Is Japan expensive? How to save on your trip!

I break down the costs to see how expensive it is to travel in Japan.

Written by Michael Turtle

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle. A journalist for more than 20 years, he's been travelling the world since 2011.

Michael Turtle is the founder of Time Travel Turtle and has been travelling full time for a decade.


How expensive is Japan?

I know Japan has a reputation for being expensive and people are often worried about how much they'll spend on a trip to Japan.

But the good news is there are ways to save money in Japan - and the better news is that not everything is even expensive in the first place!

To help you plan an affordable trip to Japan, I'm going to cover the following four topics:

“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, there are scores of countries around the world that 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.

Well, the good news is that Japan turned out to be not nearly as expensive as people expected.

And in the dozen or so trips I have done to the country since, I have discovered plenty of ways to save money when travelling in Japan.

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

I think the perception of Japan as an expensive country comes partly from what people hear in the media about those studies comparing the cost of countries or cities around the world.

The biggest of them all, the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, consistently has Japanese cities near the top – Tokyo was number 1 in 2013, and Osaka was at the top of the list in 2020. (Although, as a side note, both cities dropped out of the top 10 in 2022 because of the pandemic.)

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.

None of this is relevant for travellers visiting Japan for a short holiday.

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

For tourists, one of the biggest costs in Japan as a tourist is going to be accommodation, but there are ways to minimise that. The same goes for transport.

But beyond that, sightseeing and food are very affordable – and often cheaper than you would find in comparable countries around the world.

So, let’s move on to the actual costs of travelling in Japan. I’m going to run through each of these four main expenses and see how much they’ll cost you, and how you can save.

As you’re about to see, there are many ways that Tokyo is actually much cheaper than visiting other big cities in the world like London, New York or Sydney.

So, is Japan expensive? Let’s see…


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.

I’ll first use Tokyo to give you a sense of prices in the city, then talk about Japan more generally after that.


Prices obviously change at different times of the year, but in Tokyo, a standard four-star hotel will cost you around US$150 a night on average. In Shinjuku, for instance, Hotel Gracery or Daiwa Roynet Hotel are good examples.

Of course, if you want to stay at the top hotels like The Peninsula or the famous Park Hyatt, it’ll be about U$1400 a night! But an average five-star hotel is about US$400 a night – like the beautiful Tokyo Station Hotel or the Hilton in Shinjuku.

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


For those people on a backpacking style budget, you’ll find hostels in the main tourist areas of Tokyo for about US$20 a night for a dorm bed. Compared to Europe, though, there aren’t nearly as many hostels in Japan.

In Tokyo, Hostel Bedgasm is a good option, or for a slightly higher price, Unplan Shinjuku is in an even better location.

Capsule Hotels

Another good option to save money on accommodation is with a ‘capsule hotel’. These 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$35 a night in the major cities. A couple of good ones are Rembrandt Cabin in Shinjuku, or Nine Hours near Tokyo station.

The problem with capsule hotels is that many of them won’t allow you to be there during the day – so they’re better to use for short stays or if you know you will be out sightseeing all day long.

Business hotels

Often on trips to Japan, I stay in ‘business hotels’. They don’t call themselves that, but it’s a common style of accommodation in the cities.

In modern Japanese culture, it’s common for local people to use hotels overnight if they’ve worked late, rather than go home. It means these ‘business hotels’ 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 around US$60 a night in Tokyo. The APA Hotels are the biggest chain in the city, and this one in Shinjuku is a good option, along with this one near Tokyo Station.

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Around Japan

So, all of the prices I’ve just mentioned are for Tokyo. It probably goes without saying that it’s the most expensive city in Japan.

As you travel around Japan and stay in other cities, you’ll find that the prices are less than Tokyo. Even Osaka – another big city – is about 25 per cent cheaper on average.

The only main city that isn’t necessarily much cheaper than Tokyo is Kyoto, but that’s because it is such a popular tourist destination. A bed in the cool Millennials capsule hotel is about US$45, for instance – while the Park Hyatt in Kyoto is about US$1800! But don’t worry, there are still lots of affordable options in the middle range.

If you’re looking to save money during a trip to Japan, one easy way thing to do is spend less time in Tokyo and more time in other parts of the country.

In prefectural capitals like Matsuyama, Oita, Kanazawa, and even Sapporo, you’ll find rooms in business hotels for as little as US$50 a night, and even five-star hotels from about US$150. Plus you’ll have the added benefit of seeing new and interesting parts of the country.


Unfortunately getting around Japan can be a little expensive – especially the long distance trips between cities. Because there isn’t much competition, there’s no need for train providers to offer discounts.

Still, the good news is that there are some cheap options for travellers, if you find the deals available specifically for foreign tourists.

