A lot of people ask us, “why vacation in Japan?” Which makes us a little sad because Japan is such a fun, unique, completely different experience. So here is our take: because Japan will amaze you.
We were able to go to Japan for our honeymoon and only had $1,000 with us for two weeks (not including already paid airfare and hotels etc.) So how did we do it? Japan is more expensive than other Asian countries like Thailand, but it is still worth the trip! It isn’t as expensive as people will lead you to believe because we did just fine with our $1,000 for TWO of us for two weeks by doing the five things below.
Skip The Trinkets
Trinkets are great if you only buy one or two. You know, those cheap, “you were here” type souvenirs. But don’t let it consume you or your suitcase. Japan has a plethora, and they will be tempting, but if you really want to see and do as much as you possibly can, skip ‘em. Instead, focus on buying one item that you would really, really love to take home. Japan has very quality items – that’s how they like it – so your money is better spent at a nice train station store or high-end mall. We opted for bringing home the best sake we’ve ever tasted. However I wish I would have splurged for one of their planners.
Ditch the Restaurants
A lot of people like eating at fancy restaurants, even mid-priced ones, while traveling. If that’s just what you do, that’s fine! Only, if you want to make a dent in the over 77,000 temples in Japan, you’ll want to eat a little cheaper. Luckily for you, Japan is MADE for that type of eating. The on-the-go, pop in and out shops are all over Japan! We ate exclusively at little ramen shops and combini (basically 7-11 type grocers.) This may sketch you out a little, but Japan prides itself on the quality of their food and ironically, the only food that didn’t sit well with us was the only American joint we could find in Kyoto. In fact, you’ll be absolutely blown away by the quality of the McDonald’s food in Japan. In particular, try their breakfast pancakes. 😉
For a big bowl of ramen, plan $3-8 and skip lunch. For combini foods, you can spend anywhere between $2-20 and get an entire days worth of meals to break down. This is how the Japanese do so don’t sweat the feasibility of it. At least spare your wallet a day and give it a try.
Oh, and did I forget to say that if you’re a sushi fan, you can get some of the best sushi of your life for prices you won’t believe. And the sushi-go-rounds are fun for everyone.
Enjoy the Tourist Sites
Japan loves tourists. Most everything is easy to navigate around with clear pictures and signs, even if some are in Japanese. The temples are all so cheap. I think the most we ever spent on one was $10 per person because we wanted to see the big event they were having. Many are free, and on average I’d say we spent $4 to get in. Other touristy places include shopping areas like Ginza in Tokyo or Gion in Kyoto. You honestly don’t have to buy anything, but if you’re looking for something specific these are the areas to go and you won’t get ripped off – we promise (we shopped in both places.) That being said, if anything, bring lotion with you as we had a very hard time distinguishing the lotion and body wash in Kyoto…we eventually found some in Tokyo.
Opt for the Train Lines
If you’re like us, you want to see it all! Japan was a place we had always dreamed of, and we spent our two weeks going from Hiroshima all the way to Tokyo. In total, it would have been an 8-hour bullet train ride if that can tell you the distance, although we didn’t do it all in one day. We bought a JR pass before entering the country which was $600 for the both of us for a country-wide, two-week pass. I’ll do a post entirely about this later. Think of it as exploring Europe by Eurail; it was absolutely phenomenal. Even if you don’t want to explore that much, you’ll want some sort of train pass to be it a big one like JR or a city one.
Let me tell you why: Tokyo, which is one of the most popular cities for foreigners in Japan, is the largest city in the WORLD. Yes, look it up. Even just going to the parks for a week will wear you out. That is unless you’re a marathoner. You’ll want to save your feet a little by taking the train, AND you’ll save your wallet because the trains and taxis are much more expensive. Japan has the cleanest, comfortable, and reliable train system in the world and it is very far reaching. It is unlikely you’ll be in an area that you can’t at least reach by train, even if you do have to walk to the hotel or attraction.
Research, Research, Research (to save BIG bucks)
We had a year to plan this trip. So we may have had some extra advantages money-wise. A year out is the planning sweet spot for Japan, so if you’re going anytime soon, I highly recommend it. Because we did all this research and had a ton of time to plan it we spent: $600 total on two weeks of prime location hotel, only $1,000 for two people for two weeks of food, fun, and souvenirs, absolutely no extra on anything, and ended up with quite a few free perks.
For example, we bought a Wifi router for getting around. I believe it was $80 for two weeks and we added the train passes, so they threw in a free guide and hotel transportation from Osaka to Kyoto which was about an hour’s travel with front step service. Think about that. Could you get a free ride from Paris to Versailles with a wifi router and train pass?
Not to mention, we spent time studying the language in case the router led us astray. This may not be for everyone, but “Arigatou” (thank you) will get you SO far. I will add more tip specific savings in future posts, but if you have any questions you can always email us!
Let us know if you have any fun places or pictures from Japan; we’d love to see them. And, if you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.