Money-Saving Tips for a Trip to Japan: 15 Ways to Cut Costs

2023-01-11 02:23:46 - Drany Macley Drany Macley, the senior editor of, brings extensive journalism background and over eight years of experience in travel writing and editing to the site, offering practical insights and first-hand knowledge through articles on innovative hotels, backed by a BA in Journalism from Ithaca College.

Last modified on: 12/23/22 | December 23rd, 2022

Because of the high cost of travel, I avoided visiting Japan for a very long time. I was hesitant to visit the country because of the stories I'd heard about the high prices there. To me, a trip to Japan means eating my weight in sushi and ramen, touring numerous temples, and spending a lot of time on a train traversing the country's beautiful landscapes.

Cost was always a deterrent, so I never got around to doing it. ”

Many years ago, I finally made it to Japan, and I was surprised to find that while it isn't exactly cheap, Japan isn't the prohibitively expensive country many people think it is. I found the cost of living in Japan to be comparable to that of Western European countries, and sometimes even lower.

After multiple trips to Japan, I've figured out how to make it a more affordable vacation destination.

If you're on a budget, a trip to Japan is still possible. Here's a comprehensive guide to saving money while still enjoying a memorable trip to Japan.

Tips for Saving Money on Japan's Public Transportation

fast bullet trains in japan
The bullet train is amazing and convenient, but it comes at a high price. The price of a single ticket can easily be in the hundreds. Even so, I believe that taking a train across the country is the best way to see it, so if you want to save money on your train tickets, I recommend getting a Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass). Traveling around Japan without the pass would be difficult.

A variety of options are available for the pass (each valid for a set number of days, not just travel days):

  • Price for 7 days is 29,650 JPY (or 39,600 JPY for a Green Pass).
  • Costs 47,250 JPY for 14 days (or 64,120 JPY for a Green Pass).
  • The cost for a 21-day stay is 60,450 (83,390 for a Green Pass).

The Green Pass is the first-class option (though it's not really necessary, as even standard cars are quite luxurious), and all other passes are for consecutive travel.

You can get a 7-day rail pass with unlimited travel on JR trains for 29,650 JPY, while a round-trip ticket from Tokyo to Osaka, a journey of about three hours, costs around 26,000 JPY. One round trip costs nearly as much as a seven-day pass.

On top of that, these JR trains can be used within cities themselves, as they reach both suburban and urban areas. Instead of buying individual metro tickets, I used my pass to get around Kyoto and Tokyo. Accordingly, a pass is preferable to purchasing individual tickets even if you don't plan on doing much traveling throughout Japan. Although the pass's high cost may be off-putting, the alternative is much more severe.

You used to be able to get a pass only by ordering it in advance of your visit. However, a Japan Rail Pass can be purchased within Japan until March 202. Japan Rail passes are sold at numerous locations across the country; for the most up-to-date listing, visit the official Japan Rail website. However, buying your pass online before you visit Japan will save you between 5,000 and 6,000 JPY compared to buying it in Japan.

Single-ride metro tickets in most cities cost between 150 and 300 JPY. Depending on how far you travel, the cost could be significantly higher. A day pass, good for unlimited rides within a city for 24 hours, can be purchased for 800 to 1100 JPY in most cities.

In Japan, buses are a faster but more expensive alternative to the country's bullet train system. The three-hour train ride between Tokyo and Osaka, for instance, takes nine hours by bus. Although that seat is only 4,500 JPY, you should consider the value of your time before purchasing it.

Considering how little time I had available for my trip, I decided the time savings weren't enough to justify the longer trip. I would have used the bus service more frequently if I'd had more spare time.

Unlimited bus travel passes start at 10,200 JPY for three consecutive non-travel days and can be used on any bus in the system.

Find low-cost airlines that fly to Japan with the help of search engines like Skyscanner. Two of the most popular low-cost carriers are Peach and Jetstar.

Their prices are, on average, comparable to those of tickets for bullet trains. They may be less expensive than the train if booked in advance. On the other hand, if you're only going a short distance, they're usually more expensive for little benefit.

Additionally, ANA has a secret page on their website where they offer discounted last-minute fares. For longer domestic journeys, it may be less expensive than using a service like Skyscanner, which is only accessible to non-native speakers.