Japan Rail Pass

The obvious way to save a lot of money is with the Japan Rail Pass (usually just called the JR Pass). It gives you unlimited travel on the JR network for a specified length of time.

You have to buy the JR Pass before you arrive in Japan, and have it sent to you. It’s available through several agencies, but I recommend buying it through GetYourGuide.

The shinkansen (bullet train) is an amazing way to get around Japan – but it’s not cheap! The three-hour journey between Tokyo and Osaka costs about US$105 one way, for instance, while Tokyo to Kyushu or Hokkaido is about US$170 one way.

Considering the 7-day JR Pass is about US$338, you will start to save money if you’re doing a few of these trips.

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Obviously the decision on whether to get the JR Pass or not will depend on your itinerary and how many trains you’re planning to take, but it’s certainly worth considering – and it works out to b a good deal for most visitors.

You can see the current JR Pass prices in the table below for the Ordinary Car and the Green Car (first class). (Note: a child pass is half price.)

OrdinaryGreen (First class)

You’ll need to organise a JR Pass before you arrive in Japan so it can be sent to you (at home or somewhere else on your travels).

There are quite a few agencies that sell the pass but I recommend using GetYourGuide because they can send it around the world and have an excellent support system. You can buy it here.

Other passes

If you’re only in Japan for a short time and you’re not moving around much, it may not be worth getting the JR Pass, which covers the whole country.

The standard 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.

For example, subway rides in Tokyo cost around US$2 each (depending on distance), or you can even get a 24-hour pass for about US$6.

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

Something really useful to look out for are different transport passes into the different cities and regions of Japan. Quite a lot of them have great deals aimed at tourists, which will let you explore more of the area without having to pay a lot.

Around Osaka, you can get the Kansai Thru Pass for about US$40 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 covers the five main cities in the region (plus the broader area) and 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.

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

Also, make sure you look at whether particular towns or sights you want to visit have special transport/admission deals.

For example, there’s this Hakone Pass and this Nikko Pass that can be useful if you’re going to those areas.


Of course you’re going to go sightseeing when you come to Japan. Of all the things that you spend money on when you travel, I think visiting landmarks is worth the expense because they are what makes a destination unique.

Having said that, you still don’t want to spend more than you have to – and there are ways to keep the costs down a bit.

An obvious way to do this is to visit places that have no entrance fee. In Tokyo, that includes sights like the Meiji Shrine or Senso-ji Temple. In Osaka, places like the Shitenno-ji Temple are also free.

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

For the main sights in Tokyo that do have entrance fees, the costs can vary a bit. The National Museum of Western Art only costs about US$4 to visit, while going up the Tokyo Skytree is about US$23 (slightly cheaper if you book in advance).

What you choose to visit will have a big impact on how much you spend. But, to save some money on the big attractions, I would recommend using a city pass.

Two good options are this Tokyo pass that lets you choose a set number of attractions over 30 days, or this Tokyo pass that lets you see more attractions within a set number of days.

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

Just like the transport passes in different cities and regions, you’ll also find lots of specific tourist passes in various parts of Japan. It’s always worth popping into the visitor information centre to ask what’s available, because I find the deals are not always well promoted.

For example, there is this Osaka Pass that saves you money on some big attractions. There’s this Okinawa Pass if you make it down to the islands. And there’s even this Kinosaki Pass for the beautiful onsen town.


Here is the best news – the food in Japan 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 if you don’t want to.

Noodle bars selling huge hot bowls of ramen or soba are great options where a meal should cost about US$7 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

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.

82 thoughts on “Is Japan expensive? How to save on your trip!”

  1. 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. 🙂

    • 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.

  2. 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!

    • 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.

  3. 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.

    • 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!

  4. 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!

    • 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.

    • 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.

      • 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

    • 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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~

    • 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!

  12. 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?

    • 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!!

  13. Hi,
    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!

      • 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!

    • 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!


  14. 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.

    • 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!! 🙂

  15. 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?

    • 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!

  16. 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.

    • 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.

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

    • 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!

  19. 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

    • 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!

  20. 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?

    • 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!

  21. 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

    • 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!

  22. 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 :

  23. 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. 😉

    • 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.

  24. 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

    • 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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

  29. I notice a lot of these posts are from 2013. Japan’s cost mixture has changed somewhat. Seems costs for rail especially going up as tourism is promoted and most Japanese get employer sponsored passes. On the other hand, things like phone service getting more competition. Gone are those slum area $10 a day rates, and hostels are mostly up at $30 a nite from $20 a few years ago. Consumption tax as well is going up to 10% soon, was as low as 3% only recently. However, flights are much cheaper with more competition in recent years. Food prices flatlining, but old tricks like staying up all night at 24H restaurants are going away as labor bites hard. So the mix is in flux, and it all depends how you spend, who you know, how you prepare.

