38 Tips to Save Money While Traveling in Japan
The idea of traveling around Japan sounds like it will require a lot of money, so don't you wish that you had some handy tips to make it cheaper? Here are 38 of those tips to save your wallet and allow you to travel resourcefully!
Aug 07 2015 (Sep 09 2020)
Traveling overseas takes a lot of money. When you're planning your trip to Japan, don't you think about ways to save as much money as possible?
This article is split up into various categories for money-saving tips:
Please check these tips out and make your trip as affordable as possible!
1. JAPAN RAIL PASS
This ticket is an essential item for people who want to go everywhere throughout Japan by rail. You can freely use it on railroads and buses owned by JR (there are a few where you can't), and if you use it wisely then it's a very good deal, especially if you want to take the shinkansen. However, if you buy it, there are a few terms and conditions you must follow, so please double check the homepage before you travel. Here are the prices:
Official Site: www.japanrailpass.net/en/index.html
Check out this articles for more on JR Pass and traveling by train in Japan：
2. Utilize local JR passes
Similar to the JR Pass, JR Hokkaido, JR East, JR West, and JR Kyushu all have their own passes for their regional rail lines. If you're not traveling throughout the whole country and are just staying within a single region, buying one of these passes instead might be easier on your wallet. However, just like the JR Pass, there are some rail lines you can't use it on. There are also terms and conditions, so make sure you check the homepage before buying.
Hokkaido Rail Pass: http://www2.jrhokkaido.co.jp/global/index.html
JR East Pass: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass/
JR West Rail Pass: https://www.westjr.co.jp/global/en/travel-information/pass/shop/
Kyushu Rail Pass: http://www.jrkyushu.co.jp/english/railpass/railpass.jsp
3. Utilize the Seishun18 ticket
This ticket is only valid over spring, summer, and winter vacations, and it allows you to use the JR regular and rapid trains as much as you'd like for 5 days (shinkansen and limited express trains are not covered by this pass). One ticket is 11500 yen (same price for adults and children) for 5 days. Since multiple people can share a ticket, it's an extremely useful ticket for travelers. However, if you're sharing a ticket, then each traveler counts as one day. For example, if 5 people are sharing a ticket, then the ticket will be valid only for one day.
You can purchase it at the JR Midori no Madoguchi or at ticket machines. They also sell them at manned JR stations without Midori no Maduguchi, so double-check at the station. You cannot buy it online.
4. Utilize highway buses (night buses)
If you're traveling long distances, then highway buses can be a deal. The overnight buses are especially cheap. You can find buses from Tokyo-Osaka for 2000 yen sometimes depending on the traveling season. If you think about how you don't have to pay for lodging that night it's an even better deal. There are many plans that make it comfortable for women, such as placing female passengers next to other women, so it's definitely recommended for people who want to travel cheaply. You can buy tickets online, but there aren't many websites that have foreign language support. Here are some:
JR also has highway buses, and you can buy those at the ticket windows at JR stations.
5. Utilize an excursion ticket/1-day pass
Depending on the railroad company, you can find excursion tickets and one day passes. It's a good deal because you can use it as much as you want within the period of validity, so it would be good for people who would like to travel frequently within a specific area to confirm the details with station employees. For example, the Kintetsu company offers the Kintetsu Rail Pass for the Osaka area.
6. Buy discounted tickets
At stores called kinken shops, you can buy rail and bus tickets at discounted prices. "Daikokuya" is one of the best known, but there are other stores doing the same especially in the large business areas and near stations in the big cities. They sell not only travel tickets, but also tickets to concerts, sports events, as well as gift certificates. There are also shops that do currency exchange.
HP: kinken47.com/ (Japanese Only)
8. Utilize bicycle rental programs
If you're going to move within a radius of about 5 km in one day, then maybe renting a bicycle would be a good idea. Lately within the big cities, especially Tokyo, bike rental services have been increasing, so if you're interested, you should definitely look into them. This article suggests some bike rental places in Tokyo:
Check out this articles for more on Rental Bike srvice in Tokyo：
Especially in the big cities, the distance between stations is rather close, so it might be faster to walk than to take the train in some cases. If you use methods like using Google Maps to check out the different routes available to you, you can find some great walks that will allow you to save money.
These are the three largest gyuudon chains in Japan. You can eat an average sized bowl for around 350-380 yen (as of July 2015). All of these chains are cheap but taste great, so definitely try it at least once.
11. Tachigui soba
"Tachigui" is the term for a restaurant where you stand to eat ('tachinomi' refers to similar-style drinking places). At tachikui soba restaurants, you can eat soba for a surprisingly cheap price. You can find kakesoba (the simplest kind of hot soba) and morisoba (the simplest kind of cold soba) for around 300 yen or less. Some tachigui soba chains are Fuji Soba, Komoro Soba, and Yudetarou.
