Japan is a wonderful place. Fascinating. One that should be on everyone’s bucket list. Its combination of technology intertwined with beautiful scenery, the busiest cities on earth, a stones throw away from quiet mountains and lakes and its ability to make you feel so calm and at ease in a sea of a million people, are just a few of the reasons why.
Before we got to Japan, we worried, a lot, about our budget. We just came around to the idea that we would probably spend a fair whack of it there. Since we have been back, when chatting to people about our travels, when Japan comes up, and it does so often because we loved it so much, the conversation quickly turns to questions about how expensive it was. How did we afford it? So we were so pleasantly surprised when we arrived to find out that Japan wasn’t at all as expensive as we imaged it would be and we love sharing this fact with everyone, especially people who have been putting it off due to price.
We are not sure where this misconception came from and we obviously travel a certain way i.e on a budget. So only do things within our means but from what we experienced, Japan is easy to do on a budget and it really is a place like no other.
So we have put together a list of great hostels to stay within a budget, great attractions you can do without breaking the bank and some must see spots in Japan.
Flying into Tokyo with it being Tokyo, in all honesty we did not even do any research to see if you could camp anywhere. Just assuming that hostels would be the way forward from now on. Although having read many cycling blogs that say camping through Japan is very do-able, it would be well worth looking into if you wanted to camp. We were happy to change things up a bit and check out these sleeping pods!
Our first hostel was The Hop Step Inn. We loved it here. It is bunk bed style, immaculate and the staff are great. The bathrooms are awesome, equipped with hair dryers and shampoo/body wash in the showers. They have reliable WiFi and free tea and coffee. Kitchen facilities and everything in Japan is about 5 minutes away from a 7eleven or a family mart. We would highly recommend this place and it cost us about £10 per night for two people. Prices may vary depending on the style of room.
http://hop-step-inn.com/ Check out the website for their offers.
Another favourite of ours was Guesthouse Wasabi, located in Nippori, Tokyo. This is roughly the same price and again right next to a 7eleven. This hostel has private sleeping pods, about 10 to a room. Plenty of space in each pod to store luggage. As well as charging points and a light.
The reason this is a favourite of ours is due to the rooftop area with a great view of the city and a hot tub you can use free of charge.
Top Tip: 7eleven and Family Mart are fantastic for keeping to a budget and have some really tasty things to eat. They are literally everywhere in Japan.Although it is frowned upon to eat in public on the streets there, we assume this is why there is zero litter anywhere and also zero bins. So be sure to take your cheap eats back with you to the hostel.
Things to do in Tokyo on a budget:
*Tokyo Metropolitan Government building – Take a trip to the top of this impressive building. The view from the top is unbelievable, it’s completely free and if you’re lucky you will catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji.
*Explore Toyota Mega Web – Full of cool gadgets and state of the art technology. Test drive the cars of the future or make your way around a Segway course. Again this is a completely free attraction. Located in Odaiba. This whole area is fantastic, Diver City Mall is great to look around and has a giant robot you can go and get a picture with and if you fancy it there is a ferris wheel just outside with an amazing view of the city.
*Harajuku – This area is a fantastic place to go for a cheap day out. You could spend a fortune on the weird and wonderful market stalls but just being in the area and people watching was enough for us. It’s amazing to see all the different styles and unique stores.
*Meji Shrine/Yoyogi Park – This place is gorgeous. Full of beautiful Japanese architecture, you could easily spend the whole day here. It is a tranquil and beautiful place and just a short walk from Harajuku station so you can easily combine the two must see attractions.
Just being in Tokyo is fantastic, we loved just walking around each of the different wards and seeing how they differ from one another. The tube in Japan is on par with London price wise but just a little more confusing so if you are a solo travellers don’t be afraid to ask. Everyone is super friendly and helpful and a lot more people speak English than you may think. More often than not if you look like you are struggling with something someone will present themselves to help you anyway. So it is pretty easy to get around.
Located about an hour outside of Tokyo by train, is the gorgeous town of Hakone. It is within Japans Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park and it is a beautiful place for a little get away. To get here we used the Hakone pass, this gave us access to the train from Tokyo and back (Shinjuku Station) and also included the funicular, boat, bus and cable car once we arrived. The price for a 3 day pass is 5640 yen which is £40.65. Quite a lot for budget backpackers but when you take into consideration that is 3 days travel it is actually very reasonable and you will not want to miss Hakone if you can help it.
