How to Save Money While Traveling Around Japan in 2020

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How to Save Money While Traveling Around Japan in 2020

Japan isn't the cheapest country to travel around, bullet train tickets, hotel prices and expensive meals can quickly add up to over-budget travel costs. However there are some ways you can save the yen while traveling around the Land of the Rising Sun if you know your ins and outs of the country beforehand.

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How to Save Money While Traveling Around Japan in 2020

Cashless Government Scheme

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In the run up to the 2020 Olympics, Japan is quickly trying to modernize its payment systems, in a country where cash has long been king. More and more shops and restaurants are joining the governments cashless rebate scheme where customers can get from 2% - 5% of their total paid back if using cashless payments. Including yours truly, if you book through our website and pay with a domestic cashless method, you'll be able to get money back via points.

An easy way to utilize this, making life easier while traveling is to get a Suica or Pasmo card (for those visiting Tokyo). While they were once limited to the Tokyo transportation system, these cards are now usable all over Japan in thousands of restaurants and shops all over the country. Best of all you'll get money back from using them compared to using cash payments. While they've been mostly limited to chain restaurants and shops, recently more and more local businesses are joining the system through a push from the government.

Business and Capsule Hotels

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While capsule hotels aren't for everyone, as some just can't sleep properly in them, business hotels are another easy way to save money on hotel stays. While they're completely no frills, they're also cheap and usually all you need in an overnight stay.

It's also worth checking out Airbnb as well, hosts are always registered now in Japan, so you can be sure the apartment won't be anywhere dodgy. You'll also find guesthouses and hotels that aren't on other booking platforms on the website too.


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If you're really tight on money but can't get the idea of traveling around Japan out of your mind, consider taking up a free stay with WWOOF. Operating in numerous countries around the world, this organization links organic farms that are in need of a helping hand with visitors and locals alike. Participants range from those interested in studying about farming, to the budget conscious traveler that doesn't mind getting their hands dirty.

In return for working at the farm, you'll get meals cooked for you and a bed to sleep on. You'll need to make sure to find good hosts, some just see volunteers as free work. However most hosts in Japan care about and want to make friends with wwoofers, teaching them things about Japanese culture and rural lifestyle that you won't normally see on a regular trip. Some will even drive you around and give you a free tour of the area and its famous sites!

Rail Passes

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For most eager visitors to Japan, the JR Rail Pass won't be anything new to them. Allowing you to dart your way around the country on the bullet trains known as shinkansen and other JR (Japan Railway) trains as much as you want for the duration of your pass. For those planning to take multiple bullet trains, it's a no brainier. However if you're only planning to go to Kyoto or Osaka and back then there's not much point as you'll end up paying more. Another danger is that the pass can end up rushing your trip, as you try to cram as many shinkansens into as short a time as possible. To get your money's worth and have the perfect trip, it can take a little planning. One tip is to only enable the pass once you're leaving the city, as you'll hardly save much using inner-city lines. There are also regional passes and seasonal passes such as the Seishun 18 that can be worth checking out too.

Highway Buses

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If you're wanting to spend more time between cities and don't mind missing out on the comforts of the bullet train, consider taking overnight buses instead. The perfect budget transportation, these are not only cheap in the first place but can also save you a nights hotel stay. The drawback is of course you'll have to try and sleep on a bus, so if you're a light sleeper then this option probably isn't for you. Of course there are also day buses available too, however these take up quite a lot of time you could be spending at your destination instead.

Unconventional Overnight Options

While hotels in Japan can be quite expensive, there are several ways of saving money on overnight stays apart from staying in hostels and business hotels. You can actually sleep at a booth in a manga cafe if you don't mind the missing comforts, you'll find locals doing it too. Another option is heading to Oedo-onsen Monogatari, a hot spring resort in the city which is open 24 hours. You'll need to pay a surcharge for staying during the unsightly hours, but it's not much. There are areas especially for taking naps there so comfort wise it's not bad, but the addition of being able to take a soak in a traditional hot spring beforehand really sets the tiredness in.

Food Options

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One area where it's easy to save money while not compromising too much is dining in Japan. Especially in the larger cities you'll find budget and chain restaurants all over, aimed at providing busy salary men with a quick meal. These can be as low as 400-500 yen and most of them taste decent too, a far-cry from the cheap fast food options in western countries.

If you really need to save the pennies, supermarkets usually have sales on bento boxes and ready meals later in the evening where you can score a meal for as low as 200 yen. On the other end of the spectrum however, food prices in Japan can really vary a huge amount, from budget supermarket sushi for 300 yen to luxury melons that cost over 10,000 yen. If you are trying to keep on a budget, make sure to check where and what you want to eat beforehand.

Budget Airlines

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While it might seem much more romantic to travel around Japan by train and shinkansen, costs build up quickly for train tickets, especially for long distances. At just over two hours by bullet train from Tokyo to Osaka, it might seem odd to take to the skies, but if sleeping in highway buses aren't for you then using budget airlines can be a sure way to save on transportation costs. Airlines such as Peach and Scoot often have promotions allowing you to grab seats for as little as 4,000 yen from Tokyo to Osaka or other places around the country. For longer journeys it makes even more sense, saving you time as well. As soon as you're sure of your trip, keep checking on airfare comparison sights and subscribe to social media pages for the domestic airlines to get updates for promotions.

Another way you can sometimes save money is by flying into one airport and out of another, saving on a return journey. For example flying into Tokyo from your home country and out from Kansai Airport. This can take a little more planning and won't always work out cheaper, but can sometimes be a huge saver that makes it worth checking first.


There's often a stigma that a holiday in Japan is always excruciatingly expensive, but nowadays anyone can take a trip around the Land of the Rising Sun on a budget. The main problem most travelers have is not doing enough research, it's easy to spend bucket loads of cash on almost anything if you don't bother to check prices beforehand. If you're on a budget, one thing you'll want to avoid is taking taxis. Unlike South Korea or China, taxis in Japan can be extremely expensive, for example it'll cost over 20,000 yen to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo's center.