Japan’s notoriety for being one of the most expensive destinations in the world has greatly affected its potential for tourism growth. But during the last few years, considerable efforts to put an end to this age-old rumor has become more and more palpable. Some of the perks visitors now enjoy include heavily discounted transportation passes, free wifi connection across the country, and generous tax deductions on certain purchases. A budget traveller like myself was even surprised to find out how seemingly affordable everything was during my first visit in autumn of 2014.
My 11-day journey in the land of the rising sun fittingly began in the culinary city of Osaka and ended in the country capital of Tokyo. And in between these two equally interesting destinations, I managed to squeeze in side trips to Kyoto, Hiroshima, Hakone, and Kawaguchiko (for Mt. Fuji) – all within a budget of PhP 57,000 (USD 1,280).
I didn’t intentionally restrain myself from spending just for the sake of proving a point. But I was quite sensible with my spending habits (I wrote a list of all purchases made) to see primarily how far I can stretch my limited resources.
So where exactly did my PhP 57,000 go?
A good 1/3 of the general budget went into transportation expenses within Japan, trains for the most part. The biggest chunk of this 1/3 went into the purchase of a 7-day Japan Railways (JR) pass (JPY 29,110 or PhP 11,688). It appears expensive, sure. But this pass gives you unlimited access to all JR-run trains all over Japan, including the bullet trains. If used wisely, the JR pass can give you decent savings on transportation expenses. Besides, riding the Shinkansens, especially on your first Japan trip, is already an experience on its own. The ultra-fast ones require additional fee, though. Also included in this was the sum spent for 3 transportation passes (Kansai Thru Pass, Hakone Free Pass, Kyoto Bus Pass) and an ICOCA card (prepaid travel card) which made riding non-JR trains hassle-free.
Now this is the part where I ask you to spare me from your judgment. Hahaha! You know it would be a complete shame not to try one of the world’s finest cuisines and witness the meticulous food preparation of skillful chefs in a restaurant’s open-kitchen display when you are in Japan. The countless ramen hunts, sushi gluttony, and takoyaki stopovers accounted for 17.15% of the total budget. And every bite was worth it! Burp.
For a uniquely Japanese experience (and because there weren’t that many choices for accommodations given my lack of preparation for this trip), I stayed in capsule hotels both in Tokyo and in Osaka and in a well-restored traditional Japanese guest house in Hakone taking up 16.17% of the total budget. I wrote a separate article on how to score cheap accommodation in Japan HERE.
My open-jaw tickets (Manila-Osaka; Tokyo-Manila) via Cebu Pacific Air cost PhP 7,233 (~USD 163) which could have been significantly cheaper had I booked it during a piso fare offering. Unfortunately, I only came across 50% discount promo airline tickets for my intended dates of travel making airfare the 4th most expensive element of this trip at 12.98%.
This part gets a little tricky. For this trip, my total pasalubong and personal shopping ate up just a tenth of my total funds. But this can be a potential budget breaker depending on your shopping appetite/ threshold. I mainly stuck with generic pasalubongs (matcha goodies) and some personal purchases from Uniqlo. When you’re there, you will find the countrywide sale of the the ABC Marts (shoe store) and all the display of everything manga in otaku shops very hard, if not impossible, to resist. I mean, how could you say no to a Nike Roshe Run sneakers being sold for just PhP 2,804 (~USD 63)/ pair or that hard to find Funko Pop vinyls you’ve been eyeing for months? 🙂
The entrance fees taking up 6.61% were for temples in Kyoto that require payment upon entrance (Nijojo, Kinkakuji, Tenryuji, etc.), a 1-day pass to Disneysea in Tokyo, and all the other paid sites in Osaka and in Kawaguchiko.
Lastly, like most Filipinos, I had to give 3.98% to the government in the form of Philippine travel tax and airport terminal fee. It must be that expensive to maintain NAIA’s status as one of the world’s worst airports, noh? :p