This mountainous town is idyllic and a wonderful place to try out the famous onsens Japan has to offer. We found a fantastic little hostel called Guesthouse Azito. This is in a great location, staff are wonderful and it has an all around fantastic vibe. Plenty of games to play in the communal area, a big kitchen to use and a small bar. Very reasonably priced we loved this place and would highly recommend it.
Using your Hakone pass, you can take a trip up to the active volcano, take in the amazing scenes at the top. On a clear day you will have a fantastic view of Mount Fuji. Try the black eggs cooked in the volcano itself. To get to the volcano you will first need to cross lake Ashi, you will do this on a magnificent pirate ship, all included in the price of your pass.
It is a great experience, the whole day. The area is so picturesque and seeing the volcano is really awesome.
In the evening check out one of the many natural hot springs in the area. All of which are amazing and very appealing. If like me you have tattoos then you will have to go for the Tenzan Onsen, as they are the only one that’s allows them. You will not be disappointed. It is the most beautiful experience. From the moment you enter it is so tranquil, calming music paying and a general peaceful aura about the place. You buy your ticket at a vending machine at the door, the Japanese do love a vending machine and quite frankly I miss being able to buy an ice coffee every 10 feet now. The cost to enter the onsen is 1200 yen, this is around £8.65, a small price to pay for pure bliss and silky smooth skin.
The feeling is wonderful and there are many baths to choose from, all making you feel amazing under the stars in this beautiful setting.
Once you get passed the whole being naked part….its the best! I even loved that part as it is just not something you would really experience in the UK anywhere…that I know of anyway!
If you can, you really should try to spend a few days here. I cam promise you, you will love it.
The only thing to be mindful of is the fact you are visiting an active volcano and depending on the weather and circumstance there is the chance it could close due to safety measures.
Being budget backpackers we always opted for the overnight bus over the bullet train to get us to our next location. It was a much cheaper option and they are really quite comfortable, plus it saves you one nights accommodation as well.
Check out The Japan Bus Pass which can be found at Willer Express
We assume that those going to Hiroshima are going to take in its beauty and its history. After spending a couple of nights here it quickly became one of our favourite places.
Things to do in Hiroshima on a budget:
* The Peace Park – It is free to walk around the peace park and it is incredibly beautiful, you pay a small fee to go inside the museum. You can spend the whole day in this area just admiring all the beautiful greenery and talking with locals and learning about the history of the City. It is a beautifully colourful place, with many paper cranes hanging from shrines.
The peace park is beautiful because all of the local school children go there for days out with little questionnaires and approach you often to practice their English.
Just a short walk away is the Atomic Bomb Dome. Here you can learn what happened to this area and you will find peace campaigners you can talk to directly, some of whom survived the attack.
* Miyajima – This is a stunning island, you need to get a ferry to get to it but the great news is that the ferry across costs 180 yen…that is £1.30! This place is gorgeous and you will easily spend a whole day here. You don’t even have to spend any money there if you prepare your own food. You can walk along the beach, play with the many wild deer. Hike up to the top of the hill and take in the truly stunning views. This place is so beautiful, it really is a must.
There is a very small price to pay to go inside its wonderful shrines but well worth it.
There are market stalls and restaurants a plenty. The instagramable shots endless. A top destination whilst traveling in japan.
Kyoto is such a cool little place, one that is growing in popularity everyday. That means it does fall victim to being one of the more overcrowded places we visited. The cycle of ‘oh this place is losing it’s charm, it is overrun with tourists’ whilst being one of those very tourists! Was evident for us.
But despite it being a pretty busy place, it doesn’t take away from the many amazing things you can do here, it is jam packed with great attractions, stunning temples and shrines and it is still a very beautiful and unique place to visit.
In Kyoto we stayed in a little hostel called Jam Hostel, another one that can be found through booking.com, it was ideal. Cheap as chips, situated right next to the subway…I mean you walk out the door and into the subway basically! Plus the reception doubles as a sake bar.
It is easy to go overboard in Kyoto because there is so much to see and do, we wanted to see everything but had to be mindful of our budget.
So if like us you like to keep the costs down but get an authentic experience you may want to visit some of these places:
* Fushimi Inari Shrine – This is usually high on anyones list when they visit Kyoto and we completely get why. It is a really stunning area to visit, it is very impressive seeing those Torii gates and wandering through them. Plus it is free to go there. Any blogs you will read about this place will recommend going early in the morning and we would agree…even though we didn’t…lazy swines.
