Is Japan expensive to visit? Well, it certainly can be. Japan was one of the most expensive trips we’ve ever taken.
A trip to Japan has been one of Andy’s travel dreams for longer than I’ve known him. This year we finally got around to booking a trip, and it turns out Japan is a very overwhelming country to travel in, especially for two introverts. We tried to jam in as much as we could during our three week trip to Japan, without moving too quickly. And we ate a lot.
So how much does it cost to visit Japan? Here’s how much 3 weeks in Japan cost us.
Total cost of trip to Japan
These numbers are for two people for a three week trip to Japan. This does not include the cost of our flights from Berlin to Tokyo and from Osaka to Berlin. Amounts are listed in euros and US dollars. Japan uses the yen, and when we were there, the exchange rate was roughly US$1 = 110 yen, and 1 euro = 125 yen.
2,441.13€ / $2,749.28 – accommodation
997.30€ / $1,123.19 – transportation
759.53€ / $855.40 – food and alcohol
1,554.26€ / $1,750.46 – activities
18.00€ / $20.27 – miscellaneous
5,770.22€ / $6,498.60 – total
So is Japan expensive? Well, clearly it’s not a cheap country to travel to. Remember that our travel budget might not match yours.
Andy and I are not shoestring backpackers on a tight budget. We’re also not super luxury travelers with unlimited funds. We are mid-range spenders, and we occasionally splurge on something special. And it’s possible we splurged a little more than normal on our trip to Japan. Keep reading to see the breakdown of how much 3 weeks in Japan cost us.
Total Japan hotel costs – $2,749.28
Hotels in Japan are not cheap. Especially in Tokyo. And unfortunately the rooms tended to be smaller than I’d hope for what we paid, but space is at a premium in most areas. It’s especially important to know what to pack for Japan so you don’t have too much stuff in those small rooms.
Many of our hotels included breakfast, which was nice, but not all do, so make sure you know what you’re getting when you book your room.
With three weeks in Japan, we had lots of time to see quite a few cities. We spent 6 nights in Tokyo in two different neighborhoods. Then we spent 1 night at a fancy spa place near Mt Fuji, followed by 2 nights in the nearby town of Fujinomiya. After that, we spent 3 nights in Hiroshima, 4 nights in Kyoto, and 4 nights in Osaka.
In total we spent 20 nights in Japan, which means our hotel costs in Japan averaged out to about $137.46 per night, or $68.73 per person per night.
But let’s look at those costs a little closer for each city.
Where to stay in Japan
During our three week trip to Japan, we stayed in seven different hotels. Most were standard midrange hotels, but we did splurge on one spa hotel. We found that food was generally easy to find in Japan, so almost all of the hotels listed here are located near plenty of places to eat.
While searching for hotels, we noticed that most double beds looked really small. We both move around enough while sleeping that the idea of sleeping in a narrow bed seems unpleasant. In many hotels, we saw options to either book a double bed or two singles, so in many places we actually chose the option with two singles to make sure we each had enough space to be comfortable. I’m so glad we did it this way!
Also, as you’ll see, Tokyo was much more expensive than the other cities we visited. Except for the fancy spa hotel in Hakone, all the hotels we stayed at had similar standards, but once we got out of Tokyo, prices dropped for the same quality.
Here’s a look at each hotel we stayed at in Japan.
Where to stay in Tokyo: Shimbashi neighborhood
We wanted to see different parts of Tokyo, so we booked hotels in different neighborhoods. For our first 3 days in Tokyo, we booked the Candeo Hotel in the Shimbashi neighborhood.
The hotel was modern, and there were lots of options for breakfast. The room was as comfortable as can be expected in Tokyo, though the bed was really small for the two of us. It was nice that the room had some extra seating so we didn’t have to sit on the bed all the time. The bathroom was tiny, but we came to realize small bathrooms were pretty normal throughout the country.
For three nights in Tokyo in the Shimbashi neighborhood, our hotel cost $593.22.
