The cost of backpacking in Japan

Break open the piggy bank?

6,669 Yen, per day. ($84 AU)

Some quick conversions for the rest of the world
1 Euro = 98 Yen
$1 US = 77 Yen
$1 CA = 75 Yen
$1 AU = 75 Yen

Over the course of a few weeks, on average, thats what we spent per day in Japan.
That includes, accommodation, food, travel, coffee, souvenirs, reasonable socializing, and multiple coffees per day.

Overall, Japan is not as ‘super expensive’ as you imagine or historically might have heard it to be, and its definitely no Scandinavia.

Having said that, don’t be expecting South-East Asian prices and dirt cheap street food either.

Travel is the major killer, the Shinkansen (bullet) train especially, those tickets can easy push $100 for an hour or so.
We opted for buses on the long distances, which can be almost half the price of the Shinkansen

Coffee in a can (very mediocre) – 120 Yen

Once travel is out of the way, costs become ‘similar to home’, and your next major cost will be food and eating out, as most of the hostels don’t have kitchens worth cooking in.
You can try and do the stryo-foam-bowl-of-noodles-with-boiled-water diet, but I give you 3 days before your on starch and salt overload and your body is craving something more substantial.

This is definitely were I burnt a hole in my pocket, it was cold, and I eat alot.

Supermarket Sushi – Small 300 Yen, big plates 1000ish

Fried food is EVERYWHERE – 100Y p/piece

Sushi Train – 100 to 150 Yen per plate

Tempura Ramen Noodles – 400 Yen

Fast Food – 400 to 800ish

Taikai – Fish Shaped Pancakes with sweet fillings (awesome!) – 200 Yen

Hostels seem to be pretty standard prices 2500-3500 per night for a dorm room, but what changed dramatically was the quality.
In a land of organized people, spontaneous and last-minute doesn’t pay off, especially around public holiday times.
The local Japanese are not afraid to step down to dorm life and can often book out hostels, with only a handful of actual foreign guests presents. This means if you want quality or something more decent, you too need to be organized and book as far ahead as you can.

Traditional Room – 7,000 to 10,000 Yen
(usually has free Onsen – Traditional Mineral Bath)

Hostel Dorm Room – 2500 to 3500 Yen per night.

Capsule Hotel!
3000 Yen per night

Metro – 160 to 350 per ride, depending on destination.
(If you pay for the metro though, your a total travel rookie, the entry gates are made with padded foam, I’m sure you’ll just accidentally follow the crowd..)

Intercity trains – 1000ish Yen (again, you can easily accidentally not buy the right ticket here..)

Day trip out of Tokyo to Nikko – 1000 ish for the train, 2000 for round trip bus ticket once your there.

Cheap Souvenirs – 400 to 2000

Coffee –

For a county that makes some great coffee equipment, they make absolutely terribly coffee.
A diehard Double-Espresso drinker, after multiple disappointment’s, I resulted in trying it all – Drip, Latte’s, Cans, Atomica’s, the works, and it was all as bad as each other.

There is this continual trend that your coffee has to come out at blazing speed.
“Coffee please”-Coffee?-Boom!
Its infront of you before you’ve even counted your change.
Totally contrary to the way a real coffee should be made.

Latte – 350 to 450 Yen

Espresso (crap) – 200 to 380 Yen

Cigarettes – 44O a pack (so my companion tells me)

Same products as home – same price

More Food..

Vending Machine Restaurants, always ok, never great, but the cheapest when your starving.
280 to 680 Yen

Yakiniku (table BBQ) – All you can eat, all you can drink.
This is where its at! After a few days of Noodles and Vending machines, grab some friends and hit one of these places, its a good night.
1,800 to 3000 Yen.

Social Lubricant..

Asahi Beer – 280ish

Beer on Tap – 500ish
Cocktails – 800ish

Osaka Aqarium – one of the most amazing aquariums in the world
2000 Yen entry fee

Weird Shit – all day long


16 Responses to “The cost of backpacking in Japan”

  1. 1 JD Japan January 11, 2012 at 10:28 pm

    Very interesting and helpful post for someone that is managing their budget for their trip to Japan. Also entertaining pictures and comments! Although I think you mean taiyaki and not taikai for the fish shaped pancakes with filling.


  2. 2 axrafkhan January 11, 2012 at 11:06 pm

    Great post and valuable info. I visited Japan in 1999 (a paid trip) and was wondering if things have changed. I am glad to hear that its not super expensive. visiting Japan again is on my wish list and this certainly helps.


  3. 3 fuhleeshuh January 14, 2012 at 10:12 am

    Japan is so dreamy. This is a great $$$ play by play.

    Happy new year Matt!

  4. 4 cloverxxkorhz January 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm

    Great post and thank you for the info! 🙂

  5. 5 Noah Scott February 21, 2012 at 11:07 am

    What a brilliant post here! I thoroughly enjoyed your choice of photos… especially the “free weird shit” one.

    Considering your love for great coffee, this may be a tough one for you, but I managed to save quite a bit by switching to instant coffee on my last backpacking trip across Japan. Since all the convenience stores have free hot water dispensers, why not? 🙂

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. 6 skitalica March 31, 2012 at 3:59 am

    the “free weird shit all day long” = best value (:
    you’re right, though: it’s not ridiculously expensive, and can be done on a budget

  7. 7 Tonuri de apel April 1, 2012 at 5:28 am

    Great photos, thanks for share.
    Osaka Aqarium is the best, I visited last year and I am impressed, worth seeing.

  8. 8 Mbwana Mziray June 10, 2012 at 2:57 am

    Really nice post man nice info…73

  9. 9 birdbeezy June 28, 2012 at 2:47 am

    nice post!

  10. 10 John July 26, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Very Funny and concise, reminds me off a back-packers version of the Economist Travel! sounds good . ]

  11. 11 omer September 15, 2012 at 7:52 am

    liked your post.

  12. 12 Pritha October 24, 2012 at 3:06 am

    Great post! Can you give some info about the trains? (or where I can get some info?) I’m going to use the train to go from tokyo to kyoto, hiroshima and then fukuoka… thanks for any help!

  13. 13 Naresh October 25, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    did you get the Japan Rail Pass?, thanks for the awesome post to, im going Nov 16th so its good info for me =).

  14. 14 Tenneike December 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    I love this post! I keep coming back to it while organising my trip to japan next april. Its so helpful, thanks very much!

  15. 15 Deb MED December 27, 2012 at 11:19 am


    I read your blog and found really interesting and helpful!
    I was wondering if you could help us, myself and my boyfriend are going to Japan at the beg of April next year, as we havent been there before I would like your suggestion on our itinerary:
    Tokyo x 3 nights
    Kyoto x 5/6 nights
    then another city we could see that is really different and interesting either close to Tokyo or Kyoto?
    We will be backpacking so things will be on a budget, I have in mind the total of 12 nights, what do you think?
    How much is the JR pass, is it worth buying it as we will travel only between 2 or 3 cities?
    Any suggestions will be very much appreciated!!!
    Thank you

  16. 16 Emily January 30, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    Thank you for this! Very helpful & we love the pics.

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