Japan has a rep for being an expensive place to visit, mostly because people compare it to its vastly different southeastern neighbours. And while it’s definitely not the cheapest place to explore, does that mean budget travellers should steer clear? Absolutely not! There are plenty of ways to keep the budget in check while in Japan, if you know where to go!
If you want to experience the best of cheap eats in Japan, Osaka needs to be on your itinerary. The food culture here is described as “kuidaore” – eat until you drop, and luckily, many of the best Osakan dishes can be found inexpensively just by wandering the street. Dontonbori is the best place for delicious specialities such as takoyaki, okonomiyaki, or kushikatsu, but also visit the carnival-like alleys of Shinsekai.
Under all the neon lights of Japan’s bright streets, it would be easy to walk right past one of the inconspicuous noodle houses. But you’ll never walk past one again once you’ve gotten a taste of deliciously simple bowl of udon noodles with tempura veggies. I swear after a full day of sightseeing, it goes right to your very soul. The best part? This incredibly satisfying meal will set you back around AUD$5. Bargain!
Lastly, make sure you don’t overlook the humble convenience store, full to the brim with brightly packaged snacks, decent ready-to-go meals, and if all else fails, cups and cups of ramen.
Hotels will knock the biggest dent in your budget, so look elsewhere to rest your head. Hostels are fairly ubiquitous in the big cities, but will still set you back roughly AUD$30-40 per night in a dormitory. Try a night in a capsule hotel for a change of pace – it’s still roughly the same price, but you have more of your own little space (I use that in the very literal sense) plus it’s a great experience!
Even cheaper? You will need to brush up on some basic Japanese, because these don’t get as many foreigners, but you could try out an overnight Internet cafe. known as a”Manga kissa”, they have been used by young unemployed Japanese as temporary accommodation, where for about half the cost of a hostel dorm bed, you’ll get a reclining lounge, wireless internet and your own cubicle to peruse the shelves of manga. Hourly rates. Try a Popeye Media Cafe.
The sprawl of Japan’s cities means you can’t easily walk from attraction to another if they are in different suburbs. So you will need to shell out for some public transport. The Japan Rail Pass for tourists covers you on JR lines, which includes high speed rail to local city loops. Get the most out of your pass and take the JR line, particularly in Tokyo. What’s that, haven’t heard about the Japan Rail Pass? Then check it out and thank me later. If you limit your pass to one region, it will be even cheaper. So while Tokyo is in a separate region to say Kyoto, you could stick to the Kansai region and hang out in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara and more with the regional pass.
You could actually go to Japan and not spend a dime on your daytime activities, all the best things are completely free! Watch the sunrise over one the many temples, lose yourself in the electric street atmosphere, wander through thousands of Tori gates, or under the bamboo of Arashiyama. Pick up some fashion tips at Harajuku or find some rare serenity in the back streets. Free riverside concerts and dodge some feisty deer. There’s so much to see in Japan you won’t have any time to pull out your wallet!
That’s it for cheap Japan, do you have any tips of your own?