Where to stay in Tokyo: Shibuya neighborhood
For a more classical tourist neighborhood, we booked our last 3 days in Tokyo at Hotel Emit in the Shibuya neighborhood. This was just a few blocks away from the famous Shibuya station intersection with the diagonal pedestrian crossings.
The hotel room was a bit smaller than the one in the Shimbashi neighborhood, but the bed was bigger, which was nice. This room came with an outdoor balcony, which was really nice for relaxing in the evening after a day of sightseeing. Again, the bathroom was tiny. Just something you have to get used to when you travel in Japan. We did not have breakfast with this hotel.
For three nights in Tokyo in the Shibuya neighborhood, our hotel cost $523.25.
Where to stay in Hakone (near Mt Fuji)
One of the popular things to do in Japan is to visit an onsen. Onsens are natural hot springs that you can experience in a spa sort of setting. But many of them don’t allow tattoos, which Andy and I both have, so the standard ones wouldn’t work for us. We found Hakone Ashinoko Hanaori, near Mt Fuji, and it looked like a fun splurge that also had the option to book a private bath.
The hotel has an option to get picked up from the train station, and it’s free, but book ahead! In fact, I’d recommend trying to book the hotel pickup before committing to a train ticket because they fill up quickly.
Our room was nice, still smaller than I’d expect in Europe, but it was rather nice for what we came to expect in Japan. The shower was good, and it was one of the few hotels that had decent blinds to keep me from waking up at 4:30am when the sun came up.
The back of the hotel had seating along a small foot bath, so you could hang out with a drink while soaking your feet and admiring the view of the nearby lake. It was definitely relaxing.
This hotel also came with a meal package, which was helpful since there aren’t a ton of restaurant options in the area. (Though we did wander down the road to find lunch the day we arrived; you won’t starve.) We had dinner and breakfast included with our booking, and it there was tons of food to choose from. It was a fun experience, and we had more than enough to eat.
For one night in Hakone, our hotel cost $360.18. This included dinner and breakfast, but not alcoholic drinks and not the private onsen.
Where to stay near Mt Fuji: Fujinomiya
Since the spa hotel was rather expensive, we only stayed there one night, which didn’t really give us enough time to experience this area of Japan. So we booked two nights at the Fujinomiya Fujikyu Hotel in the nearby town of Fujinomiya.
It was one of the smallest rooms on our trip, but it wasn’t a horrible place. Breakfast wasn’t impressive unfortunately, but the staff were really friendly and helpful and gave us fantastic directions for a day trip to see Mt Fuji.
For two nights in Fujinomiya, our hotel cost $195.56.
Where to stay in Hiroshima
For our 3 days in Hiroshima, we booked the Mitsui Garden Hotel. It was probably the biggest rooms we had during our trip, and it had really great curtains to keep the early morning sun out. Breakfast was pretty good with lots of options. The hotel was in a great location close to tons of restaurants and shops, and walking distance to the Peace Park. This was probably one of my favorite hotels during our 3 week trip to Japan.
For three nights in Hiroshima, our hotel cost $303.72.
Where to stay in Kyoto
Andy and I spent 4 nights in Kyoto at the Hotel Grand Bach Kyoto Select. It was a nice hotel, but the room was so small. I appreciated that there was a small couch/bench to sit on (always nice to have seating options that are not the bed) but somehow it made the room feel cramped and even smaller. But I can see from pictures that some rooms are arranged better than ours was, so maybe it was just bad luck. However, this was probably the best shower we had on the whole trip.
We didn’t get breakfast with the hotel in Kyoto, but there were lots of cafes and restaurants nearby. It was a great location, close to the metro, the Nishiki Market, and just about anything else we needed.
For four nights in Kyoto, our hotel cost $368.78.
Where to stay in Osaka
The Hotel Oriental Express Osaka Shinsaibashi was where we spent 4 nights in Osaka, our last few days of our Japan trip. The room was kind of basic but nice and not too small. There was a desk and chair and slightly more space that we had in some of our other hotels. The bathroom was pretty standard for Japan, meaning it was rather small.
Breakfast was good, though not a huge spread. The dining room was open during the day and they didn’t mind if we sat in there, so a few times we grabbed a quick lunch to go and sat in the dining room to eat it. Overall, this was a pretty good hotel.
