Battleplan! It starts with a casual look at the ol’ bank account.
Sure, you could paddle your way across the Pacific, but that’s just not safe nowadays. Airfare to Japan is killer, $1000 at least. Unless you live on the west coast, in which case, I hate you and your significant cost-savings. With $1000+ just to get your foot in the door, it’s a little brutal. The way I figure it, even if you kept expenses to a minimum, you’re looking at $2,890 for an average 10 day stay. And I think a more realistic number is $3,500 or $4000 if you’re unlucky finding cheaper airfare for your times of year. Airfare and hotel can be big variables, but here’s the other things.
- $40 for the NEX train from Narita airport to Tokyo, one way. Update: Last trip I took, I paid more like $25 (one way) for the Keisei Skyliner to get back, Nippori/Tokyo to Narita.
- $100 for general train fare if you’re just floating around Tokyo. Further afield can run a few hundred more. Everybody raves about the Japan Rail Pass that can take you anywhere in Japan for freee!! For just $450/2 weeks!! Wait, that’s actually a lot of money…
- $500 for food and vending. If a good bowl of ramen runs you $10 or a conbini feast $5-$15, that’s do-able and then some. Bring a Costco bag of granola with you, and save more monies on breakfast. Cuz granola runs you $13 for a tiny bag in Japan, and some of us don’t do fish and pickles in the morning. So this kind of depends on your stomach. My stomach tells me to drop $60 for a kaiseki feast and be happy. But seriously, Costco granola next time. Also, I spend more on vending water and Pocari Sweat than I think I will. Stay hydrated. Because I never manage it.
- $500 for stuff. You know you want stuff. There sure is a lot of stuff in Tokyo. And it’s for sale.
- ??? Okay, you could cut corners on hotels. Tokyo hotels are small as fudge anyway. Airbnb lists private rooms (usually shared bathrooms) for $25-$50 in Tokyo. Or shared rooms (most of which are probably hostels) for as low as $16 for a top bunk. I’m a middle aged administrative librarian, and shy as hell to boot, so hostels don’t fly with me. I tried a private room on Trip III and it was do-able. It had it’s ups (I had an English-speaking Japanese lady to ask questions and relay embarrassing stories) and downs (the daughter comes in one evening and breaks down into sobs). By Trip IV, I was sold on Airbnb private homes. Cheaper than hotels, great for introverts!
Or you could spurge and go for a Ryokan ✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* . Beautiful rooms! Quaint old-timey Japan furnishings! Traditional futons! Gardens! Amazing food! BUT NOT ME (╮°-°)╮┳━━┳ ( ╯°□°)╯ ┻━━┻. Most ryokan places want 2+ occupants for even their small rooms. So, solo travelers can find a place…you know, eventually, if you look around and ask about the solo thing…for like $200-$300 a night. Can’t split that with a room mate if you don’t got none. ｡ﾟ･ (>﹏<) ･ﾟ｡
Capsule hotels I’d almost consider for a night, just for the sheer bizarro Japan-ness of it, but I kind of like to hang out a little bit at the hotel, not just fall asleep at 10 and get up at 6.
The second one up there, the Buddhist temple- did that for Trip II with 2 other people in November. It was pretty slow that time of year, so they actually gave us 2 rooms for the price of 1. I love my friends, but a little space and privacy is awesome.
And the food. The food…
Geez, why can’t I find a picture of the food?? That was one of the amazing things about our stay. Gosh, the dinner was a huge spread of vegetables in a million amazing cooking styles. Great soup! Great rice! This was probably very close to the ryokan experience. I don’t remember exactly how the price was, but I think I paid just a third, so it was mega reasonable on my end.
The farm thing is from Willing Workers on Organic Farms, WWOOF: http://www.wwoofjapan.com/main/index.php?lang=en If that is your thing, go for it. I have not been tempted. I can kind of see how it might be cool and educational in an agricultural way, but I like my vacation to be a vacation. And not, you know…feeling like a serf.
And there’s several channels to try a homestay. Like doing an Airbnb private room, except you might be expected to do the dishes and help with the shopping. But cheap or free, so…