There is a popular rumor that traveling to Japan must be extremely expensive. However, just start to get to know deeper about Japan, you will find out it isn’t actually so expensive as its reputation.
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This is based on the experience of Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries on over 50 countries all over the world. He shared as he talked with his friends about his intention of a trip to Japan, most of them surprised: “Oh! Japan will be great. But it will be very expensive!”. This raised a few worries about the next month of Michael in Japan and he didn’t want to spend too much.
Then as it turned out, he was pleasantly surprised at how expensive Japan is… or not. “The rumours are perpetuated partly by those international surveys that come out and try to compare countries or cities based on the same criteria. The biggest of them all, The 2013 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, puts Tokyo as the most expensive city in the world and Osaka as the second most expensive. But the problem is this survey takes into account things like household supplies, utilities, domestic help, and clothing. It also calculates the results in the context of how much it would cost an expat to live in the style they are accustomed to at home. The findings get quoted in a lot of major publications – but it’s not really relevant for the average traveller (or the average local citizen, for that matter).” said Michael.
Accommodation can be one of the biggest factors in the cost of a trip and it’s true that Japan is going to be more expensive than most places in Asia. But it’s not as bad as you might think. For those people on a backpacking style budget, you’ll find plenty of hostels in the main tourist areas for about US$20 a night for a bed in a dorm room. That’s the same as you would pay in a lot of European cities. There are also the “capsule hotels” which are similar to dorms except the beds are in enclosed boxes, rather than an open room. They are a uniquely Japanese experience and cost about US$30 a night in the major cities.
“If you need something even nicer, expect to pay between US$100 and US$200 a night for a room. That’s above my budget and definitely not the amount you need to be paying – but it’s very reasonable for the quality you’re getting and probably cheaper than many other world cities.” Michael shared.
To Michael, it’s cuisine that is the most impressive in Japan. “The food is not only delicious but very affordable!” Michael laughed. “In fact, I laugh when I compare it to the price of an average meal in Sydney. You never need to go hungry in Japan.”
Michael shared his experience: “If you look at standard lunch options, you’ll have a range of cheap options in convenience stores (don’t worry – it’s healthy and tasty, unlike convenience stores in other countries). A bento box (a mix of rice, meat, fish, and vegetables) will cost you about $4 dollars; a rice ball with a fish filling will cost about US$1; and a tray of sushi will cost you about $4.”
Michael gives some cheap options so transport will not be too expensive. The obvious way to save some money is to get a JR pass (Japan Rail Pass) in advance, which gives you unlimited trips on the JR rail network. The pass will cost you about US$600 for two weeks which sounds like a lot of money but it breaks down to about $40 a day. Considering the train between Tokyo and Osaka costs about US$140 each way, it becomes a quite good value. Osaka to Hiroshima is another US$100 each way so if you go from Tokyo to Osaka to Hiroshima and then back to Tokyo, you’ve almost already made the pass worthwhile. Throw in a few side trips or some short train journeys within those cities to explore, and you’ve already made a saving.
All in all, Michael had a very reasonable month in Japan as far as the costs went. He said: ” Any kind of travel or holiday is going to mean you spend money and it’s just one of those things you have to accept if you want to explore the world. But Japan shouldn’t be somewhere that you avoid or put off because you’re worried about the finances. You’ll spend more on a trip to Australia, the UK, Scandinavia, or New York. With such a special and unique culture, Japan is somewhere you should experience. It’s just lucky that you can actually do it quite affordably if you want to.”