For four nights in Osaka, our hotel cost $404.56.
Total Japan transportation spending – $1,123.19
Our biggest Japan travel cost was two 14 day Japan Rail passes. For the two of us, they were about $871.65 total. Since the biggest expense for transportation was when we were moving from one city to another, we decided it wasn’t worth getting a 21 day rail pass, even though we were in Japan for 3 weeks. Instead, we activated our 14 day passes a few days before departing from Tokyo, giving us 14 days for trains for our whole trip.
We also used public transportation in just about every city we visited, so this includes the cost of metros and buses in Japan. Most cities have a card that you reload with money and then scan it each time you use the metro. They have a 500 yen (about $4.50) deposit which you can get back once you’re done in that city.
It’s worth noting that the metro/subway system in Tokyo is actually several different companies. Some of the trains are actually Japan Rail trains, which means you can use your rail pass to get around the city, not just for long distance travel. This saved us money on public transport in Tokyo once we activated our rail pass. You just have to go through the JR Pass line and show your pass to the person behind the window.
We paid $81.81 for our two Narita Express tickets from the Tokyo airport into the city, though it’s worth noting we accidentally bought the first class tickets because we were jet lagged and confused. I’m not sure how much the cheaper tickets cost, but don’t buy the “green” class tickets, those are the first class tickets.
Total cost of food in Japan – $855.40
Luckily the cost of food in Japan was reasonably inexpensive. As I mentioned previously, many of our hotels came with breakfast, so that saved us a little money. There are also 7elevens and similar convenience stores located everywhere, which made it cheap to pick up snacks or drinks when we wanted them. They even sold chicken and pork skewers (plus tons of other prepared food) that we bought for lunch or dinner a few times when we were feeling a bit burnt out.
Restaurants in most cities were abundant. You won’t go hungry in Japan! They all had free water jugs on the table, which meant we never ordered a drink unless we wanted something alcoholic. And there are cheap eats everywhere.
For example, one night in Tokyo, our dinner was two bowls of ramen and an order of gyoza (dumplings) and we paid less than $17. I have many days in my expense tracking where we spent $15 or less for the two of us to eat lunch. The only times we spent a lot on a meal was when we ordered a few cocktails with dinner. Even then, cocktails were cheaper than beer.
We often bought cocktails in a can from 7eleven as an even cheaper alternative. I also bought lots of KitKats while in Japan. Starbucks was one of the most expensive places we went to. It’s also worth noting, our fancy spa hotel included dinner and breakfast, and we had five dinners replaced by food tours, which are included in the activities section. Even still, it’s safe to say you can eat cheap in Japan.
We spent 21 days in Japan and averaged $40.73 per day, or $20.36 per person per day on alcohol and food in Japan.
Total Japan activities expenses – $1,750.46
As I write this, I’m realizing just how rarely we do activities that aren’t free or cheap when we travel. Sure, we usually book a food tour, but not much else that costs too much. Japan was different. During our 3 week trip to Japan, we did loads of activities.
Andy really wanted to see sumo wrestling in Japan, and we found out that there’s a tournament that runs in Tokyo a few times a year and in a few other cities. So we found out the dates and actually planned our trip accordingly so we could go to a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo. It turned out to be one of the best things we did in Japan, and I highly recommend it.
Read more about how to see a sumo wrestling tournament in Tokyo, Japan here.
On our Japan trip, we took lots of food tours, which can be expensive. We originally booked 6 food tours, but the one in Fujinomiya got cancelled at the last minute because the tour guide had a family emergency. But we took two food tours in Tokyo, each in a different neighborhood, plus one food tour in Hiroshima, Kyoto, and Osaka.
We spent $1,358.80 on five food tours in Japan, and I’m ok with that. They were all wonderful, and they really helped us enjoy the food in Japan more easily. I’ll list them out with more detail after this section.
Other activities we did in Japan include things like going up several tall towers for views from above, scenic boat and train rides, a few museums, a few castles, a couple of ropeways/cablecars, and an aquarium. I also included the cost of the private onsen in Hakone in this category.
