Is Japan actually expensive?

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

Is Japan actually expensive?


How expensive is Japan?

“Oh, Japan will be great,” a friend said to me. “But it will be expensive!”

I had sort of expected the second part of the sentence as soon as I heard the slight pause in his voice and then the rising inflexion. When it comes to Japan, the two statements seem to go together like fish and rice. Nobody ever has a bad word to say about the place except for the cost.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

Now, I should point out that this conversation was happening in Southeast Asia – one of the few places in the world where a small amount of cash can still buy you luxury and safety. In comparison, almost any first world country would look expensive. So there’s a degree of relativity – but it was still something that was worrying me. I was about to spend a month in Japan and but didn’t want to spend too much else.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

Well, as it turns out, I was pleasantly surprised at how expensive Japan is… or not. Relatively speaking again. The fear of a holiday to Japan that needs a mortgage on approach and leaves a credit debt in its wake is not founded. I soon realised that most of the people warning me about the cost of the country had not been here for years – or at all.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

The rumours are perpetuated partly by those international surveys that come out and try to compare countries or cities based on the same criteria. The biggest of them all, The 2013 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, puts Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world and Osaka as the second most expensive. But the problem is this survey takes into account things like household supplies, utilities, domestic help and clothing. It also calculates the results in the context of how much it would cost an expat to live in the style they are accustomed to at home. The findings get quoted in a lot of major publications – but it’s not really relevant for the average traveller (or the average local citizen, for that matter).

So, let’s move on to the actual costs of travelling in Japan and I’m going to very quickly prove to you that it’s actually much cheaper than visiting other big cities in the world like London, New York or Sydney. Is Japan expensive? Let’s see…

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget


Accommodation can be one of the biggest factors in the cost of a trip and it’s true that Japan is going to be more expensive than most places in Asia. But it’s not as bad as you might think.

For those people on a backpacking style budget, you’ll find plenty of hostels in the main tourist areas for about US$20 a night for a bed in a dorm room. That’s the same as you would pay in a lot of European cities. There are also the ‘capsule hotels’ which are similar to dorms except the beds are in enclosed boxes, rather than an open room. They are a uniquely Japanese experience and cost about US$30 a night in the major cities.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

If you appreciate your privacy and prefer to stay somewhere a bit nicer, there are still lots of cheap options. Japanese culture is such that it’s very common for local people to use hotels overnight, rather than go home, if they’ve worked late. It means these ‘business hotels’ in all large and medium-sized towns usually have last-minute availability and reasonable rates. The rooms are not large but they’re very comfortable, clean and full of amenities. The prices can vary a bit but you would expect to pay between US$40 and $US70 dollars a night. You can just walk into these hotels without a reservation or find them on the usual search sites online (although if you go to their homepage you might find some extra special deal).

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

If you need something even nicer, expect to pay between US$100 and US$200 a night for a room. That’s above my budget and definitely not the amount you need to be paying – but it’s very reasonable for the quality you’re getting and probably cheaper than many other world cities.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

Check out my pick for some of the cheapest but best hotels in Tokyo



Here is the best news – the food is not only delicious but very affordable. In fact, I laugh when I compare it to the price of an average meal in Sydney. You never need go hungry in Japan.

If you look at standard lunch options, you’ll have a range of cheap options in convenience stores (don’t worry – it’s healthy and tasty, unlike convenience stores in other countries). A bento box (a mix of rice, meat, fish and vegetables) will cost you about US$4 dollars; a rice ball with a fish filling will cost about US$1; and a tray of sushi will cost you about US$4.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

If you prefer to eat in, you’ll find many quick restaurants where you can get a bowl of rice with some fried meat and vegetables for about US$5. There is such a variety at these shops that you’ll be able to go to them day after day and not get sick of the meals.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

With dinner options, there are definitely expensive restaurants available, but you don’t need to go near them. Noodle bars selling huge hot bowls of ramen or soba are great options where a meal should cost about US$7 or US$8 dollars. If you want to step things up slightly, a restaurant where you can share things like sushi, sashimi and tempura with your friends should set you back about US$15 dollars each. And the ultimate value for money, the all you can eat shabu shabu, starts at about US$20 each (but be careful because there are lots of very expensive ones too!).