Don't forget that you might not actually save much time once you factor in travel time to and from the airport (not to mention the time spent in security checkpoints).

Tips for Eating Cheaply in Japan

cheap food in japan
The food in Japan was surprisingly cheap. Although the price of my trip skyrocketed due to my sushi habit, I ended up spending much less than I had planned on food.

I discovered that I could maintain my diet on less than 2,000 JPY per day if I abstained from my sushi habit. Here are just a few examples of the average cost:

  • A sushi lunch set (sushi, soup, and salad) will run you 1,600 JPY.
  • Price of a typical Japanese set lunch
  • Prices range from 125 to 625 JPY per sushi train.
  • A typical price range for Western fare (sandwiches, burgers, pizza, etc.) is 1,200-1,500 JPY
  • To eat quickly: 800 JPY
  • Cost of Ramen Ranges from 850 to 1,200 JPY
  • Menu items with tempura range from 480 to 1,100.

You won't go hungry in this country, and unless you really want to splurge, you won't need to spend much on food. Following are some ways that you can reduce your food costs in Japan:

  • Eat at "100-yen" shops - Like their American counterparts, 100-yen shops (or "dollar stores") can be found all over Japan, selling a wide variety of food, drink, and household goods for just 100 JPY. That's where I did all my shopping. Ask at the front desk of your hotel or hostel for the location of the nearest 100-yen shop; their names vary from area to area.
  • Take advantage of Japan's sushi trains; the country's sushi is excellent throughout the sushi spectrum. While I did enjoy a few fine dining experiences, the sushi trains offer the best value. A typical meal for me would cost less than 1,500 JPY, with plates ranging from 125 to 625 JPY. To save time, I only ever ate on sushi trains.
  • In order to save money on lunch, you can eat at 7-11, Family Mart, or any of the other convenience stores that sell pre-set meals for less than 500 JPY. Plus, many supermarkets offer affordable pre-made meal kits. Many Japanese people, I've noticed, choose this route.
  • Food costs can be reduced by preparing some of your own meals in the kitchens provided in most hostels and a growing number of Airbnbs.
  • One myth about Japan that turned out to be true was that fruit and vegetables were prohibitively expensive. Except for the occasional trip to the market for an apple or banana, I rarely ate fresh produce. It was out of our price range.
  • I spent three weeks in Japan subsisting on a diet of curry, ramen, and donburi. Cheap and filling meals in Japan can be found in curry bowls and donburi (bowls of meat and rice).

Where to Stay Cheap in Japan

capsule hotels in japan
The rising cost of housing, combined with Japan's small land area and dense population, has led to sky-high rents and utility bills. As a result, it can be difficult to find affordable lodgings associated with the tourism industry.

Prices for a bed in a hostel's shared dorm range from 2,500 to 4,500 JPY, while a double room in a cheap hotel can cost anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 JPY. In Japan, a capsule hotel room (basically just a bed in a small pod) will set you back between 3,000 and 5,500 per night. It's not posh, but it's unforgettable (and very Japanese).

Here are some suggestions for reducing lodging costs:

  • It's common practice for Japanese hostels to offer free lodging in exchange for a few hours of cleaning per day. Before you go, use a site like Worldpackers to look for work.
  • Couchsurfing is a great way to meet locals and get a feel for the culture of a country without breaking the bank by staying in a hotel. Don't be shy about reaching out to fellow expats; many of them love hosting because it gives them a chance to reconnect with their fellow Westerners. It is recommended that requests be sent in advance, especially to more populated areas (such as Kyoto and Tokyo).
  • Take advantage of credit card rewards — this is when "travel hacking" really pays off. It's possible to get quite a few free nights' lodging by using frequent flyer miles or regular hotel points. With the help of my accumulated hotel free night credits, com for two free nights in Tokyo, but large sign-up bonuses offered by many hotel cards can amount to up to a week's free lodging. One of my favorite things to do is to use a credit card, and I've included some of my favorites below.
  • Above is a picture of a capsule hotel, which is a type of accommodation that aims to bridge the gap between hostels and full-fledged hotels. There are shared kitchens, bathrooms, and living areas, and each capsule has its own bed, desk, and chair, as well as a light, electrical outlet, and (sometimes) a small Many businessmen who stay late at the office use them. The nightly cost of one of these capsules ranges from about 3,000 to 5,500 JPY.
  • Vacationing with a large group? Airbnb is a cost-effective choice. Since there are fewer Airbnbs in Japan due to the strict regulations, the price of a stay there will be higher than usual, and there will be some restrictions on how you can use the service. To begin, only government-approved hosts can advertise their properties online. The second requirement is that you either provide your host with a copy of your passport before you arrive or have them make a copy of your passport when you check in. However, it's a cheap option for families and large groups. It is more cost-effective to stay in a hostel dorm, a capsule hotel, or a budget hotel room if you are traveling alone.