It does get busy, with thousands flocking to get that perfect shot. However what we have found is a good trick, is to actually be willing to hike to the top. The crowd dwindles significantly the higher you go and near the top you will find yourself having the whole walk way to yourself on many occasion. We have found this trick works across the board, if you are willing to sweat for the views they are always worth it and often you will get to experience them with just a few others if not by yourself.
*Bamboo Grove – Another iconic landmark of Kyoto is the Bamboo Forest, located in the Arashiyama area. This is another stunning place to visit for free. It is really beautiful here as is the whole surrounding area. You can spend the whole afternoon walking through the bamboo and admiring the beauty of it all. There are plenty of little places to stop off for a machta ice cream and lots of shops and places to eat in the area too.
We also visited Monkey Park whilst we were in the area, this you do have to pay to get in to at the cost of 550 yen, which is equivalent to about £3.90. It is another one you have to hike to get to but at the top the view is magnificent and it is very cool seeing the Japanese macaques up there. We really liked the fact that they run free and the humans are caged off.
Although I will add, I was a little scared because they were rather rowdy and just run about the place wild. So if you are travelling with children I would just keep that in mind.
When you have a trip to Arashiyama, everything is great. This is because even the train station is tonnes of fun. Full of market stalls and shops. It has the Kimono Forest, this is beautiful outdoor art installation that is a walk way designed with colourful kimonos. It also has a foot spa which we found to be a great touch after all the walking you will do throughout the day.
It cost about £15 for this afternoon out, including the train, fee into the monkey park and an ice cream. Not bad at all when ticking off a handful of bucket list dreams.
*Kinkakju-Ji – Otherwise known as the Golden Pavilion. This is a must if you are going to Kyoto. It is one of those places that leaves you completely awe inspired. It is breathtakingly beautiful. We can only imagine what this place would look like during cherry blossom season. We went here at around 4.30 just before closing time in October. The sun was just going down and it wasnt very busy as it was near closing time. So our experience of this place was just perfect. So still, serene and peaceful. Truly stunning. The way this building reflects of the Koi pond is something else. It is rich in history and has been burned down twice, so make sure you pick up a leaflet for a fascinating read about this amazing place.
The cost to go and see this stunning piece of architecture is 400 yen, roughly £2.80. A very small price to pay for such an experience and kept us well within our budget.
*Samurai and Ninja Experience – If you want to have an authentic Japanese experience, have fun and gain an interesting insight into the samurai culture then this is for you. You spend the afternoon dressing in traditional samurai attire, learning the techniques of the katana sword and ninja star and learn all about the history of the samuri and how they came to be a part of Japanese culture along with how it ended. It is great fun and would be a great family day out.
Although this is one of the things you will have to fork out for, so depending on your budget and interests it may not be for you, costing around £44 for two people. However I think 99% of the reason Mel was keen on Japan was so he could be a samurai for the day so for us it was a must and well worth it.
Overall Kyoto is a great place to visit and very easy to do on a budget with most the main attractions being free entry or very little cost.
Osaka was the final city we visited on the trip and from chatting to fellow backpackers we believe the route we took is a common one, either that or our route in reverse seems to be what people go for with Osaka being a great airport to fly into or from.
We spent our days in Osaka mainly exploring the area of Dotonbori. This is a neon lovers dream, full of shops with the latest technology, bright lights everywhere, amazing restaraunts… exactly the kind of place that would pop in to your mind should someone say Japan.
This neon soaked future vision will easily keep you entertained for hours if not days and that is why we spent a huge chunk of our time just wandering around here.
Other things you can do in Osaka:
*Nara Deer Park – This place is actually located between Kyoto and Osaka so you can get there from both easily. We didn’t get to go there ourselves unfortunaltyl as we ran out of time.
It is free to visit the park and you just buy some feed for the deers whilst there for 150 yen, about £1.8.
*Osaka Castle – One of Japans most famous landmarks, this place is not only visually stunning but very interesting to read about. Another spot that is famous for its beauty during cherry blossom but looks incedibly impressive all year round. We took in the castle from a far as to ramain within our budget but you can go to the castle for 600 yen, roughly around £4.30. So not to steep to go and see this gorgeous place.
These are just some of the things you can get up to if you choose to visit Japan, it really is a wonderful place to go. It is such a welcoming, friendly place and one we are sure you will fall in love with like we did. Hopefully these tips will help put your mind at ease when thinking about the costs. Now go start planning your trip to Japan!