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget


This is probably the one area where things are a little expensive – because it’s something you’ll have to do if you want to see more than one city and there isn’t the competition, like with hotels and restaurants. Still, the good news is that there are some cheap options so transport doesn’t have to break the bank.

The obvious way to save some money is to get a JR pass in advance, which gives you unlimited trips on the JR rail network. The pass will cost you about US$600 for two weeks which sounds like a lot of money but it breaks down to about $40 a day. Considering the train between Tokyo and Osaka costs about US$140 each way, it becomes quite good value. Osaka to Hiroshima is another US$100 each way so if you go from Tokyo to Osaka to Hiroshima and then back to Tokyo, you’ve almost already made the pass worthwhile. Throw in a few sidetrips or some short train journeys within those cities to explore, and you’ve already made a saving.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

If you’re only in Japan for a short time and don’t want to see lots of the country, I would recommend just paying for individual trips, though. The local trains can be very reasonable and cost on average about US$5 for each hour of travel. So if you’re planning to base yourself in one city and just explore the surrounding area, transport doesn’t have to cost you much. A couple of subway rides in Tokyo, for instance, will just cost US$2 or $3 each.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

Around Osaka, you can get the Kansai Thru Pass for about US$50 for three days. This is a great deal if, for example, you want to go to Kyoto one day, Nara the next, and Himeji the next. The pass is valid for buses and trains within the cities so you can easily get around and pack those three days with lots and lots of sights.

Also, make sure you look at whether particular towns or sights you want to visit have special transport/admission deals. Going to Nikko from Tokyo, for instance, you can get one pass for the train, the buses and entrance fees.

is japan expensive, how much does it cost in japan, can i do japan cheaply, japan travel budget

All in all, I’ve had a very reasonable month in Japan as far as the costs have gone. Any kind of travel or holiday is going to mean you spend money and it’s just one of those things you have to accept if you want to explore the world. But Japan shouldn’t be somewhere that you avoid or put off because you’re worried about the finances. You’ll spend more on a trip to Australia, the UK, Scandinavia, or New York. With such a special and unique culture, Japan is somewhere you should experience. It’s just lucky that you can actually do it quite affordably if you want to.

You can find lots more stories about travel in Japan here
  • ryoawesome | May 2, 2013 at 4:29 pm

    it’s my first time visiting your blog and i’m glad i did. i agree that japan is almost always mentioned as a really good place to visit coupled with “but, it’s expensive”. now that actual costs have been mentioned by someone who actually went, i can prepare better. a little more savings and a travel buddy and soon i can go rurouni in japan. 🙂

    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:38 am

      Things are even cheaper if you’ve got a travel buddy – all the prices I quoted were for a single. Obviously you still need some savings for a Japan trip but I honestly don’t think it costs anymore than many other places.

  • @TravelEater | May 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks – I’ll put Japan on my list now!
    I’ve also worried about inadvertently offending someone because Japan seems such a well-mannered society with many unknown rules to a Canadian!

    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:39 am

      The Japanese people are very understanding of foreigners who make cultural mistakes. It’s pretty hard as a tourist to offend people – I think it’s more of an issue for ex-pats who might be expected to know the culture better.

  • Daniel McBane | May 2, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    I agree. Japan is far more affordable than the US or most of Europe. Both Tokyo and Osaka have an area considered a slum by the Japanese (they’re not and nicer than most of the US), where you can actually get a single room from around $10 per day, although $20 is more realistic if you don’t speak Japanese. Everywhere else in the country, you’ll pay more though, but you can generally find a room for $30 to $40. Since accommodation is the biggest expense, you can cut down on costs quite a bit.

    As for transportation costs, overnight highway buses are a great way to get between major cities cheaply and save a night’s accommodation while doing it. I went from Fukuoka to Tokyo for under $50 by bus. And it was a really comfortable bus too. I got a great night’s sleep.
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:42 am

      Great advice about the buses! I didn’t take one myself because I’m not a huge fan of overnight transport but it’s definitely a good way to save some money (and give yourself some extra time if you’re in a rush). I might give one a go next time I’m there since you say they’re so comfortable!

  • T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries | May 3, 2013 at 9:54 am

    Excellent breakdown of things. I’ve had Japan on my radar for quite some time but have been trying to determine what’s the best way for Cris and I to go about exploring without splurging. Good to know about the local train options. We’d end up staying for awhile, so would be able to get an apartment as opposed to doing the hotel/dorm route, so could save money there for sure.

