how anyone can say Japan is expensive, unless they do absolutely zero research before they visit. Cheap hotels in abundance, minshuku, even ryokans if you do your homework. Especially when you get outside the major cities - Kyushu I've found to be particularly cheap. We're going up North next visit, and a brief look at the hotel booking sites suggests that's going to pretty good, too.

Food expensive? You've got to be kidding. Good ramen joints, noodle places, all kinds of places. You can eat in a Saizeriya occasionally if you really want to save money.

The only costly things are the airfares (and they've come down) and the rail travel. I think the JR Pass is a good deal, but then we tend to move around a lot when we're in Japan. Others disagree. Do your homework, do the arithmetic, make your own mind up as to whether the JR Passes are worth having for your itinerary (if you're visiting from overseas, of course).

No point comparing Japan to South East Asia, that's always going to be cheaper. But to Europe? Or Australia? Japan is cheaper.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I would say Japan is top for quality price, although some things can be expensive (no low price) like for train travelling while others can be cheap.

And for families, it is very expensive since you mostly pay per head. That explains something about current demography.

Bringing in some Chinese is cheap.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Na. Japan is an excellent travel destination for what it has to offer, but cheap? Not really.

Hotels generally tend to be a bit overpriced. Not by much, but still a bit. Even very run down locations can cost you 8000yen/night. And yes, there are cheap private offers on certain websites. That is not Japan-exclusive however...

Transportation in Japan is expensive. For the "reduced" price of a Japan Rail Pass for 14 days I can rent a car in most countries... If you are paying non-tourist prices for getting around it is definitly not budget friendly

Many places you might want to visit have entrance fees. I do see those places have to be maintained and staff needs to be paid, but for instance 2300 yen just to get on the roof of roppongi hills tower does not strike me as especially cheap. I was told that in china you can basically just enter any building and go to the roof because no one cares...

Free Wifi is not widely available and cellular data is expensive compared to other countries.
3 ( +5 / -2 )

Superb article, because its all true. There are so many reasons why Japan is now on top of travel lists worldwide. Unique culture, jaw-dropping scenery and nature, food which is a taste-sensation, safety and public order, cleanliness, impeccable manners and politeness, to name just a few.

Olympics next year will be a HUGE boost. 3 Integrated Resorts by 2025. 60 million toursts by 2030!! Bring it on!! Win-Win!!

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Travelling with kids in japan is crazy.

All the places I have been I was charged per people not per room, i.e. adult 100% and kids 50%. Ending paying a fortune with 3 kids for 5 people in a 15sqm room.

Bullet train is bloody expensive too.

And if you want to eat anything else than ramen or noodle: ouch!

Forget about hotel speaking english, prices rocket to the sky.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

@open minded

You are totally right, and I wonder how possible on earth you got downvoted twice.

Families in Japan have no buying power and are wrongfully driven out the tourist/entertaining market (example : inexistent cheap ticket for main attraction parks such as Disney and you end seeing more adults than kids...).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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