Last updated on January 23rd, 2019
Hey guys, we just returned from Japan and I was genuinely impressed by the country. It exceeded my expectations and ended up being way more affordable than I thought. Just to clear all misconceptions, I wanted to write this post about the prices in Japan, so you don’t exclude Japan from your travel plans thinking that it’s way too unaffordable. So how expensive is Japan? Keep on reading to find out.
If you’re coming to Japan for 7 days and you like to squeeze as much as possible in your trip, check out my 7-day express itinerary for Japan (caution: it includes A LOT of places and a lack of sleep for sure, but in my opinion, it’s worth it, if you don’t have a generous vacation allowance).
If you’re into photography and looking for some creative or photogenic spots in Tokyo, here’s a guide to the most Instagrammable places in Tokyo.
Let’s get started with the guide to the prices in Japan: how much money do you need to travel around Japan?
Prices in Japan? How expensive is Tokyo and Kyoto? Cost of a trip to Japan
I’ll break this post down in a number of categories of different spendings e.g. accommodation, food, nightlife etc, so it’s easier to calculate how much you would need for a trip to Japan. I will also tell you how much did we spend in Japan, so you can see some pretty realistic numbers.
How much money do you need to bring to Japan?
Transport costs in Japan: Tokyo and Kyoto
The exchange rate used for this post: $1 = 112 Yen
Depending on where you fly from, the tickets could be very cheap or very expensive, but you know very well how much they are from your city. If you don’t, check them on Skyscanner. I got a return ticket to Japan from London for £550 ($700) with Asiana airlines via Seoul and I was definitely happy with the price and the airline. The ticket was for November and I bought it 4 months in advance.
Let’s talk about transportation costs in Japan. Most travellers buy Japan rail pass when coming to Japan for 7 days or longer and plan to travel a lot between the cities. The Japan rail pass is quite pricey – for 7 days it costs £196 ($250) or $412 for 2 weeks. There is also an option for 3 weeks and that’s even more expensive ($526).
Unfortunately, Japan rail pass doesn’t cover all the transport means in Japan: there are plenty of private railways and bus companies, where you can’t use it, e.g. Meitetsu railway, anything in Hakone and more. Normally, a ticket for a local train for a semi-short ride of 30 min would cost you 400-1000 Yen ($3.5- $9). Metros, buses and subways in the cities (unless it’s from JR) are also not covered by the rail pass. One short journey in Tokyo metro would cost you around 170 Yen and a longer one would be around 280. The prices are similar in Kyoto, Osaka and Nagoya. Airport trains are usually a bit more expensive, however, the Tokyo Narita express is from JR and it’s covered by the rail pass.
We spent around 1700 Yen each for travelling all around Tokyo for 2 days using
What to pack for Japan? Something to spend money on?
Accommodation prices in Japan
Accommodation in Japan is the most expensive category of expenses, especially if you’re travelling on the weekends or during the high season. There are not many budget-friendly hotels in Japan and even the capsule hotels could be quite pricey. If you have any travel miles with different airlines or credit cards, you can use them in Japan. I paid for some of my hotels with the Expedia Rewards points (they are worth double in the VIP hotels, so I could stay in nice hotels and save at the same time).
Hotel prices in Tokyo
Alternatively, you can stay in a love hotel, where you pay by
Hotel prices in Kyoto:
Hotels in Kyoto are also very pricey as Kyoto is the most touristy city in Japan. It makes sense to book your hotel in Kyoto far in advance, as they tend to sell out.
Food prices in Japan: how expensive are meals in Japan?
Food is probably the cheapest category in Japan. I allocated a way bigger budget for food in Japan and ended up spending less – that visiting a Michelin star restaurant with an 8-course Kaiseki meal that wasn’t initially included in the budget. There are certain things that are expensive in Japan food-wise, e.g. Michelin star restaurants, Kaiseki meals and wagyu beef.
How much is a Michelin star meal in Japan?