    Thanks for sharing!
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:48 am

      Depending on how much of the country you want to see, it’s very easy to be based in one spot and just do day or overnight trips. Both Tokyo and Osaka are good bases but there are also much cheaper options in smaller towns.

  • Matt | May 3, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    I visited your blog from a Twitter tweet. Nice blog, and interesting article on Japan!
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:57 am

      Thanks so much, Matt. It’s great to have you here and I hope you follow along with the rest of the journey.

  • Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans | May 3, 2013 at 3:21 pm

    Very useful information – especially about the transportation costs. I didn’t realize that Japan is so affordable!
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:57 am

      Even more reason to go, I hope! 🙂

  • Sophie | May 5, 2013 at 5:56 pm

    I’ve always been intrigued by the capsule hotels. Did you try one?
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 3:24 am

      Yeah, I stayed in one for a few nights. The ‘bed’ is pretty comfortable and the shared bath is a unique experience. The only problem is that it’s not too much fun to hang during the day, if you wanted a bit of a break from the sightseeing.

    • sunny francis | Mar 10, 2017 at 2:33 pm

      well with 100% surety(is that even a word??) i can say you will no complains with capsule hotels, and the best part its safe.

      • Michael Turtle | Apr 2, 2017 at 12:03 pm

        Yeah, nothing wrong at all with capsule hotels. They are safe from a personal safety point of view. But I wouldn’t advise people to leave valuables in the capsule if you go out for the day. Your belongings will probably be ok but it’s not worth the risk.

  • Cam @ Traveling Canucks | May 6, 2013 at 1:46 pm

    Great cost roundup Michael. We had a similar experience in Japan. We came from the Philippines to the big bright lights of Tokyo, so our expectations were that it was going to be insanely expensive. Although it was considerably more expensive than the Philippines, we didn’t find it any more expensive than other westernized mega-cities like Paris, London, New York or Sydney.
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 3:27 am

      That’s where the shock comes, though, if you head to Japan straight from the cheap Asian countries. Everything is relative but you’ve got to look at the big picture.

  • Jennifer | May 6, 2013 at 3:16 pm

    Thanks for breaking down the costs for us. That always helps to know a place isn’t as expensive as some may have you believe. I suspect the biggest expense most people would have and what might deter them from going is the cost of the plane ticket to get to Japan.
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 3:28 am

      There are quite a few budget airlines that fly in and out of Japan – especially to Kansai Airport near Osaka so there are options for most people.

  • Stephanie - The Travel Chica | May 10, 2013 at 9:31 am

    Doesn’t sound that bad to me. Good tip on the transport.
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    • Michael Turtle | May 11, 2013 at 2:29 am

      It really isn’t that bad at all! Transport can be pricey but, yeah, there are ways around it.

  • Jade Johnston - | Jun 6, 2013 at 8:25 pm

    The thing that scares me about Japan is not the price but the food! I hate fish!
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    • Michael Turtle | Jun 23, 2013 at 12:45 am

      Yikes – you might not do so well in Japan if you’re not keen on fish. Although there are lots of non-fish options, that is the specialty!

  • charlie | Jun 25, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    thank you for the information! I am about to embark on a 3 month trip to Japan on a fairly low budget. Have you experienced wwoof’ing there or couchsurfing?

  • RC | Jun 30, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Indeed, Japan isn’t that expensive. Just look at the rates of hotel rooms in New York and compare.

    I do find Japan a bit complicated because you have to read carefully about all the discount pass systems like the JR railpass but you can find all you need to know in guide books and the internet.

    Renting a bicycle is also a cheap and fun way to get around in for example Nara and Arashiyama (west-Kyoto)

    Another possible way to save money and time is to fly to Osaka (Kansai International Airport) and leave from Tokyo or vice versa.

  • ShyGirl | Aug 5, 2013 at 1:32 am

    Do you know how expensive Always Pads are in Japan? sorry I know it’s a weird question but I have irregular periods. Two a month and each lasts for around 15 days… and heavy bleeding TT_TT

    They are very expensive in the UK. I wasted too much money on them in England

  • Wendy | Aug 27, 2013 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve lived in Japan (Yokohama) for the past year. I don’t agree that Japan is not expensive. My mum visited me here and the cost of transportation alone was triple the cost my mum would pay for stateside (my family lives in NYC). For the quantity, the price of food in restaurants is significantly more expensive than NYC, but you can find vegetables and sometimes meat for comparable NYC prices. 2 weeks in Japan ran my mum $1,200 when it was all said and done. We went out everyday, and had at least lung out each day. Denmark, New Zealand and Australia are the only countries I’ve been to that are more expensive.

