Senso-ji Temple in Japan

You’ll Never Believe the Prices in Japan

I was terrified for my bank account upon arriving in Japan – and not just because my previous trip had been to super-cheap Indonesia. I’d been hearing about how expensive Japan was for years.

Especially, strangely enough, from people who’d never been there.

What I’m about to tell you RE: the cost of travel in Japan today might shock you: Japan is not really that expensive. It’s also absolutely not a budget travel destination, but with intelligent planning – and a little bit of restraint – you can travel in Japan without going broke.

Need a little extra help planning your trip to Japan? Hire me as your travel coach.

Cost of Transportation in Japan

The bad news is that transportation in Japan (long-distance transportation in particular) tends to be expensive. The good news is that there are ways around this, most notably the Japan Rail Pass. Mine cost 540 USD for unlimited use over three weeks; my first train journey alone (a short hop from Tokyo to Kyoto) would’ve cost me 140 USD – I think you get the picture.

And what about the price of local transportion in Japan? It’s in line with other major world cities in Tokyo, where a one-way subway ride starts at about ¥200 (2 USD), while it’s cheaper in other cities such as Hiroshima and Kyoto, where unlimited day tickets for tourists are available.

Shinkansen Bullet Train
 

Also keep in mind that most Japanese cities are extremely walkable, so unless weather conditions are bad or you’re just in a rush, you can actually transport yourself for free in most cases! To be sure, if you buy a JR Pass and walk as much as possible in Japan, you aren’t going to spend much more on transportion in Japan than you would in any other developed country – in fact, you will likely spend less.

One unavoidably expensive aspect of transportation in Japan is the over-water sort. Excepting public JR ferries, private ferry transport (for example, from Kagoshima to the magnificent Yakushima island) is extremely, extremely expensive. Ditto for domestic flights within Japan.

Cost of Food in Japan

Food is the second of what I call the “Big Three” travel expenses and I’m happy to report that affordable food is surprisingly abundant in Japan. When it comes to the price of food in Japan, I like to think of it in three tiers.

First, there’s packaged food from convenience stores (Lawson, Family Mart and 7-11 are the big ones) and fast food, both international chains and Japanese ones like Mos Burger. If you use this method for eating, as I often did, you can easily get a “meal” for between ¥300-500.

Secondly, there are modest sit-down restaurants. These include ramen shops at railway stations, entry-level sushi and tempura joints and Japanese sit-down chains such as Coco Curry House. Here, service and ambiance are modest, but the quality of food is very good. You can expect to pay between ¥500-1,200 for a meal, which usually includes unlimited hot tea, water and rice.

Sushi in Japan
 

(A special note about sushi, particularly if you’re in Tokyo. If you want to find cheap sushi in Japan, search for a “conveyor belt” sushi restaurant. Individual pieces run around ¥100-200, so it’s a great way to sample a lot of delicious fish if you aren’t looking for a set meal.)

Finally, there are the mid-range and expensive restaurants – I didn’t really eat at any of these, but I know they exist. I suppose the closest I got was having sushi for breakfast at Tsukiji Fish Market, where a sashimi bowl (to be fair, arguably the best tuna sashimi in the world) will set you back around ¥1,500-3,000.

In general, it’s easy to find affordable, delicious and (mostly) nutritious food in Japan.

Cost of Accommodation in Japan

Accommodation is the third of the big three travel expenses, and unfortunately, it’s not only the most expensive of them in Japan, but also the most unavoidable: There’s no special pass for hostels or guest houses and prices for tourists are higher, if anything. For example, I paid ¥3,500 (or about 35 USD) for a dorm bed in a hostel in Kyoto.

With this being said, you can find bargains on hotels in Japan. For example, you can get a pod in a capsule hotel in major cities for between ¥1,500-2,000 per night. Alternatively, you can stay in a “Business Hotel” (or even, if you dare, a “love hotel”) and enjoy a modest rate in exchange for a small room and minimal ambiance. For example, I stayed in a comfortable room in Tottori (home to Japan’s strange desert) for ¥4,900 per night.

Takaragawa Onsen
 

Traditional Japanese inns (known as ryokan) tend to be expensive, running at least ¥10,000 per night in most cases, but many of these include 1-2 meals per day and access to on-site services, which often including onsen hot springs, as was the case in the mountain wonderland known as Takaragawa Onsen.

Accommodation in Japan isn’t cheap, but if you keep your food and transportation costs down in the ways I’ve suggested, its impact on your overall bottom line will be minimal.

The Bottom Line

So, how much does it cost per day to travel in Japan? Not including my transpacific flight, I spent approximately 2,000 USD during my 23 days in Japan, for a cost of 86 USD per day. This puts Japan in line with many Western European countries, but far below astronomically expensive countries such as Norway, Switzerland and Australia.

If you’re more disciplined than I was – I ate sushi more than I probably should’ve, drank too much sake and didn’t pay much attention to fees for attractions, which are also quite high in Japan – you can probably get by in Japan for between 50-75 USD per day, again excluding transcontinental or transoceanic flights.

