Japan was a destination we simply couldn’t skip. However, Japan is very expensive and we didn’t have unlimited spending. Here’s how we managed to enjoy Japan, while still keeping a tight budget.
Fortunately, we were able to work during our first two weeks in Japan. This turned out to be a perfect way of saving money while still experiencing the Japanese lifestyle. You can read about our Japanese work experience here. After saying goodbye to our jobs in Okayama, we decided to make our way over land to Tokyo because we wanted be there for new year’s eve. One thing we did not consider was that every hotel, bus and train will double in price. For example, during New year’s eve the price of a simple hostel bed in Tokyo rises to about 60 euros per person. Buses can be as much as 80 euros for a trip of two hours. However, there are other options.
Hitchhiking is the best means of transportation, but keep in mind that you can only hitch a ride at the service stations, which are on the toll roads and can be a little bit hard to get to. It can be worthwhile to get a bus to one of these stations as a starting point. If you manage to hitch a ride, always tell the driver to take you to a service station. The problem with getting a ride outside of these stations is that it is illegal for the Japanese to take you. You can get lucky if you stand just outside of the turn to the main (toll) roads. Most Japanese are very friendly, but their English is often limited.
There are some reasonably priced hotels available on booking.com. We stayed in Osaka for less then 10 euros per person at the HOSTEL EBISUTEI SOUZOU with SAKE BAR which was a clean and nicely located hostel with kitchen and comfy big dorm beds. Just make sure to check out the deals on booking and you will end up with a better price than just walking around and trying to find a place because most hostels will charge around 30 euros per bed. In Kyoto we found another bargain and really convenient and good hostel, which was Santiago guesthouse. Make sure to book in advance though, these hostels tend to sell out quickly. Another option for sleeping, which is slightly more expensive then these hostels is the internet cafes. If you don’t mind a tiny cabin with a chair, no windows and smoking and gaming Japanese all night this is a thrilling experience. You can rent a cabin for 5, 10 or more hours and then you can use the computer. Some of the internet cafes charge per person tough and not per room, so for 7 hours you can still end up paying about 17 euros a person.
One thing not to worry about is food. Prices of noodle soup places can be found all over Japan and you can get a plate of noodle soup with free tea for as little as 2 euros. Also, we had loads of Sushi in Kyoto in one of the conveyor band Sushi places. We ate many plates of delicious sushi for as little as 10 euros for two people. Just avoid bars as beers can be 5, 6 or 7 euros. If you want to drink I recommend going to the supermarket where they sell Japanese wine and Chilean wine for low prices. A bottle of decent Chilean wine costs us about 4,50 euros. In most hostels you are allowed to drink it.
Even though Japan was expensive, it is perfectly doable even on a tight budget. Just avoid the holidays and don’t go shopping (besides to 100 yen shops) and you will be fine. Japan has a really interesting culture and it is clean, safe, convenient and absolutely beautiful. We got to see Okayama, Osaka and Kyoto and we absolutely loved it. Most temples are free of charge and walking around is a pleasure already. Also, prices for bicycle rentals are low, so a bike ride trough the countryside should not be skipped! Our budget turned out to be too small for the holidays and the ride to Tokyo though. For this reason we decided to leave Japan and try to find a cheaper place to spend the holidays. We spend Christmas eve on the airport of Osaka and arrived in Taiwan with 27 degrees on the first day of Christmas. The flight was a bargain and we had the plane all to ourselves. We will be back for a spring holiday!