    • Michael Turtle | Aug 27, 2013 at 6:44 pm

      I suppose it depends on what you consider to be ‘expensive’. Transport and accommodation are the big costs but there are ways to do them that are no more expensive than other big cities or developed countries. With food, I found Japan to be cheaper than many European countries (and definitely Australia and NZ). It’s true that Japan is going to cost more than SE Asia but the point is that it’s not as expensive as you think. $1200 for two week is pretty good for a holiday where you’re always eating out and travelling around to see the sights, I think.

  • Linda | Sep 30, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    Before i went to Japan, I had numerous people tell me how expensive it would be, only to find that it is a hell of a lot cheaper then England and certainly Australia.

    • Michael Turtle | Oct 4, 2013 at 9:55 pm

      Exactly! I’m glad you found the same thing as well. There are obviously some expensive things still, but overall it’s very affordable!

  • Danny | Dec 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm

    hey, do you travel by yourself of with travel buddies? because last summer i travel to YunNan in China by myself with a local tourist group (all strangers) its nice for you to have your own time, but i gets lonely sometimes~

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 20, 2014 at 6:44 pm

      Hi Danny. I normally travel by myself but sometimes catch up with friends or make new ones. It can get lonely sometimes but I feel like I’m always chatting to people online at least, through the website. I hope you enjoyed your China trip!

  • Anouska | Mar 22, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    I’m currently travelling around the world with my 9 month old baby and have now got my heart set on visiting Tokyo and using that as a base to do day trips etc. I can’t afford to do taxis all over the place so we’d have to use public transport but am worried about taking a baby on board trains as you keep hearing how busy they are and how they prod you with sticks like cattle to push you on. I take it though this is just during rush hour?
    Also if we wanted to see monut fuji from tokyo is that doable?
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    • Michael Turtle | Apr 4, 2014 at 5:03 am

      Hi Anouska. The trains and subways are completely fine outside of the rush hour periods. That craziness you see on the tv is just with a couple of lines at very specific parts of the day. The transport comes so regularly normally that it’s never too full.
      Fuji you could definitely do as a daytrip if you wanted. It just depends on how long you want to stay. It’s about 1 or 2 hours each way from Tokyo so if you leave early you could fit a lot into one day.
      Have fun!!

  • Ana Robertson | Nov 3, 2014 at 4:01 am

    Thank you soo much for this! x

  • Johnny | Dec 5, 2014 at 1:01 pm

    Now with the yen at all time lows, ($1 will buy you 120yen), it’s probably prime time to visit Japan!
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  • Joel van Gastel | Jan 6, 2015 at 7:12 am

    Thanks so much for the post. It’s really helpful to see a pricing like this.
    I’m about to head to Japan for a month.
    I’m flying in and out of Tokyo but I plan on heading south to Osaka and Kyoto for some time as well.
    I have roughly $4000 to see me through the month. Do you think this is a fair amount of money to last a month of sightseeing, eating, and travel?
    This is my first time overseas and I’m going by myself. I’m super excited, although slightly nervous.
    Thanks again!

    • Joel van Gastel | Jan 6, 2015 at 7:18 am

      $4000 Australian Dollars*

      • Michael Turtle | Feb 2, 2015 at 7:42 pm

        Hi Joel,
        Yeah, $4000 should be plenty for a month in Japan. I would estimate you’ll spend about $20 a day on food, which is $600. For accommodation, it depends on what kind of quality you’re looking for but you should easily be able to get by on about $1500 for the month, if you’re going for budget options. That means you’ve got still got about half your money for sights, drinks, etc. Transport can be a bit pricey but it doesn’t sound like you’re doing much long distance travel, so you’ll probably only spend a few hundred dollars on train tickets.
        The best news is that if you’re spending a bit more than expected, you can always save by getting the cheap meal boxes from the convenience stores for food and take the local trains instead of the intercity ones.
        Have fun!