If you’re wondering how much is a Michelin star meal in Japan, it varies from restaurant to restaurant. The price also depends on the type of the meal, e.g. if it’s a lunch or a dinner. Michelin star dinners are usually way more expensive than lunches. On average, the Michelin star meal (could be a restaurant with 3 Michelin stars) of 8-10 courses without drinks would cost you around 20-30,000 Yen per person. However, we found a pretty affordable 1-star Michelin restaurant with a 11,000 Yen meal and 7,000 for the Sake pairing (mandatory). In total, we paid around £280, which was honestly fine, because the meal was worth it.
It’s quite complicated to book a Michelin-star restaurant in Japan. If you’re interested in our experience, tips on how to book a restaurant and the restaurants that accept online reservations, head to this post (sorry, it’s not published yet, but once it is, I’ll update the link).
How much are normal meals in Japan?
Normal meals aren’t expensive in Japan. If you go to a food floor in a shopping mall or a normal restaurant you see on a street, you would probably end up paying around 700-900 Yen for a dish. If you go for a sushi meal, it all depends on what you ask. For example, we went to a popular Kaiten sushi place (with a belt) in Osaka and ordered sashimi with sea urchin, best tuna, more tuna, really loads of tuna! We also had 2 drinks and a desert and paid around 5000 Yen for this meal, which was a very good price.
Another day, we went to Shabu-Shabu – Japanese hot pot with unlimited beef and food for 1.5 hours and we asked for Japanese chuck beef shabu-shabu. That was around 3300 Yen per person.
A ramen would probably cost you around 900-1300 Yen depending on the place.
If you’re on a tight budget, you can buy food from 7-
So well, as you see, food in Japan is not very expensive and everybody can find something for their budget.
Sightseeing prices in Japan: tours, landmarks and activities
Sightseeing in Japan is not very expensive. Usually, the tickets to temples, shrines and palaces cost around 500-1000 per person. Tours, however, are a different story. An average walking tour would cost around $50-60 and something like a tea ceremony – $30.
Some of the best tours to take in Tokyo & Kyoto:
Tokyo: Robot show @ Robot restaurant, Akihabara Go-Kart tour, Tokyo tour by a local.
Kyoto: Full-day UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tour of Kyoto, a Night walk through Gion and The Traditional Tea Ceremony.
Other prices in Japan: shopping and cosmetics
Japan is a great shopping destination for cosmetics and electronics. As for me, I bought my lens there and I saved £120 compared to the UK prices (that’s almost a third of the price of the lens). Most of the big shops in Japan apply tax reduction right at the counter when you pay – all you need to show is your passport (always) and the return tickets (sometimes).
Some people buy cosmetics (creams, hair masks etc) in Japan because the quality is great and the prices aren’t that high. If you’re planning to buy clothes, e.g. designer clothes – the prices are either the same or more expensive vs Europe or the USA, so unless you saw something unique, it wouldn’t make sense to buy it specifically in Japan. Moreover, if you like Asian cosmetics, you can buy pretty much everything on Yes Style (check it out here).
How much did we spend in Japan? Our budget for a trip to Japan
If you visited Tripsget before, you probably know that we like comfort and we’re mid-range travellers. The only luxury hotel we booked was in Hakone and the only one expensive dinner we had, was the 1* Michelin restaurant Fushikino. Everything else was mid-range and some meals were more than budget.
We bought our flights 4 months before the trip and paid around £500 ($700) person for a flight from London to Japan via Seoul. So that’s $1400 for flights. We spent $500 on 2 Japan rail passes for 1 week for two and paid around $1800 for hotels (7 nights) – hotels are quite expensive in Japan, but that’s something you could potentially save A LOT OF money on if you choose shared flats and hostels. We also got a lot of Expedia Rewards points for the hotels, so that’s a bit of money coming back (to invest in
We had a budget of about $750 for food and it was more than enough for having a decent lunch and dinner every day. We had most of our breakfasts included in the hotel rates, so we didn’t have to spend money on that.
Other costs: we also had budget for getting around the cities, sightseeing and shopping, that was about $300-400. So in total, we spent about $4350 on a weeklong trip to Japan for two people. If you include the Expedia Rewards points, that would be just $3450. Not bad at all, right?
So, what do you think? Is Japan expensive now when you know all the prices? I hope this guide to the prices in Japan was useful for you!