How to Save Money at Japan's Attractions

Kinkaku-ji, the Temple of the Golden Pavilion in Japan
The majority of the attractions didn't cost a dime to enter. To visit a museum or temple in Japan, I never spent more than 500 JPY. For 1,100 JPY, you can purchase the Kansai Grutto Pass, which grants you free or discounted admission to more than 50 museums and attractions throughout the Kyoto area. Considering how many museums you'll visit while in Kyoto, it's a steal. In both Osaka and Tokyo, you can purchase attraction passes that are valid for the same amount of time.

My experience has shown me that these passes are the most cost-effective way to visit major museums, historic sites, and religious institutions. There are also many parks, gardens, and temples that don't cost anything to visit. While in Japan, I didn't spend much on touristy activities.

To What Extent Does a Trip to Japan Require Money?

There is some truth to the stereotype that Japan is one of the most expensive countries to visit, especially if you plan to spend a lot of time in hotels, restaurants, and transportation. Spending more than 30,000 JPY per day on transportation is very possible. On the other hand, I don't think you need to spend that much money to enjoy Japan.

If you plan ahead and keep an eye on your spending, a trip to Japan can be quite cheap. Being frugal in Japan means adapting your lifestyle to that of the locals.

Spending around 10,000-13,000 JPY per day will cover your hostel stay, rail pass, cheap food, and entry to a few sights.

In any case, I believe that you can travel Japan on a daily budget of 7,000 to 10,000 JPY if you follow the advice given above. If you don't go all out, a daily budget of that amount should get you by in Japan. This would necessitate taking the bus more often, eating less sushi, cooking most meals, visiting free museums and attractions, and spending some nights sleeping on couches or in parks.

Cheap travel was common among the tourists I saw in Japan. They did it, so it can be done; however, if you take this route, you will never again be able to satisfy your sushi cravings.


When I travel, I prioritize experiences over souvenirs, and I believe that you can have both on a budget. While Southeast Asia will always be the more affordable option, there are still plenty of low-cost ways to enjoy Japan. The average daily cost in Japan is not going to be $20 USD, but cheap options are available.

People who have traveled to Japan often report back that their initial perceptions of the country's price tag were greatly exaggerated. I hope you learned from this article that visiting Japan on a budget is entirely possible. Keeping your expenses down can be as simple as using discount transportation, eating and sleeping at local establishments, and staying in local accommodations.


Pay for Your Plane Ticket
To locate low-cost airline tickets, try using Skyscanner. My go-to search engine because they check every airline and travel website in the world.

Secure Your Lodging Today
With the largest selection and lowest prices, Hostelworld is the place to book your hostel stay. Use to find the lowest prices on guesthouses and inexpensive hotels if you'd rather not stay in a hostel.

Take Out Some Insurance Before You Go
If you purchase travel insurance, you won't have to worry about things like getting sick, getting mugged, having your belongings stolen, or having Complete safety in the event of an emergency Even though I've used it only a handful of times, I always bring it along on trips just in case. I highly recommend the following businesses because they provide excellent service and reasonable prices:

Find the Most Cost-Effective Businesses Today
If you're looking for a reliable travel service, be sure to peruse the information on my handy reference page. Here, I detail every method I employ to cut costs while traveling. Additionally, they will help you save money on future trips.

If you'll be traveling around Japan, you should look into purchasing a Japan Rail Pass. It can save you a lot of money and is available for 7, 14, or 21 days.

You Seek Additional Data Regarding Japan
If you want more information about Japan, check out our comprehensive travel guide.

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