    • Josefina | Jul 31, 2016 at 12:53 am

      Hi Joel!, how was your trip to Japan? can you tell me some details of it? I want to go to Japan too and I have approximately the same amount of money for the trip. Thanks!


  • Sue Allgood | Jan 27, 2015 at 5:11 am

    Air Asia have just bought out fights to Osaka from Perth via KL. We fancy going over Christmas/New year. What are your thoughts as it’s winter there? Do you know if they suffer winter travel problems like UK does – ie trains stop etc or would you suggest not going that time of year unless your skiing.?

    I’m thinking fly into Osaka and out from Tokyo? We will be travelling with our two sons 18 & 15.

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 30, 2015 at 2:07 am

      Funnily enough I’m in Japan right at the moment and it’s definitely cold. There aren’t any problems with transport or anything, though. Japan handles the winter well. It’s a really different experience to warmer months. There’s a beauty in the snow on the trees and the temples – and it’s perfect weather for using the onsen (even the outdoor ones).
      Personally, spring is my favourite time to visit Japan but there’s still a lot to see and do in winter. Unlike the northern European countries, there’s a fair amount of daylight too so you can see a lot each day. Just bring warm socks!! 🙂

  • Saving on Travel in Japan with a JR Rail Pass: My Itinerary, Tips and Cost Savings | Lengthy Travel | Mar 18, 2015 at 10:57 am

    […] Finally, make sure you look at whether particular towns or sights you want to visit have special transport/admission deals. Going to Nikko from Tokyo, for instance (very highly recommended), you can get one pass for the train, the buses and entrance fees. (hat tip to Time Travel Turtle). […]

  • zhong liu | Mar 22, 2015 at 11:23 pm

    Hi mate, me and my wife plan to go to japan on June for a week, I was wondering how much we need for that? the airplane ticket is about 1000 per person. we want to stay in a traditional inn, any recommendation? would you thing 3000 would be enough for both of us? we would like to travel around the country and most of the time sight seeing.thank you.
    and which path should we go in order to see most of the country?

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 12, 2015 at 12:56 pm

      Hey there! I’m sure you can get by on 3000 for the week. You can do it for a lot less, although that amount increases if you’re staying in nice ryokans (traditional inns). If you’re only there for a week, I would recommend not trying to rush around and see too many cities (although a JR Rail Pass will mean you can do that without increasing the cost). If you start in Tokyo, heading south takes you to more interesting options like Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima, etc. If you are flying in and out of Tokyo, I would suggest only going south or north from there, not both. Once you go as far as you want, find a bullet train back to Tokyo the day of your flight (or the night before). It’s expensive without the rail pass, though, be warned!

  • ALLURI R RAJU | Mar 26, 2015 at 7:27 pm

    We 4 persons ,all adults of one family planned and purchased flight tickets to Japan . we land at Kansai airport in Osaka at 11.00PM night on 7th September 2015 and leave from the same airport on 23rd Sept. at 11.30AM. Total 15 days we stay in Japan. We like to see Osaka, Kyoto,Kobe Hiroshima,Nagoya, Tokyo. Plan to purchase 14 day Japan Rail Pass which will cover all long distance travel by bullet trains and local and short distance travel by JR trains and JR buses. Like to stay in hostels/budget hotels. Regarding food 2 persons vegetarians (no eggs also). How to manage vegetarian food. Please advise how to route our travel to see the max. places.

    • Michael Turtle | Apr 12, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      You shouldn’t have any major problem seeing all those places in two weeks and getting the rail pass is a great idea! I would spend just a day or two in Osaka or stay there longer and use it as a base to travel to Kyoto and Nara. If you don’t have to prebook accommodation, you can go to the other cities and see if you like them and if you want to stay longer. Hiroshima and Kobe, for instance, only need a day or two to see the main sights. There is lots in Tokyo, though, so you may want to spend as long as possible there at the end and then get the bullet train back down to Osaka for your flight on the final day.

  • Emma | Apr 23, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Thanks for the information about Japan. We’re thinking of flying there this summer from Korea and it sounds like the food and accommodation situation is fairly similar to Korea. Transportation sounds a lot more expensive! We may take bikes and cycle-tour.
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    • Michael Turtle | May 17, 2015 at 4:46 pm

      Bikes is a cool idea. I would love to hear about that if you end up doing it – and whether you would recommend other people try that option.

