Cheap Japan

How to Turn High Cost Japan into a Cheap Place to Visit

fast bullet trains in japan

How to Turn High Cost Japan into a Cheap Place to Visit

For years, I’ve been putting off going to Japan because I was afraid of how expensive it was going to be. The rumors I’d heard about the country’s high prices made me hesitant to go there. I have always loved Japanese culture and I knew any visit would involve gorging on sushi and ramen noodles, visits to lots of temples, and heavy train travel through the countryside. And the thought of how much that would cost made me constantly think, “I’ll wait until I have more money to visit.”

But at the end of April, I had the chance to finally visit and was shocked to discover that, while it isn’t cheap, Japan isn’t the prohibitively expensive country people may think it is. In fact, I actually found Japan to be very affordable and on par with (and sometimes cheaper than) countries in Western Europe.

Here is how you much things typically cost in Japan and how you can cut down those costs to make the country affordable:

cheap food in japan80 Yen = USD

Transportation

Transportation is one of the most expensive aspects of travel in Japan and comprised the bulk of my expenses. The bullet train, while awesome, comfortable, and fast, is not cheap. Individual tickets can cost hundreds of dollars. Yet I think train travel is the best way to see the country so in order to reduce your train costs get a Japan Rail pass. The pass is indispensable for travel in Japan.

These passes cost 28, 300 Yen for 7 days, 45, 100 Yen for 14 days, and 57, 700 Yen for 21 days. (All pass times are for consecutive travel) Even if you just get the 7 day pass, it’s the same price as a round trip train ticket from Osaka to Tokyo (14, 250 Yen each way!). Moreover, these JR trains also serve local city areas and so can be used intra-city. I used my pass to get around Kyoto and Tokyo instead of buying metro tickets. So even if you aren’t going to do much travel around Japan, buying a pass is better than buying individual tickets. While the high price of the pass can cause a lot of sticker shock, the alternative is even worse.

capsule hotels in japanMost of the city metro tickets cost 100-200 Yen for a single journey. (The price varies by distance and may often be higher.) Fares were usually around 220 Yen to travel across Tokyo but less for shorter distances. In most major cities, you can buy a day pass, which gives you unlimited travel for 24 hours for around 800 Yen.

Buses are a less expensive alternative to the bullet train system in Japan. But while the cost is less, the trip will take more of your time. For example, the 2 hour bullet train ride from Tokyo to Osaka becomes a 10 hour bus ride. The price for that seat is 4, 500 Yen, but at some point you need to think about how much your time is worth. For me, saving some 10, 000 Yen was not worth the extra 7 hours of travel since I had such limited time during my visit. If I had more time, I would have simply taken the bus. There are also bus passes available that offer unlimited travel and begin at 10, 000 Yen for 3 non-consecutive days of travel.

Flying is an option of last resort. There are many budget carriers now serving Japan and a flight search on sites like Vayama or Skyscanner will reveal them. In general, there prices are on par with bullet train tickets.

Modern Library Inventing Japan: 1853-1964 (Modern Library Chronicles)
Book (Modern Library)

The middle class has been in decline for awhile

by superbone

It's inevitable with cheap labor that the middle class is dropping.
I remember when 'Made in Japan' was a JOKE.
And it wasn't too long ago: in Woody Allen's "Sleeper" there was a scene where he was trying to get away from the police on a backpack-helicopter device and said "G_damn cheap Japanese flying Machine" -- early 1970s. "Made in Japan" when I was a kid meant 'cheap & unreliable.' Hah.
Japan (then Korea) took all our stereo, TV, VCR jobs/industry. Strike one for the U.S.
Strike two: garment industry

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There is much to like about Japan. After 14-days touring from Tokyo to Takayama, Kanazawa to Kyoto, Osaka to Nara, I am coming away with some lasting impressions and a list of quite a few favourite things.

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