In December 2013, I had the greatest pleasure to embark on my maiden trip to Japan. Planning the trip was no easy task as I could not find anyone who was available to travel with me on a short notice as well as on a tight schedule. I was sincerely warned by many people how expensive traveling around Japan could be so I did weeks of research and budgeting, optimizing my routes and places to visit.
I spent 10 glorious days in Japan. While there, I stayed with my friend in Tokyo and a Couchsurfing hostess in Kyoto. I count myself really blessed because the Kyoto hostess provided home-cooked breakfast and dinner in exchange for me doing the dishes. Both really helped my pocketbook.
Here is a list of things I did while spending less than US$50 a day in Japan:
1) Splurged on one meal a day. I packed food and made easy meals at my friend's apartment
2) Sought out restaurants and grocery stores that served local delicacies. I'm proud to say I spent less than 1000 Yen for most of my meals and left very satisfied
3) Used my God-given legs to transport me from one spot to another. At the end of the trip, I spotted blisters but each of them was worth it.
4) Purchased economical passes to get around. I bought the 7 day JR pass, Suica+N'EX card, TOEI one day economy pass, and the Kyoto one day sightseeing pass. The reasons why I got them were really simple:
5) To be honest, I was quite tired of seeing castles and shrines by day #7. I'm pleased I made a point to visit one or two shrines per day and three castles during my trip. This helped to reduce money spent on admissions fees. I walked for miles which was great since I got to burn some calories, gain muscles, and immerse myself in the regional cultures and daily lives of the people of Japan
6) I checked in at every tourist center in every city to gather maps and information. I carried a mobile Wi-Fi router and downloaded these mobile apps (Google Maps, Hyperdia and MapsWithMe) for navigation. Did not spend a penny on travel guidebooks :)
7) Lastly and most importantly, I visited the following cities and places that had free or affordable admissions:
If you are interested in getting unique Japanese gifts, I highly recommend visiting:
Japan is lovely and it's definitely worth another visit. I know I missed other things to see and so do keep your suggestions rolling by clicking this link!
PS: Shout out to Adrian, Mikako, and Takahisa for your time and generosity. Couldn't ask for a better trip!
PSII: If you are like me, I found some surprising and fascinating things about the Japanese. It's hard to find trash cans on the streets. The best bet to find one would be in the train stations. Face masks are a common sight. Japanese women can bike with two kids strapped in the front and back of the bikes. The Japanese are generally very clean, tidy, and polite. Speaking English and getting around are not huge issues. And always let people exit the train or elevator first before you hop in. Else you would get horrible stares or occasional scolding from an elderly man. Oh, don't forget to carry hand sanitizer since it's very rare to find soap in the public restrooms and please, please, don't point with your chopsticks or disassemble the neatly prepared sushi rolls in front of your sushi chef. When in doubt, seek help from either the waiting staff or fellow diners. Lastly, as the idiom goes, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" and you would have a grand time like I did!
Modified on 1/30/2014