12. Self-serve udon restaurants
In Japan, there are many udon restaurants where you can choose your side dishes as you order, and lately there's been a huge increase in number. In these restaurants the meal prices are relatively cheap, and there are many chains where if you have the simplest dish, kake udon, you can eat it for less than 300 yen. Among those chains the most famous are Marugame Seimen and Hanamaru Udon. If you've never tried udon, the standard is sanuki udon, so please definitely try it if you get a chance.
13. All-you-can-eat restaurants
For people who want to eat until they're completely full, it would be good to head for an all-you-can-eat restaurant. There are various all-you-can-eat restaurants, including yakiniku, fruit parlors, hotel lunch buffets, tonkatsu restaurants with free bowls of rice, etc. If you're interested, it might be good to ask your hotel concierge or local Tourist Information desk for more information and restaurant recommendations.
14. Taste Japanese food at depachika's sampling corners
Depachika are the basements of large department stores, and they're usually full of stalls and storefronts where you can buy both packaged and fresh food. Many of these stores offer tasting samples. If you want to easily try some Japanese food or ingredients, it would be good to go to a depachika and try out some of what's on offer. In most cases, you can quite comfortably sample a shop's wares, but going to the same place multiple times is considered rude, so only go once. If you find yourself wanting to go back there, it would be better to buy the product.
Check out this articles for more on depachika:
15. Stuff yourself cheaply thanks to the conbini
Buying bento, cup noodles, onigiri, and other foods at the conbini for a cheap price might be good for people who are trying to save money. In large convenience stores there are actually places where you can sit and eat, so you can enjoy your food right there.
In Japan, there are many local bakeries that have delicious sweet breads for sale for a reasonable price. You can find many original breads such as curry pan, melon pan, anpan, and others, so definitely stop by if you find one.
17. Do your own cooking
In lodging areas like guesthouses, often they have a kitchen attached so you can cook your own food after buying ingredients in the supermarket. Also, you can buy fruits and vegetables at greengrocers. It would be interesting to experience the true Japanese lifestyle this way, so if you get the chance and you like to cook, maybe consider doing this as well.
18. Stay at a capsule hotel
The futuristic style of capsule hotels makes it very popular with travelers. At particularly cheap places, you can stay the night for about 2000 yen, so it's definitely recommended for people who want to spend as little as possible on lodging.
Check out this article for more on Capsule Hotel in Japan:
19. Stay at a guesthouse
Guesthouses aimed towards backpackers are very reasonably priced. There are many private homes that were renovated to be stylish guesthouses. The best part about this sort of lodging for many people is that you can talk to other travelers from around the country in the shared living areas. There are many places where one night will run you 2000 yen, so it's definitely worth a try.
Check out these articles for more on guesthouses in Japan:
20. Utilize Airbnb
Airbnb is gaining popularity all around the world, and in Japan as well the number of Airbnb hosts as well as the number of travelers using it have been increasing. There are different types of options you can use, including renting just a room or renting an entire house. The prices range from cheap to exorbitant, including some places that start at 1000 yen a night. If you stay at a regular house in Japan, you might be able to create some precious memories.
21. Stay at sauna and super sento areas
In Japan, saunas and super sentos are establishments that are primarily for spa purpose, but they often have huge resting areas and some even have proper rooms that you can rent. There are sleeping huddles and sofas that you can sleep on with no problem. You can usually stay for 3000 yen or less. However, many people are sleeping in the same area, so please take care of your valuables by putting them in a locker or other safe place.
HP: o-dekake.net/kamin/ (Japanese Only)
22. Stay at a manga kissa/internet cafe
Many people take advantage of the overnight packs offered by manga/internet cafes, where you can cheaply stay there for about 1000 yen. While they're called cafes, they're establishments where you have your own little cubicle. Often they have different "rooms," including furnished with reclining sofas, paired seats, or tatami. Many of them also have showers, manga that you're welcome to read as much as you'd like (if you can read Japanese), Internet, and a drink bar included. Japanese people often stay at manga kissaten/internet cafes if there are no hotels availablein the area as well.
23. Stay at a temple
A long time ago, Japanese travelers that wanted to economize on their trip would often spend a night under the eaves at temples or shrines. Now, thanks to various problems that arose from those travelers and their behaviors, many temple and shrine managers refuse travelers. However, at small temples and shrines in cities, or those out in the countryside, there are places that will give you permission. However, you absolutely must discuss this with the chief priest or the manager first, as well as properly letting them know your name and the purpose of your trip.
24. Doze at a family restaurant
If you definitely can't find a place to stay, there are actually a lot of people who doze off at family restaurants when they've missed the last train and can't get home. If you order just the drink bar, the most you'll spend is 400 yen. However, since this really isn't a place to stay, try not to spend too much time after the trains start there or at least order a meal if you're there for a long time.
