When it comes to booking a holiday, calculating the cost is the least fun part of the planning. Japan does not often rank highly on lists of cheap destinations, but we want to tell you that its not as expensive as you may have been lead to believe. In fact, you will be pleasantly surprised by the cost that encompasses an authentic and amazing experience of the country. If you have Japan on your list of places to visit but have been put off by the cost, let us help you to reconsider!
For us, coming from the South of England where the cost of living is particularly high, we were ridiculously impressed with what we could get for our money- let's not forget that right now the sterling is a lot stronger than the yen so you are getting a great deal. Since being here, a lot of times we catch ourselves thinking ‘Well that’s the best meal we’ve had for a long while and it only cost us a fiver each!’. If anything, coming from England to here means we actually see Japan as a reasonably cheap place to enjoy.
Naturally, when talking about the cost of a holiday it needs to be clarified what type of experience we are referring to. If your idea of a memorable trip is staying in luxury hotel rooms and dining in swanky bars and restaurants, then you will need a considerable amount more than what we budgeted for. However, if you want a true experience of Japan, dining where the locals dine, hanging out where they hang out, seeing all the touristy sights that the guidebooks suggest, and staying in small but totally comfortable accommodations, carry on reading!
Here is a comparative breakdown of the costs of holidaying in London, New York, and two of Japan’s largest and most popular cities, Tokyo and Fukuoka:
Although the prices for Japan seem radically cheaper for most categories mentioned in the table above, from our experiences there are certain caveats that should be mentioned. Accommodation is typically smaller in Japan, most budget hotel rooms will consist of a bedroom, bathroom and not much else. AirBnBs (our choice of lodgings) are predominantly studio apartments, with limited cooking facilities/space, and bathrooms over here tend to be single-unit wet rooms. Other wallet-friendly options include capsule hotels and manga cafes (which will be discussed in a later post).
Food in Japan is where the real money-saving magic happens. If you visit local restaurants or family-run eateries then for around £3 you can get yourself a large bowl of ramen and a portion of 6 gyoza, or a hefty serving of katsu curry. Even if you’d rather some Western cuisine, a large pizza in an Italian restaurant will also cost around £3. Most ingredients are locally sourced, fresh and delicious. There’s an extremely large variety available and the best thing about eating in Japan… no tipping allowed!
Although a daily travel ticket is really cheap, we found it most convenient to purchase the Japanese equivalent to an Oyster card whilst here- many companies sell different versions (Suica and Pasmo are the two most popular) and are usable on buses, trains and the underground throughout the country, as well as in convenience stores, supermarkets, vending machines and a variety of fast food restaurants. Japanese trains are renowned for their punctuality and the reputation is deserved, even the Shinkansen arrives within 1 minute of its scheduled time. Buses are somewhat less so, but with the frequency we have never waited more than 9 or 10 minutes for any bus to our destination. The only thing to bare in mind is that public transport will cease at around midnight even in the larger cities, so either make sure to catch the last train or you’ll be forking out for a taxi or walking home!
Longer journeys in Japan can prove quite expensive- the Shinkansen is not cheap and it may actually prove more frugal to fly.
Tokyo and Fukuoka (and the rest of the country) host plenty of free attractions: galleries, shrines, temples, parks, beaches and gardens. This along with the modestly priced zoos, museums, amusement parks, arcades and sporting events, provide a plethora of things to keep you busy whilst keeping to a reasonable budget.
Special mention: Open 24/7, convenience stores (7eleven, Lawson, Family Mart etc.) are great in Japan. You can find almost everything you may need there: from socks and underpants to stationery and cosmetics; they offer printing and photocopying services; sports tickets and even aeroplane tickets! But most convenient is the range of food and drink they offer up at very reasonable prices- katsu curries for £2, hot coffees for £1, rice balls for 35p. They will even heat it up for you, what more could you ask for?
There’s a lot more to write on “Why visiting japan is not as expensive as you think it is”, which we will discuss in later posts, but we hope we have done enough to convince you that its a place worth keeping on the top of your holiday destination wishlist.