cheap travel japan

HOW TO: 4 Tips for CHEAP Travel In and Out of Japan

2:14 PM

Greetings all! So in the last few months/years, I've been stretching my travel legs, trying to see more of Japan and other countries in East Asia. But as anyone who's met me personally, I am a penny-pincher. I'm not terribly miserly, so to speak, as I have on occasion made it rain, but I can't resist saving a few yen whenever possible.
(If you want to skip to the links to travel websites, keep on scrolling!)

4 Travel During the Off-Season

Japan has a lot of national holidays. Like the second-highest number in the world. As such, it can be tempting to use these holidays to travel. But we aware that most salarymen and their families will also be traveling during these periods. So if you're fine with vacationing on a premium and being surrounded by the horde (children), then feel free to use national holidays to travel. But if you're not into crowds and definitely into saving money, then book your travel for dates that fall before or after national holidays.

When I vacationed with my family in the States, it never felt so crowded at the hotels or theme parks we visited, but the U.S. is also really big. So it's very easy to find a vacation spot that's quiet in secluded.

Japan does not work this way. During the vacation season, every conceivable location will be filled. The roads, the trains, the buses, the hotels, the beaches, they will all be crowded whether you're on the mainland or one of the more secluded islands. And not only are these locations crowded, they can be twice as expensive as their off-season prices. Do the math on that, but sounds like a rather drab vacation.

Additionally, if you're a theme park junkie, like me, you'll want to avoid weekends; theme parks are much more fun during weekdays and you'll have a better chance of riding all of the attractions.

3 Road Trip by Car

Lunch in Singapore
Japan is often associated with its convenient and extensive train system. It covers the entire main island, and the the JR pass, you can travel from one end of the country to the other for as little as 400 USD. However, this pass if only for persons with a temporary visitor visa in Japan. This means that persons with a Japanese address cannot purchase/use this pass.

Enter the rent-a-car. You can rent a car for a weekend (from Friday night until Sunday evening) for 13,000 yen (116 USD). This sounds expensive but consider the following.

From Osaka City to Nagoya on the shinkansen is 6,560 yen (59 USD), or 3,350 yen (30 USD) on the regular train for one person, one way. This price does not include hopping on and off the train between the two stations, which means you're kind of stuck from Osaka City until you get to Nagoya, and on the local line, that's close to 3 hours of train riding. And if you have to get back to Osaka, then you're up to 13,120 yen (118 USD) and that doesn't including riding the train around Nagoya for the weekend. And if you're traveling as a set (like Shota and I do), then everything is doubled now and just the train to Nagoya and back has you at 26,240 yen (236 USD).

But, if you're traveling with 2 or more in a rent-a-car to Nagoya, you have the freedom to make stops along the way, even if you include the cost of parking, your costs with still be lower than 20,000 yen (179 USD) and that can be split between two or more persons. If you're traveling with a group of 4, you travel costs can get as low as 5,125 yen (46 USD) including gas for the weekend.

So traveling by car not only saves you money, but includes a freedom that you're not granted when traveling by train.

2 Subscribe to an LCC newsletter

Look, I get it. No one wants their e-mail filled with junk mail that they never read. But if you're trying to travel on a budget, it's best that you make peace with these newsletters and just sign up. Information about travel sales are always sent through newsletters before they're available on the site. This will give you a leg up on the folks that only visit the website or use travel agencies, and will allow you to schedule and plan around these sale dates (sale tickets are usually only available for certain travel periods so be sure to read the fine print before searching and booking.

Now I have to admit that the deals aren't as good as they used to be. Peach used to have time sales a few times a season and had prices that were damn near unbelievable. Sadly, the fuel costs of air travel have only increased, so the golden years of LCC travel seem to really be a thing of the past. But traveling by LCC is still much cheaper than your ANA or JAL options.

Rakuten's travel newsletter also offers great travel packages. As you can see in the screenshot above, you can get a trip to Disneyland in Tokyo from Osaka, including hotel and travel, for 21,600 en (). These kind of package sales are usually only for a specific travel period and can sell out very quickly, so having an eye on these newsletters is a must.

1 Use Japanese Travel Websites

This tip is more for conversation or fluent speakers of Japanese, but in the age of rikaichan and the 2020 Olympics, any level of Japanese should work.

