Is Japan expensive? Here’s a breakdown of everything I spent in 1 day

Jul 12, 2023

Japan is trendy right now

And it’s no wonder why– of all the countries that I’ve visited, Japan caught me off guard the most. I’ve fallen in love with what once seemed like a fishy (I’m not a eater), tacky, and unrelatably foreign place.

Not only can I confidently say that Japan has the BEST food of any country I’ve visited, but the incredibly polite people, clean and safe cities, colorful culture, natural spas, mountains, hot springs, and warm, lively izakaya (bar) culture have captured my heart. It’s hard to articulate the heartfelt feeling of home I’ve found in Japan.

But when I booked the trip, one constant refrain from people was, “Isn’t Japan expensive?”

So, with curiosity and a sense of adventure, I decided to try my own mythbusters-style experiment and document my daily expenses!

Spoiler alert: Japan is definitely not as expensive as the United States. Check it out!

What should my budget be for a trip to Japan? Here’s what I spent in 1 day!

Total spent in 1 day: $71.30 (equal to ¥9,954)

I didn’t approach my trip to Japan on a set budget or with budget travel in mind, so I would call myself a “medium” spender. I enjoy indulging in food, alcohol, and authentic activities when I travel!

I chose to track my spending on one of my days in Osaka, the “kitchen of Japan” and a median on the scale of expensive vs. inexpensive cities in Japan. Osaka is known for its vibrant street food culture, castles, and lively atmosphere— it was one of my favorite places!

Breakdown of spending

Accommodation: $25 or ¥3,510.48 (room was $50, split between 2 people)

  • Price per night for a comfortable, clean, modern, moderate hotel.

Transportation: $3.97 or ¥550

  • Using Osaka’s subway system and walking

Attractions: $12.11 or ¥1700

  • Explored Osaka Castle and park (free).

  • Visited a sento onsen, or a Japanese public spa with mineral hot springs, hot tubs, cold plunge, saunas, and steam rooms (¥800).

  • Played with the super fun gachapon, which are like little “vending machines” that sell Japan’s famous capsule toys and other small items (¥900).

  • Visited the vibrant Dōtonbori district to see the famous running man sign, waterways, bars, and shops. Mostly I simply enjoyed beers in lively atmosphere and sightseeing on foot (free other than ~1USD from the beers from a vending machine).

Food, coffee, and alcohol total: $27.62 or ¥3,856

Breakfast:

$1.85 or ¥260

  • Freshly ground iced coffee (¥140) and chocolate soft pastry (¥120).

Brunch (this was ELABORATE and we went back more than once!):

10.74 USD or 1500 yen (split between 2 people)

  • Fluffy Japanese souffle pancakes with passionfruit and peach chantilly cream and sorbet (1800)

  • Rice omelet, beef curry, salad, granola and yogurt, iced coffee (1200)

Dinner (one of the most expensive meals I had in Japan):

$15.03 or ¥2110.50

  • $1.42 or ¥200 for a gyoza appetizer

  • $9.12 or ¥1280 for a HUGE pork curry udon with a side of fried chicken side and rice

  • $4.49 or ¥630 for 1 large draft beer

Miscellaneous:

$2.60 or ¥365

  • $0.93 or ¥130 for 1 bottled water

  • $1.67 or ¥235 for 1 can of Asahi beer

How much to budget for a trip to Japan: Considerations

  • Value of the Japanese yen at the time of your visit

    • At the time of my visit (July 2023) the power of the US dollar (USD) was high, fluctuating between 140-144 Japanese yen to 1 USD. This is a great conversion rate for visitors to Japan from the US.

  • Activities

    • There are plenty of free castles, temples, walking tours, sake museums and tastings, and more in Japan, but I blew my budget on certain days more than others. For example, the day I spent in Kobe (home of the famous A5 Kobe Wagyu steak) I spent $227 on a luxury authentic A5 Kobe Wagyu steak 6 course meal, but the next day ate nothing but street food.

  • Accommodations

    • I chose moderate, clean, modern, minimalistic hotels with great bang for my buck.

  • Transportation

    • The subway trains in Japan are affordable, fast, and convenient. I also used the public buses (which are clean, comfortable, and air conditioned), high-speed bullet trains, and a cool overnight ferry.

    • Taxis are available most places, but they’re ridiculously expensive.

    • Some of the cities are more walkable than others, but in general I think the walkability in Japan is great compared to most places in the US.

Other things of note about budgeting for a Japan vacation:

  • Water is complimentary at restaurants, unlike most countries in Europe.

  • There is no tipping in Japan– they find it insulting to the pride they take in the work that they are paid to do.

  • Street food is everywhere and it’s delicious and cheap.

The bottom line is that the cost of traveling in Japan varies depending on personal preferences and choices. You can easily experience Japan on a budget much tighter than I kept mine, but certain attractions and dining experiences can get pricey. By opting for affordable accommodations, using public transportation, and enjoying a mix of street food and mid-range dining, you can keep your expenses lower than I did.

I know what you’re thinking: “This is great for you, but how can I afford to travel more?” I’ve been there!

It’s easier than you think to travel on a tight budget if you have the right tools. From scoring cheap flights to saving on hotels, snag my FREE guide with ALL the best budget travel tips and tricks! ✈️

Looking for more? Don’t miss the best-of-the-best travel blogs, travel hacks, and travel itineraries!

Are you new here? Let’s be friends! I’m Sarah— a solo female traveler (& world’s okayest travel blogger) helping you travel the world, discover surprising destinations, and have a laugh getting off the beaten path. Scroll to the bottom of this page to sign up to stay in touch (I promise not to spam you- just to share the best travel hacks, guides, itineraries, embarrassing stories, and unmissable experiences)!

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