Leave Your Daily Hell   Filed under: Japan

About The Author

is the author of 747 posts on Leave Your Daily Hell. Robert founded Leave Your Daily Hell in 2010 so that other travelers would have an entertaining, reliable source of information, advice and inspiration at their fingertips. Want to travel more often? Subscribe to email updates today!

 

informs, inspires, entertains and empowers travelers like you. My name is Robert and I'm happy you're here!

 
 
 

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Vincenzo April 30, 2014 at 11:50 am

wow, terrific tips – domo arigato gozaimasu!. I am now ready to go to Japan!

Mark Humphreys April 30, 2014 at 3:40 pm

Spot on advice! I just got back from Japan, and was able to stick to my budget of 50USD per day, and it wasn’t like I was suffering. Great tips Robert!

Jen @ The Trusted Traveller May 1, 2014 at 6:24 am

I agree! It was not as expensive as I expected, especially the food which I had been told was expensive. I also found the cheaper styles of accommodation to be expensive and the expensive styles of accommodation to be cheap. We decided splurge and spend a few nights at one of Kyotos top 5 star hotels on recommendation from a family member and paid just under $120 per night for a suite with a view of the mountains. It was the nicest places we have ever stayed. Anywhere else in the world this would have been hundreds of dollars.

Anne May 2, 2014 at 2:59 am

Interesting post! I am planning to travel to Japan next year, last time I visited was 5 years ago so I’m very excited about going there. I have been a little worried about the cost of the trip, as I am a student and used to travel on very low budget.. But I think that with careful planning it’s possible (:

Japan is definitely not one of the cheapest countries to travel (as I did notice on my previous trips and when living in Japan about 10 years ago). Luckily food isn’t that expensive which I’m very happy of, as I love japanese food and when I’m in Japan I’m think I just eat most of the time..

Also, welcome to Finland! July is a great time of the year to travel here. Lots of things happening and the weather is usually pretty good.

Robert Schrader May 2, 2014 at 7:50 am

Thanks Anne! I can’t wait. Hope you have fun in Japan.

Robert Schrader May 2, 2014 at 7:53 am

Thanks for reading Mark 🙂

Robert Schrader May 2, 2014 at 7:54 am

Yes, you will have a grea ttime!

Tanya Zaver May 4, 2014 at 8:10 am

I am starting the planning now!

Robert Schrader May 5, 2014 at 8:10 am

Yesss!

Laurie Hervot May 7, 2014 at 4:19 pm

What you forgot to say about transportation in Tokyo is that the price of your ticket depends of the length of your journey, and since there are several companies which manage the subway, you have to pay a new ticket if you have to change and take a line managed by a different company, even if it is only one journey… So it can quickly get pretty expensive. When I was in Tokyo, my accommodation was located in the northern part of the city, and I had to pay 13$ every day to get in almost any other part of the city, even if I walked a lot !

Robert Schrader May 9, 2014 at 8:10 am

Hi Laurie:

I did say prices “Start” at 200¥ 🙂

Andy May 29, 2014 at 1:14 pm

I have heard that Japan can be a little expensive. I was told that a certain type of water melon there can cost up to $100. That is crazy.

Andy
BackpackingDiplomacy.com

laurennoel1 May 30, 2014 at 2:35 am

Looks delish! I’m tempted to fire up the oven and give this a go! – http://povonte.com

Jelena June 12, 2014 at 1:53 am

I agree that Japan can be done on the cheap, as there are surprisingly many great deals to find there – and I managed to backpack there on under $50 a day pretty comfortably. The JR Pass is fantastic value, and if you balance your visit to include the less touristy places you’ll be amazed at how cheap being in Japan can get! Kanazawa in particular was really great value and just as enjoyable as the main cities. Our only splurge was a temple stay in Mount Koya that was $120 per night, where we had three meals and access to an onsen included, and located in the middle of town eliminated the need for transport around the place.
Japan on a budget is definitely not impossible!
http://www.jelenastipanicev.com

Robert Schrader June 12, 2014 at 8:11 am

Thanks for the comments!

Arsen Yelnikov June 18, 2014 at 10:01 am

This blog is amazing. Will be sharing with friends and family! Arigatouuu!!! 🙂

Robert Schrader June 18, 2014 at 10:46 am

You’re welcome!

Jenny Freij July 18, 2015 at 1:41 pm

Can I ask, does your daily budget (86 USD/day) include the JR Pass? 🙂

Robert Schrader July 26, 2015 at 4:44 pm

Yes, it does 🙂

Jenny Limage November 11, 2015 at 3:11 pm

Thank you!!! I’m planning a trip to Japan with a friend and as college students we don’t have tons of money so it was reassuring to know that you don’t need to be filthy rich to have a good time in Japan.
Greetings from Paris!!!

Fabio Nakamura July 5, 2016 at 6:57 pm

Very nice!
Did you spent USD 2000 including everything? (Hotels, food, transportation, etc)

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