Japanese travel websites provide tickets and discounts for domestic and international travel from Japan. These package deals will often include, airfare, hotel, and activity fees if they're all-inclusive. This method is convenient for those not to concerned with which airline they'll ride or which hotel they stay at, as you often can't choose, though this is subject to change, depending on the site you use. And this is where your Japanese language skill comes in handy because Japanese fine print can really get you if you're not careful.

Another convenient point for Japanese travel websites is that they can offer themes for your travel. If you're unsure of what you want to see or where you want to go, you can search through their travel themes for inspiration. The most common ones across most sites are: Couple, hot sprints, travel solo, foodie, and outdoor activities.

And don't neglect your train websites either. Similar to the travel websites above, train companies also create seasonal themes around certain train routes, then offer discounts and coupons for people sightseeing in those areas. I've used Keihan's discounted tickets quite a few times and was able to save so much money.

For example, in the Uji-Fushimi 1-day plan, you get a ticket than covers your travel from Osaka to Uji and Fushimi-Inari, plus hopping on and off the train at designated stations within that route, all for 900 yen. On the JR line, a one-way trip to Uji Station only is 970 yen; on the Keihan line from Kyobashi Station (3 stops from Osaka Station on the loop line), it's only 400 yen one-way, but it'll cost you extra to get out to Fushimi-inari. With the 1-day ticket from Keihan, you can ride from Kyobashi to Uji, Fushimi-inari, and a few other places in between, all day for 900 yen. It's no JR pass, but it's still an awesome deal for all of us residents.


Since I mentioned using Japanese travel websites, I thought it would be best to include a few keywords to look out for on these websites.

お得 - otoku - bargain, a deal
国内 - kokunai - deomestic
海外 - kaigai - international
観光 - kankou - sightseeing
○○付き - marumaru tsuki - includes (XYZ), usually used for all-inclusive plans
イチオシ - ichioshi - highly recommended
直前割引 - chokuzen waribiki - discounts right before a package sales out, used when only a few seats in a tour or package are left
キャンペーン - kyanpe-n - campaign, another way to say sale event
半額 - hangaku - half-price
行き先 - ikisaki - destination
Web掲載限定 - web-store only (can only be purchased/used through the website)
発売日当日限り - hatubaibi toujitu kagiri - only valid on the date of purchase (usually the case for train 1-day tickets)
乗り降り自由 - nori-ori jiyuu - to hop on and off (of a train) as much as you like

Japanese Travel Websites
These services connect you with a travel agency (if you go to the shops or call) that will help you coordinate your trip. Working with a travel agent will cost you more money, but they will make sure that you're well taken care of. They also offer a lot of web-only campaigns that do not include travel agent service (hence the cheaper price).

Hankyu Travel
They have a mail magazine (newsletter), and while their trips aren't necessarily the cheapest, they do have a loy all-inclusive packages. Their services are only provided in Japanese.

A very well-known Japanese travel agency. I would say they're one of the more popular companies and they do offer some travel information in English, though this information is usually targeting visitors to Japan, not residents. You can check out the collection of visitor tours via this link:

IACE Travel
This is a travel agency that seems to focus more on travel outside of Japan, but they do also offer travel packages within Japan. They also have a website in English though I cannot comment on their staff's English competency. You can check out their English site from here:

This is another big travel agency that can be found throughout Japan. I would say their emphasis is on domestic travel, but they also offer services for international travel. I've never tried this service when looking for a trip information as they just LOOK expensive.

This website is a subset of the Rakuten group (famous for their online shopping). I've used this service several times to reserve hotels and car rentals. They offer great hotel packages, though they're not always the cheapest. The prices listed on their English and Japanese websites are exactly the same, so you can search worry-free on their English website if you feel like your Japanese language skills might not be up to snuff. Check out their English website here: English RAKUTEN Travel

YAHOO Travel
Another seemingly dated yet efficient travel service in Japan is Yahoo Travel. Shota often uses this site to compare plane ticket and travel package prices. Occasionally, they have extremely reasonable packages, however, their prices often do not include additional fees like the surcharge or oil fee (this can change the price of a ticket by a few hundred USD). This service is only offered in Japanese.

English-language Services
These services are provided in English and specialize in tours in Japan as well as other parts of Asia.

This travel website connects you with sightseeing destinations and locals throughout Asia. I've used their service in Japan and was pretty satisfied with the transaction and the activities they had offered. The website can be used in several languages as well, so you can (hopefully) comfortably search in your own native language.

I've also put together a YouTube video for those interested! The information presented it more or less the same!

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