  • LP | Jun 3, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    Awesome post, I just bought my ticket for Tokyo this October, I’m staying for 17 days and plan to see Nara, Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima (maybe a couple more destinations). It’ll be a backpacker kind of trip so I don’t expect to spend much. All things considered, my budget is about USD $2,500 (of which $1000 – $1500 is budgeted for entertainment/sightseeing/fun). Do you think that’s enough? I’m kinda nervous since it’s my first trip to Asia.

    • Michael Turtle | Jun 13, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Oh yeah, you should be fine with that amount. If you’re doing it as a backpacker, you’ll find hostels in most of the main cities and some of the accommodation options in the rural areas can be quite reasonable too. In terms of spending money, food is pretty cheap and there is lots you can do for free because some of the best things in the city just involve walking around and exploring the local culture. Have a great trip – you shouldn’t have any troubles at all!

  • Tracey Clarke | Jun 14, 2015 at 9:25 am

    Hi Michael,
    We travel to Japan on 29th Nov leave on 14th Dec out of Narita. Myself, husband and our 2 kids 17 yr old girl and 15 yr old boy. Thinking of doing time in Tokyo then going to the snow maybe Hakuba then either back to Tokyo or has been suggested to us either Osaka or Kyoto? Have on a wish list cat cafe, owl cafe, robot cafe, Pokemon store, skiing as never skiiied before family, snow monkeys, Disneyland, Ghibli museum and anything cosplay and animae for my daughter, Sumo and Geisha as well. Any suggestions would be most welcome. Will there be much snow at this time? Help with budget family accom’n. Thanks

    • Michael Turtle | Jun 24, 2015 at 11:32 am

      Hi Tracey,
      Firstly, the snow. November is a bad month but December there is normally lots of snow so if you aim to go to Hakuba later in your trip, you should be fine (although weather is obviously unpredictable).
      Kyoto is probably more interesting for you than Osaka if you’re spending time in Tokyo as well. Nara is worth a visit too. Although there is the option of basing yourself in Osaka and doing day trips to Kyoto and Nara.
      All of those things you’ve mentioned, you should be able to find in Tokyo – I’ve got stories on the blog here about cat cafe and owl cafe. Robot cafe is a bit overrated and touristy but still fun. You’ll be able to do the snow monkeys as a day trip from Hakuba, if you want. Again, check out the stories on my site about Hakuba and Snow Monkeys for some ideas.
      With accommodation, I don’t have any specific recommendations but there are quite a few affordable hotels in Tokyo if you book in advance. Don’t be afraid to use Airbnb or Housetrip or one of those sites – they are quite popular in Japan and you can get some great deals for an apartment for the whole family (and it will be a bit more of a cultural experience). In Hakuba, lots of traditional options – try to find somewhere with a nice onsen in the hotel because that’s a real highlight!
      Good luck and enjoy the trip – you’ll love it!

  • Tanya McCarthy | Jun 28, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Hey Michael I have a job teaching in Himeji next year and my husband and 2 children will be coming with me. My wage will be approx 267620 yen a month after accommodation and insurance expenses. We are concerned that it won’t be enough to do lots. We want to see as much as possible in the time we have. We also need to factor in things like Internet,food cost etca. Got any thoughts?

    • Michael Turtle | Jul 12, 2015 at 8:43 pm

      Firstly, congrats on the job – that’ll be great fun. The whole family will love it, I’m sure!
      In terms of the finances, you should be able to do a fair amount. My advice to see a bit of Japan is to look for places you can go for a weekend where the train ticket is not too expensive (that will be one of your big costs). So going to Osaka on the Shinkansen will cost about 4000yen but the Tokaido/Sanyo line is about 1400yen but only takes 30 minutes longer. For accommodation, try looking at the AirBnB kind of places because they have some great deals for families.
      Let me know if you have any other questions but those approaches will already save you a lot!

  • Erick | Sep 7, 2015 at 6:35 pm

    how expensive it was for Japan, everything will be paid off with an exciting experience that will get us there … for the Indonesian, Japanese is the most desirable tourist destinations in the asia region

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2015 at 12:55 pm

      It is harder to afford a trip to Japan if you are from a country like Indonesia where the exchange rate isn’t as good and the average wages are lower. But, as you say, it is always worth it for the experience!

