Despite its long-standing reputation as one of Asia’s most costly destinations to visit, Japan can be surprisingly affordable. Of course, the country experienced an economic boom in the 1980s, and living prices rose; nevertheless, in the 30 years thereafter, the cost of everyday life and travel has leveled off. Here are the best budget travel destinations in Japan. You can see the geishas in Kyoto, walk-thru Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing, or take the bullet train to Osaka.
Starting the list with Tokyo may seem crazy, but if you’re prepared to do your homework and forgo personal space, living in one of the world’s busiest cities may be a very cost-effective choice. To begin with, one of the best things about living in Tokyo on a budget is that many of the finest tourist attractions are free.
Many beautiful gardens, such as Yoyogi Park and the Imperial Palace East Gardens, are open to the public for free. A visit to Shinjuku Gyoen will set you back just 500 (£3.30) if you want to see something a bit more unusual. Many of the city’s other attractions, such as Tsukiji Market, the Shibuya scramble, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory, are free.
Fukuoka, located on the northern shore of the Japanese island of Kyushu, is one of the country’s most affordable cities. Because it isn’t as heavily populated as Tokyo or Osaka, Fukuoka strikes a balance between being small enough to get by on a budget while yet being a thriving metropolis.
A dorm bed at a hostel may be had for as little as 2,500 (£17) per night. Because the city is famed for its old temples and beaches, you may immerse yourself in Japanese culture for free.
Want to learn about Kyoto’s history without paying the high tourist prices? Then you should travel to Kamakura. For starters, it’s near to Tokyo (less than an hour), which means that if you’re in the capital, you’ll save the costly shinkansen (bullet train) fares. Kamakura, in a prior life (around 1192), was the political capital of Japan, which it dominated for almost a century.
Many of the architectural and historical sites from this era of Tokyo may still be found today. It’s been dubbed the “Kyoto of Eastern Japan” by some, and it’s a popular tourist destination that’s also quite budget-friendly. The second highest bronze Buddha statue in Japan, Kamakura Daibutsu, is a must-see.
Osaka is like Tokyo’s grittier little sibling, with arguably better food. Accommodation alternatives are diverse and suited for all budgets, just as they are in Fukuoka and Tokyo. However, the ability to dine well for little to nothing is what makes Osaka a budget traveller’s paradise. Local-style okonomiyaki (a filling omelette/pancake-style hybrid meal) and takoyaki (fried batter balls) are sold on the street for 300–700 yen (£2–£4.65), depending on how hungry you are. Locals in Osaka like drinking as well, so look for izakayas that offer nomihodai (all-you-can-drink) offers.
Okinawa is the place to go if you want to combine world-class beaches with rich Japanese culture in one inexpensive trip. Surfers come here for the waves, while others come for the turquoise seas, which are ideal for snorkeling, and the brilliant night skies, which are ideal for stargazing.
There are many of free and low-cost beach camping possibilities; just keep an eye out for “no camping” signs. A guesthouse is the greatest option if you want a sturdy roof over your head – some places may be as little as 2,000 (£13) per night because real estate in the region is much cheaper than in more populous towns.
If Osaka is the less expensive Tokyo, Kobe is the less expensive Osaka. Kobe, the capital of Hyogo Prefecture and one of Japan’s top ten cities, has a lot more to offer than simply beef, though the beef is excellent. Because of its history as a port city, this bustling center is brimming with history and a diverse culture. With a location only 20 minutes from Osaka, you get the best of both worlds: the affordability of a smaller city with the accessibility of Osaka in under 30 minutes.
A trip to Sapporo is a must-do if you want to see Japan’s stunning mountains and eat some of the best ramen you’ll ever eat. If you don’t want to break the bank, visit during the summer to avoid the swarms of snow-chasing tourists and ski vacationers. Sapporo’s temperate temps give some major relief if you’re visiting Japan in the summer and wish to avoid the heat.
Many of the city’s attractions, like as Odori, Moerenuma, and Nakajima Parks, are also free. Finding a place to stay during the non-snow season is much easier, so you can get a bed in a hotel or hostel for roughly 2,000 – 3,000 (£13 – £20) per night.