For three weeks in Japan, we averaged $83.36 per day, or $41.68 per person per day, on entertainment and activities. Obviously this is a tricky category to do an average for, since activities vary widely based on what you enjoy doing. I don’t imagine most people taking 5 food tours, even though it was so much fun. Maybe you’ll go to more museums than we did, or maybe you’ll take other types of tours.
Your best approach here is to make a list of all the things you want to do, even the cheap things, and add up all the costs to see how much you need for this category.
Food tours in Japan
Food can be overwhelming in a foreign country, and we’ve learned over the years that taking a food tour at the beginning of a trip goes a long way to making us more comfortable with figuring out what and where to eat. Plus they’re so much fun.
So for this trip, we decided to take a food tour in each city. Here’s a look at each food tour we took in Japan.
Tokyo food tour: Shinbashi neighborhood
On our first day in Tokyo, we took the Evening Tokyo Walking Food Tour of Shimbashi. This neighborhood is know for “salarymen” office workers, and it’s not as touristy as some other parts of the city. We tried lots of interesting things, including a big spread of delicious food on sticks at a restaurant located underneath the train tracks. It was so helpful to start our trip this way.
Tokyo food tour: Meguro neighborhood
Since we wanted to see a few different areas of Tokyo, we took two food tours in the city. After moving to our second hotel, in the Shibuya neighborhood, we took the Tokyo Wonderland Food Tour in the Meguro neighborhood, which is just a few stops from Shibuya. Our guide took us to some really unique restaurants where we ate tempura, ramen, and much more.
Hiroshima food tour
Andy and I took the Best of Hiroshima Food Tour where we got to try Hiroshima’s famous Okonomiyaki, among other things. Most people only think of visiting the Peace Park and other related historical sights when they visit Hiroshima. But I think taking this food tour and learning about the local cuisine was a great experience.
Kyoto food tour
We took the Kyoto Foodie Night Tour. This tour took us to a handful of places where we got to try local dishes in a traditional neighborhood. There was an option to buy more food and/or drinks at each stop, which actually made this tour a little cheaper than the others, but we felt we had enough food. The only extra we paid for was more sake at the last stop. Our guide was really friendly, and this was probably the most fun we had on any of the food tours we took in Japan.
Osaka food tour
On our first night in Osaka, we took the Nightlife Osaka Food Tour, which took us through the busy Dotonburi area to find food hidden in alleyways we never would’ve found on our own. This neighborhood is jam packed with restaurants, so doing this food tour first went a long way towards helping us find good food for the rest of our time in Osaka.
Total miscellaneous expenses in Japan – $20.27
Since this was a 3 week trip to Japan, and we are carry-on only travelers, we had to do laundry about halfway through our trip. We found that many hotels in Japan had their own laundromat, so it was easy and cheap for us to do laundry one evening after dinner.
We also paid for luggage lockers in train stations a few times. This made it easy to do a little sightseeing when we were in between hotels.
Andy and I don’t buy a lot of souvenirs, but I did buy some chopsticks that I thought I would use, but they’re too annoying, so they sit in the drawer. This is why I don’t buy souvenirs.
Is Japan expensive?
So how expensive is Japan? I’d say it’s one of the more expensive countries we’ve traveled to. Luckily there are ways to save money if you’re on a tighter budget. You can stay at hostels or cheaper hotels, spend less time in Tokyo, skip the spa hotel, and take a few less food tours. (But please take at least one or two food tours, they’re amazing!)
I’m also happy that the cost of food in Japan was so reasonable. Eating out was not expensive, and it was easy to go even cheaper by going to a grocery store or eating a quick meal from 7eleven or Family Mart.
Overall, 3 weeks in Japan cost Andy and I an average of about $309.46 per day, or $154.73 per person per day.
You might also enjoy:
- Scenes From Madrid, Toledo, and Salamanca
- How Much We Spent in Verona, Italy
- How We Spent One Week in Croatia: Zadar and Split
- Best Things to do in Gdansk, Poland