    • Hi JK. Thanks for stopping by with an update. You’re right, the exact prices I have included here are a few years old now. It’s great to hear your experience on the ground.
      I’ve got some Japan travel coming up so hopefully I’ll be able to check some of these things out for myself as well and do a proper update to the post.
      Appreciate it!!

  30. Is it easy to visit Japan independently and not on a tour. We like flexibility to do our own thing in our own time. We are looking at a couple of weeks in September. Can individual trips to climb Mt Fuji be organised easily from Tokyo? And other excursions? Thanks Paula

    • Hi Paula. Yes, it’s quite easy to travel Japan independently. The hardest thing is language but as long as you’re never in a rush, you’ll always find helpful people who will point you in the right direction. Having said that, the benefit of a tour is that they’ll be able to explain and show you things that you would completely miss as a foreigner who can’t speak Japanese.
      September is a great time to go! It’s easy to arrange your own trip to Mt Fuji – but check the dates because the official climbing season usually finishes mid-September.
      I have lots of other ideas for trips from Tokyo and around the country on the blog:

      • Lufthansa flights from the EU can be had for about $450 or else Aeroflot for $500, in sales periods. $20 a night in a tiny single room in North Asakusa (Tokyo) very possible. Many kippu (all-inclusive day-passes) deals to be had qua transport around TYO city. The Tsukuba all-day pass for $40 for example gets a round-trip from Akhihabara, plus bus 25km up to the mountain, unlimited rides on cable car and mt. tram. Tsukuba also rich in so many free visit options – like the Japan Space agency (even eat at the canteen too) or Geo center. Many others.
        Arakawa tramcar which traverses North TYO loop is only $4 for unlimited 40 stops from Waseda University (can also eat in the canteen) to Minowa, with untold attractions along the way. TYO to Yokohama and then Ofuna only $10 o/w and then $8 for an all-day JR kippu including unlimited rides on Shonan monorail (very cool), the quaint Enoden line, enchanting Enoshima island, nice Fujisawa etc. Keio line or Yurikamone (Odaiba -Ariake-Toyusu i.e. Olympics 2020 site) kippus all very cheap at $8. Loads of free to visit attractions too. Or visit nearby Chichibu (say to wonderful Nagatoro), with a Seibu rail kippu. Or just go to Omiya in Saitama instead, maybe stop at Kawagoe. So many options.

        Ueno Zoo free to public at some times, Kirin brewery in Namamugi, Asahi or Suntory ones too, Kawasaki MC plant tours, many J-pop idol festivals like Yokohama’s Kawaii and street parade in first week of May also just free, also the countless Matsuri street festivals. So much to do for even $0. Even a mid-week J-pop idol event (with circa 10 acts over 5 hours) costs just $10 +one drink($5). Probably just-about worth a one-time peek into a quirky phenomenon

        Even for food and at approx 8:30 p.m. the local Super will discount all fresh food by 50%. The food like onigiri, bento style meals and sushi is all completely OK. Maybe a bit basic, but still very filling at about $2 each too.
        Even walking Tokyo is to be recommended. Might seem crazy, but why not?Just set-off from Shinjuku for Ueno. Don’t worry you’ll get there eventually. Or walk Yokohama, from the Bay Quarter to Minato-Mirai 21 to Ohanabashi to Yamashita Park south and Chinatown. Long, yes – but you won’t get bored as each next area is so very different and intriguing. Or canoe the city rivers, with full motorways overhanging many canals, which is quite surreal.

        Splurge at times, economize at others. Endless choices. This comment might seem quite detailed, but it only scratches the surface of some possibilities out there

  31. Informative and detail, my first browse as I have Japan in my sights soon, but always been a want, funds are now favourable and you have given a clear insight thank you

  32. Hello Michael:
    Excellent Blog! Thanks! I read it all.
    How would you describe costs now in 2023 vs. US dollar ? I note many of your comments are from way back in 2013.

    I am headed to ski in northern most island . Would you recommend flying into Osaka ( from Narida ?) Or does any airline go direct into from US west coast city ? Then via bullet train north ?

    Thanks, Michael:
    Happy Travels, David

    • Hi David. I’ve updated all the prices, and they’re accurate now for 2023.
      If you’re skiing in Hokkaido, I don’t think there are direct flights from the US to Sapporo, but you should be able to book flights with a change in Tokyo.
      You can use the bullet train to go up to Hokkaido, but a domestic flight might not cost much more. You could use the JR Pass to do a bit of travel around Japan and then go up to Hokkaido with it on the last day and just fly back?


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