So you’ve been dreaming of traveling to Japan but you have never done it because it’s too expensive.
I’ve been told this many times by people and realized that many people delay scheduling a trip to Japan because they are sure it is impossible to visit on a budget.
Because of this I’ve decided to put together a set of information to help you plan your dream travel and make sure you stop telling this excuse to yourself.
Dreams, Budget and Time
Rather than being stuck by imagining how expensive it would be and how impossible it will be for you, start by actually siting down and listing how many things, places and experiences you would like to see, visit or have.
Then the second step is to work out how much time and money you would be willing to invest in this trip and create a plan to organize how long it would take you to save up that amount.
Expectations vs Reality
Now finding a balance between your list, time and money is wherein the problem lies. There are many things that you need to weigh in, probably it’s your first trip and you have a gazillion things you want to do.
So decide which experiences and or commodities you are willing to compromise on. Private toilet? Expensive hotel? That perfect travel by train across the country? Buying all the manga in Tokyo? Try and be as realistic and dramatic as you can in this step.
Deciding on the travel route
If traveling to Japan is something you’ve been dreaming of, you probably already know what you want to do and are just unsure you can pay for it. However if you want to go but don’t know what to visit and how to organize the trip, i leave to you a couple of ideas to help you decide what time of travel to do.
Are you fascinated by traditional Japanese culture and are you looking for the Japanese experience? Then consider traveling direct to Kansai and visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Nara to save on train trips to/from Tokyo. If you really don’t want to see cities then trade Osaka for Himeji.
Do you love museums and city life? Want to go to clubs and shopping? Then Osaka, Tokyo and Yokohama are the places you want to go, period.
Want to see the monkeys in Nagano chilling in Onsen? Why not try and do Nagoya, Gifu and Nagano for week/ week and a half?
Want to visit unexplored countryside? And maybe do home stays with local families? Then fly to Sendai by the low cost peach airways from Osaka and from there visit Yamagata, Aizu Wakamatsu, Aomori, Matsushima or Ishinomaki.
For untouched Nature fly to Sapporo and from there do a tour around the island of Hokkaido to visit many nature reserves with untouched wildlife. Bear in mind that the best time to visit Hokkaido might be the summer.
Are you looking for a spiritual
getaway? Fly to Osaka and take a train to the starting point of the Shikoku
pilgrimage and follow the steps of
Kōbō Daishi through the 88 temples finishing at Kōyasan.
Want to visit the southern part of Japan? Visit Hiroshima and Miyajima and then hop on the train and visit Kyuushu Island. There you will find Kumamoto castle, one of the most beautiful castles in Japan, Arita porcelain and traces of Europe in Nagasaki.
Looking for summer beach holidays? Take a flight to Osaka and low cost by peach to Okinawa. From there you can do island hopping and sunny beach life.
Buying the plane ticket
So you’ve planned where you will travel and what you will see and now you’re ready to buy the plane ticket.
Plan your flight plan ahead and book early. Consider that by buying the plane trip at least one year in advance, will not only save you money on the ticket, but it will allow you time to save up until the actual trip.
In what season should you visit? Cheaper is always during the rainy season that happens between June and August. Expensive and most beautiful is the spring and autumn when everyone travels for hanami and kouyou. Winter in Japan is nice, cold and dry, a perfect time to visit with the occasional snow.
If you plan for long trips and you want to save time with trains and buses make sure to buy the JR pass. This is a pass by the Japanese rail company only available if you visit with a tourist Visa and must be bought only outside of Japan.
It’s available for several sets of days and comes in different price ranges. Just make sure you check your route and see if this is a good option for you.
Although it can be very expensive if you plan to go to Tokyo and Kyoto, back and forth it is a good investment. Make sure you do check the cost of your route beforehand.
If you plan for long trips also consider overnight buses. Cheaper than JR trains if you don’t want he JR pass and very reliable and safe. These buses always have two drivers for double safety and stop frequently for them to rest.
Also as you arrive into a new city, go to the tourist offices and ask for day passes for transportation or activities.
What to eat
Eating around in Japan is not expensive with options from convenience shops to modest family restaurants. However if you’re on a budget you might have to skip fresh fruits and food from the supermarket.
If you really must buy fresh food and you are budgeting, bigger chain supermarkets like seyu will have cheaper options than smaller markets or coop.
Also note that in food is cheaper the less fresh it is, so shopping at the end of the day will allow you to save extra.
Where to sleep
Sleeping is also not expensive in Japan depending how those commodities you are willing to give up. Forget long temple stays or Hotels with private toilets.
Japan has a culture of shared sento baths so any type of lodging that provides private room toilet will change extra for this service.
Look for hotels with sento, hostel, guesthouse or homestays. If you look properly you will find great places to stay for low prices.
Capsule hotels are great but not if you’re looking for the hostel experience as they will not have a communal area for socializing.
I know sometimes we can feel tempted to invest very little time in the places that we visit, and then run everywhere, but make sure you give yourself proper time to enjoy these places as you travel. Japan is best if enjoyed slowly, especially on the countryside.
And I cannot stress this enough, but please, just be considerate of the local culture and respect people around you. Never forget you are a guest wherever you travel. You will probably be in these places for a short period of time, but locals will have to put up with tourists like you every day.
Want help planning that perfect trip? Do you have specific things you would like to see/do, want me to study itineraries for you or check the most efficient and cheap way to plan you travel?
Contact me, I can help you plan your trip. We can set up some video chat or just chat so that I can know you better and understand what you are looking for.