Japan is on sale! That might sound like something you would see plastered to the window of your local Flight Centre, but it’s effectively true.
The exchange rate between the Australian dollar and the Japanese yen is the best it’s been for Antipodean travellers in decades. Pre-pandemic, one Aussie dollar was buying as little as 64 yen. Now, that single buck will secure you a whopping 94 yen.
That means the cost of everything in Japan – hotels, meals, train tickets, attractions and more – has dropped by about a third. Japan is on sale.
And still, there are ways to make this country even cheaper. Although Japan is notorious for pricey accommodation and expensive transport, you can see this country on a budget and still have an amazing time.
First: accommodation. If you want to go high-end here, five-star, then yes, it is going to cost you money (though travelling in low and shoulder seasons, and avoiding Japanese public holidays and other festivities will certainly save you).
However, there are plenty of alternatives. Try Japanese business hotels, which tend to be local chains (such as APA, Super Hotel, Toyoko Inn) catering to travelling businesspeople. The rooms offered are frankly tiny and no-frills, but also very cost-effective.
For those happy to sacrifice even more on space, there are the notorious capsule hotels. You’ll also find that hostels, with private or shared accommodation, tend to be clean and safe in Japan. And anyone chasing that ryokan experience – staying in a traditional country inn – but turned off by the high price tags, should try a “minshuku”, or Japanese bed-and-breakfast, which offers a similar product, only far more affordable.
Next, let’s talk transport. Japan’s network of shinkansen, or bullet trains, is sheer brilliance for travellers, though also expensive.
If you’re planning to take more than one journey on the shinkansen per week in Japan (and are utilising other overland trains), buy a JR Rail Pass, which allows unlimited travel on the Japan Rail network, including buses and some non-JR trains. Be sure to buy the pass before you enter the country from a licensed website for the best price.
It’s also possible to avoid the shinkansen all together, and travel either by bus or by regular train. Within cities with an underground metro network, you can also look for daily or weekly passes for tourists, sold at major stations.
Now, food. It’s very easy to eat well on a budget in Japan. For the absolute cheapest, buy pre-packaged meals from convenience stores such as Lawson and 7-Eleven: they’re surprisingly fresh and tasty.
Alternatively, eat at low-cost chain restaurants such as Yoshinoya, CoCo Ichiban Curry House and Sukiya. There are also uncountable budget options for the likes of ramen, donburi (rice bowls), and curry – a meal shouldn’t cost more than $10. Conveyor-belt sushi restaurants are also very cheap.
If you would like to sample high-end dining, bear in mind a lot of luxury restaurants offer more affordable menus for lunch.
And a final piece of good news: plenty of traditional attractions in Japan – shrines, temples, gardens and the like – are free to enter. Some museums and galleries are also free.
See also: Japan is open – here are 20 reasons to book your trip now
See also: This is the greatest city in the world for food