25. Utilize 100 yen shops
100 yen shops are shops where you can buy all of their products for 100 yen (around 1 dollar), and is very popular among Japanese people and travelers alike. A wide variety of products are offered here, including snacks, cosmetics, kitchenware, stationery, clothes, and more, so you can buy both emergency items as well as souvenirs here. The biggest chains are Daiso, Seria, and Can-Do. You should definitely stop by one to see what you can find. Check out the following articles:
26. Utilize the supermarket
If you want to get food or drinks, the supermarket will be the cheapest option. Depending on the time (such as right before closing), you can find huge discounts on certain foods. It would also be good to buy snacks and treats at the supermarket as souvenirs.
27. Buy food & drinks at drugstores
Japanese drugstores don't just sell medicine, they also sell certain food and drinks cheaply. At especially big drugstores, you can buy standard food items such as 1.5L juices or milk, eggs, tofu, bread, frozen foods, seasonings, and snacks for a reasonable price.
28. Pick up a supply of basics at Uniqlo
If you're staying in Japan for a long time, you might run out of basic clothing like T-shirts or underwear. In those cases, it would be good to stop by Uniqlo. For example, you can buy a pair of socks for 300 yen. Also there are often discounted products in baskets around the store, and when that happens you can find products like T-shirts for 500 yen or less.
29. Utilize flea markets
Flea markets are more of a reasonably priced treasure trove than most people understand, so you should definitely check one out if you get the chance. Most of them are held on Saturdays and Sundays. This website is only in Japanese, but if you look at it, you'll be able to find information about flea markets all around Japan.
You can find information about Tokyo area flea markets here (in Enlgish).
30. Aim for lucky packs
Lucky packs are sold around the New Year (beginning of January). Lucky packs are a way to get lots of products from a brand or store at once for a discounted price; many items will be sold in one package but you won't know precisely what you're getting. However, this way you can get $500 worth of products for $100. However, some stores are beginning to sell lucky bags where you can properly see the insides. In any case, lucky packs are a great way to shop for a great deal.
31. Aim for bargain and sale periods
In summer (June-August) and winter (December-February), department stores, shopping malls, electronic stores, and other big shops tend to have huge sales and bargains available. Depending on the store, the time period they hold the sale changes, so if there's anything specific you want to buy definitely confirm with the store first.
32. Utilize local recycle centers
When you're staying for a long time, you can find necessary items like blankets, clothing, appliances, and other items at local recycle centers for free or cheap. There are also times when you can even get bicycles, so people who are interested should definitely inquire at their local city or ward hall.
E. Communication and Mail
33. Choose the most suitable internet access method
In Japan, there are a few ways to access the Internet while you're traveling.
1. Rent a pocket WiFi router.
2. Enter into a paid contract with a WiFi service.
3. Only use free WiFi spots.
4. Pay for a SIM card.
5. Utilize internet cafes and manga kissatens.
The usefulness of these methods depends on how much Internet you'll need to use and how often. If you read the article linked below, it might help you make a decision on which one will be the most useful method for the lowest price.
34. Utilize pay phones
If you just need access to a phone, then using pay phones will be cheaper than using a cell phone. Lately since the numbers of people carrying cell phones are increasing, the numbers of pay phones have fallen, but you'll still be able to find pay phones around town. However, they're only in Japanese, but if you use the following website then you'll be able to look up where they are.
35. Choose the best international postal service
If you want to send anything back home, there are a few services you can choose. Japan Post offers EMS (Express Mail Service), SAL (Surface Air Lifted), or by ship. There are also private companies that you can utilize. There are trade-offs with each service depending on how much you're willing to spend and how fast it will arrive, so please choose which one works best for you depending on how much you want to send and when you need it by. Below is the HP for Japan Post.
36. Utilize coin laundromats
If you're staying here for a while, or even people who just want to pack light, it would be cheaper to utilize a coin laundry rather than your hotel's laundry services (if available). You can usually do your laundry for about 200-300 yen, though many places require you to buy your own detergent. The following site is only in Japanese, but you can find coin laundromats around the country using it.
HP: www.coin-laundry.co.jp/userp/up010/Up010Controller.jpf (Japanese Only)
37. Sell personal belongings at pawnshops
If you're completely out of money, then it is possible to sell your belongings at pawn shops. If you have any items from international brands that are popular in Japan, or any rare accessories that can only be found in your hometown - if you have that sort of thing, you might be able to sell it for a decent price.
38. Utilize kinken shops
We talked about buying travel tickets at kinken shops, but you can also buy tickets for many other things such as movies, theater, sports, or other events of interest.
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The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.