Tried And True: Japan On The Cheap
Japan’s reputation is true; it is expensive as you’ve heard. Matt pretty much nailed it with this post, but it doesn’t have to break the bank (but don’t expect a SE Asia kind of cheap). With my own trip now concluded, I thought I’d share some first-hand knowledge I’ve learned to make it easier to travel through this part of the world.
Staying– Hostels are the cheapest (I found a few for around $25/ night), readily available, and some even offer a small complimentary breakfast (another $5 savings). Manga Café’s are an internet addicted, caffeine infused alternative. You can reserve a private room for an 8 hour time block, with all the coffee, soda, DVD’s, and Internet Warcraft you can handle (private rooms around $30).
Eating– You’re going to want to sushi, right? Find a conveyer belt, they will always be more reasonable. For other grub, find a standup diner (above), a kind of bar and restaurant hybrid. Without chairs or stools, you’ll watch the cook whipping up food just behind the counter. There is also a restaurant you will recognize because of its vending machine type ordering machine outside the front door. Surprisingly enough, chains seem to be a bit cheaper overall (the Starbucks, McDonalds, Lotteria), and nothing beats a good ol’ convenient store lunch as you wait for the next train to arrive, either.
Travel– As a foreigner, you can’t beat the JR Rail Pass (about $300, and MUST be purchased OUTSIDE of Japan). Not only are you able to hop on any of the lightning quick long distance trains for no additional fee (Tokyo to Kyoto in under 3 hrs.), the JR tracks also crisscross the larger cities, almost eliminating a need for the subway or buses. It’s a big initial expense, but can easily pay for itself if you plan on doing any kind of traveling (a Tokyo to Kyoto round trip ticket is around $260).