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Planning a Trip to Japan

You could go the easy route and pay a travel agent to plan your trip but that'll cost you a lot of money, money that you may not even ha...

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Budgeting a Japan Trip

One of the things I always hear from people is that they can't go to Japan because it's too expensive. It's really not that expensive if you know how to budget. I never knew how to budget until I got married. As the bride, traditionally, my parents paid for most of the wedding and its related festivities. They gave me a budget for my wedding that I had to follow and that's how I developed tricks to help me budget. I never thought to relate my budgeting experience with a trip to Japan, but I see how my budgeting method can help people get to Japan.

It's a very simple trick that anybody could think of when budgeting, but I think our greed gets the best of most of us. I was like that before my wedding: All or nothing. You really can't think that way when on a budget or setting a budget for yourself. You really need to try and work with what you have. Yes, it may ruin your original, dream-like idea but at least you're getting to go to Japan like you wanted. The trick is knowing what you care about the most.

Like I said, seems simple, right? It can be this simple if you are willing to let go of this perfect image you have of this Japan trip. Just like my wedding, there are somethings that were more important to me than others. You need to decide that for yourself in the long run, but I'm going to help you figure it out.

Let's talk about the flight first, since that is kind of set in stone. Unless you win some raffle with a free plane ticket to Japan you're going to have to bring out your wallet. If you live in a city that has a direct flight to Japan you may come across some discounted tickets through special websites. If you live in cities that don't have direct flights, you'll be paying the standard amount. A flight from New Orleans to Japan with one stop in another city that has the direct flight to Japan costs about $1,400.00 to $1,700.00.  The price will vary depending on the season and the demand for flights. Try to book your flight on a Wednesday, as I'm told that is a better chance for a better price. This is where most of your money is going. Click here to learn more about flights to Japan.
On my flight, ready to go to Japan.
Next item on the list is your lodging. Where are you going to stay? How important is your living space on your Japan trip? I hope you'll be outside exploring most of the time and only using your lodging to sleep in. If you are not too concerned about your comfort then you can pay for a hostel or capsule hotel. These two are the cheapest forms of lodging in Japan and can be found in many of the big, main cities. They are cheap because they are considered a shared space. You may also meet new people which is always a plus.
If you feel you can up the budget on your lodging a little more, another great alternative is Airbnb. They can be found all over Japan for an affordable price you just have to keep in mind that you will be staying in someone else's apartment, so be on your best behavior (I can already all of you saying, "Ok mom!"). For more information on Airbnb click here to read my blog post about it.
And of course you have your standard hotels and ryokan if you are looking well off with your money. Watch out though because if you are going for cherry blossom season or autumn the prices will be ridiculous.
Staying at a Japanese ryokan in Nagano, Japan.
Something that everyone worries about for some reason is food. My question for you is are you going to Japan to experience the food or something else? I personally go for the travel, but I can respect people who admire Japanese food. If you do want to experience Japanese food to the fullest then maybe your budget needs to focus on your food outings. Japan is still a cashed based society so you'll be mostly taking money out of your bank account from an ATM using a debit card. The good thing about eating out in Japan is the no tip rule, meaning you don't have to tip your server (don't feel bad about this because they get paid fairly for their work in Japan). But eating out every night can get expensive, especially if you are wanting to try everything Japan has to offer. A Japanese steak dinner can be an easy $100.00. Ramen is going to cost about $7.00 a bowl. A nice, formal sushi outing can get up to $80.00 easily. An all you can eat yakiniku restaurant can be around $50.00. There's so much to consider when it comes to Japanese food, so do your research properly and plan according to that.
If food is not your priority on your Japan trip don't feel bad about it. Convenient stores and grocery stores will be your best friend. I know friends who lived off of these places while in Japan. You can get affordable meal for low prices. Definitely check out the grocery stores after 7pm when they make down most of there already prepared foods. And you can even go to conveyor belt sushi where most of the standard sushi is only $1.00 per plate! Japan even has their own fast food chains such as Mos Burger, Yoshinoya (beef bowl chain), and Coco Ichiban (curry chain). Click here to learn about more fast food options.
Beef bowls, cheap and delicious. Great for late night dinners. They also do breakfast!
Do you want to see as much of Japan as possible? Then your money needs to go towards travel. The Japanese public transportation is one of the best in the world. Trains, subways and buses are great travel resources within the same city you plan to stay in. If you want to travel to a bunch of different cities all over Japan you'll want to use the shinkansen. The shinkansen is very expensive but a nice cushion for tourists is the Japan Rail Pass that gives you unlimited travel on all JR lines throughout Japan. The price for the pass with vary depending on the length of your Japan trip. The standard two week trip will cost you about $400.00 for one pass. This seems like a lot of money but one shinkansen ticket can go for as low as $150.00. So if you plan on traveling a lot and use the shinkansen more than three times then you've already got your money's worth. The pass also works on standard trains too. For more info on the Japan Rail pass click here.
If you don't plan on traveling much and just staying in about one or two cities in Japan, then the rail pass is not worth it and neither is taking the shinkansen. Just use the regular train, it won't cost you too much. Like I said before, subways and buses are a cheap option for in city travel.
Using the Kyoto subway ticket machine. It's very affordable.
And of course we can't forget about souvenirs, whether they are for others or ourselves. Do you want to bring back a bunch of goods and merchandise from Japan? Maybe your money will be geared towards spending at shops. There's a lot to buy in Japan. If you like anime and manga a great place to go is Animate. For a more budget friendly place, Book-Off is a great place to buy used items (they are practically new because the Japanese know how to take care of their things). Love shopping for clothes? You'll need a good budget to go home with a decent amount of clothes. Shopping for clothes in Japan can get pricey as they are big on name brands. An affordable store I like to frequent is Uniqlo. If you bring too much stuff home you may come across the problem of an overweight luggage. If that may be the case prepare for a charge at the airport.
If you are not worried about bringing home a bunch of things from Japan and don't want your budget focused on material things, but would still like to bring some things home, here are a few cheap suggestions of mine. Bring home yen coins; they are very unique and make great souvenirs. Another affordable option are charms you get from shrines. They are colorful and give good fortune (who wouldn't like that).
Uniqlo store in Osaka, Japan.
This was one of my longer blog posts which don't happen too often. I hope it helps you kind of consider how to budget for your Japan trip. Just visualize a scale and figure out what aspect of your Japan trip weighs the most. No matter the budget you are on, you will have an amazing time in Japan. For a more detailed guide on actually planning for a Japan trip click here.

As always, thank you for reading my blog! For more Japan related content or to just chat about Japan follow me on my social media: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
Until next time, γ˜γ‚ƒγƒΌγ­!