  • kurumasama | Oct 7, 2015 at 6:10 am

    Hey guys, I wanna share with you an interesting that I found out this week.
    The name is Noritomosan. It looks like the ridesharing is coming in Japan (^^)/.
    Well I don’t know much about the content yet, because it is said that they will make a release at the end of the month according their facebook page. But it worth following just in case, because ride sharing is definitely the way to go if like me, you don’t want to waste your money in the Shinkansen anymore haha.
    here is the link :

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2015 at 11:38 am

      Thanks for the tip. I would be curious to hear from anyone who has used it?

  • Andrew Darwitan | Oct 13, 2015 at 1:41 pm

    I think the accommodation is alright. Kyoto is slightly more expensive but the place’s so beautiful it’s practically worth it. Shinkanshen is terribly expensive, but hey, beats booking for another flight. 😉
    Andrew Darwitan recently posted..Suggested Itinerary for 11 Days in JapanMy Profile

    • Michael Turtle | Nov 7, 2015 at 11:31 am

      Yeah, I’m glad you agree. There is a decent range of accommodation so you can normally find something that suits your budget. There’s no real way to get around the Shinkansen other than buying a rail pass or using local trains and stopping in a few smaller places along the way.

  • glenn cakebread | Jan 5, 2016 at 9:42 am

    first time going to japan in may will be heading to Tokyo plus other places so was just wondering how much i would need as im going for 3 months as backpacker but want to budget

    • Michael Turtle | Jan 17, 2016 at 3:40 am

      The good thing about going for 3 months is that you can travel quite slowly and save a lot of money on transport (which is one of the biggest expenses). You might be able to avoid the shinkansen for most trips and stop in some smaller cities and towns along the way, using local buses.
      For your accommodation, depending on whether you’re doing dorms or private rooms, you might be able to get away with an average of about $25 or $30 a night. Food can be as cheap as $10 a day (but probably budget closer to $15 or $20 because you’ll want to eat cool things!). And then it’s just a matter of all the extra things like attractions, transport, drinks, underwear vending machines, etc…
      So, I reckon on a real budget you could do it with $2000 a month – although you may find you want to spend a little more to experience some of the cooler things.

  • Japan Rail Pass Now | Jan 23, 2016 at 8:58 am


    To find out how the Japan Rail Pass works you can read more information here:

  • Reese | Mar 22, 2016 at 9:16 am

    I’m a backpacker and i want to see Japan for a month. Will 2500usd be enough? I want to see Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Tokyo and Mt.Fuji.

  • Thalia H | Mar 24, 2016 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks, this post helped a lot. I’m going to Japan tomorrow and was anxious to know how much food would cost. I think a little splurge here and there is good, but I definitely didn’t want to drop a ton of money for each meal! Super excited now — thanks again!

  • Travel gir | Sep 6, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I’m one of the people went to Japan years ago. If you do not have the money, one can teach ESL in many places in the world. I was able to get a work visa and teach in Japa because I had a BA.The Japan believe: God, family teachers. You will be treated like gold. It’s recommendable to take an ESL course before you go and learn survival,Japanese. In my experience, the Japanese do not speak much English. You will enjoy your time more, if you know some Basic Japanese. I love The Japanese, and as a woman I felt very safe for the first time in my life.

  • Natalia Bohorquez | Sep 13, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    Hi Mark. Thanks for your blog. My hubby and I were having doubts about this trip but now it’s a definite! Just our time is limited. If you could only do one city which one would you do? We are thinking no more than 5 days. P.s we are not into shopping or much night life.

  • kn-tours | Dec 15, 2016 at 9:42 pm

    I agree with your conclusions and looking forward to your coming updates. Thanks for sharing

    #Luxury Tours in Japan @kn-tours
    kn-tours recently posted..HokkaiduMy Profile

  • kerry ryan | Dec 24, 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Loved the well thought out approach and alternatives you offered. As a very seasoned(too much salt,some would say) traveler I am somewhat less cost conscious as I was when I first hit the road in 1972,but a good nights rest in a clean quiet hotel will soon displace the hangover one can catch from a dorm with all the many noises and emissions that we humans can emit whilst asleep. Am definitely a Japan-ophile so the only thing left is planning.Many Thanks. kerry

  • Rationcart | Jul 5, 2017 at 7:46 pm


    Interesting blog, your blog reading is just like a traveling in Japan. I am glad to read your blog and learn the prices of hotels, foods, etc.

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