The sky is blue.
Water is vital for life.
Japan is expensive.
I’m not sure when I developed the opinion that Japan was an expensive place, but it happened well before I ever set foot in the country. When my fiancé and I planned an 8-day trip to Kyoto and Osaka, we were prepared to pay through the teeth and keep to a relatively tight budget. For the first time, I kept a detailed record of every dollar (or, in this case, yen) we spent. In reviewing the notes, I was surprised to find that it wasn’t outrageous, after all.
Here’s our budget breakdown for two people.
Total cost for 9 days, 8 nights (excluding return transport from Korea):
¥104, 960 ($1336)
Food & Drink
Amount spent: ¥43,850 ($558)
Percentage of total: 42%
I was slightly embarrassed to realize that the bulk of our budget went towards food and drink, but then I thought about how much pleasure I get out of those things. Fun fact: we spent $30 on ice cream and $127 on beer, including a ¥6700 ($85) splurge on an all-you-can-eat-and-drink rooftop buffet. All of our breakfasts came from the supermarket, as did a handful of lunches and dinners. We went out for a few nice meals, but not many. Noodle shops were our savior for cheap, hearty meals with a bit of local personality thrown in.
Amount spent: ¥40,645 ($517)
Percentage of total: 38.5%
Four nights in a business hotel in Osaka cost us ¥16,645 ($212), while 4 nights in a traditional ryokan in Kyoto cost ¥24,000 ($305). Breakfast was not included at either place.
Amount spent: ¥14,180 ($180)
Percentage of total: 13.5%
This included trains, subways, buses, and bicycles. In Osaka, a single journey was roughly ¥250 ($3), but subway passes are available as well. We took return trains from Osaka to Nara and Osaka to Kyoto, both distances of under an hour. No fast trains for us, which would have considerably increased the amount spent on transport.
Amount spent: ¥5,200 ($66)
Percentage of total: 5%
In Osaka, we paid for entry to Osaka Castle and the Open-air Farmhouse Museum. In Kyoto, we visited the Silver Pavilion, Golden Pavilion, Nijo Castle, and the mysterious womb stone at the Kiyomizu Temple (it cost ¥100 each and was 100% worth it). We got discounted entry at Osaka Castle for showing our 2-day subway pass, so check for discounts if you visit.
Amount spent: ¥1,085
Percentage of total: 1%
I brought one pair of sandals to Japan, and they blew out on the second day. First, I bought a pair of rubber flip-flops at the dollar store. They were worn through two days later, due to excessive walking and not, as my fiance insists, my heavy-footed walking style. I bought another pair of sandals at a shop in Kyoto, which lasted the rest of the trip. Lesson: In Japan, it’s hard to find a cheap pair of shoes that will fit a US size 10. Bring at least two pairs with you. My third miscellaneous purchase was a hand-drawn print of two geisha walking down an alley. It’s for my mom, but it’s been two months and I still have it. Oops.
Average per day for 2 people: approximately $150
It’s not exactly a shoestring budget, but it was affordable, especially over a short period of time. The key for us was to focus on a small region instead of trying to cover too much ground; we didn’t have the money or the time to see more.
In the end, I have to agree that Japan is expensive, but not prohibitively so; especially if you cut back on the ice cream and bring a sturdy pair of shoes.