A few years ago, when we were choosing which countries to visit on our round-the-world trip, we decided against visiting Japan. We were sure that it would be over our modest budget. However, our friend, Stephen, was so enthusiastic about Japan, we decided just MAYBE we could travel simply in Japan.
Would it be possible? We booked AirBnB apartments in Tokyo and Kyoto for much less than hotels would have cost and allowed us the use of kitchens and washer-dryers. Transportation costs were negligible because we walk almost everywhere. Food had been our biggest surprise. Modest Japanese-style meals cost less than we paid for equivalent meals in Washington, DC. Sightseeing? We spent very little.
We were surprised that our visit to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace was free and even more surprised that The National Museum of Modern Art was free (for seniors). Another free activity should not be discounted, rambling the streets; we saw so much by just walking down the streets every day.
We walked up to the main road on our first morning in Tokyo ready to eat. A window display of appealing noodle dishes looked just right so we entered a very small restaurant. Vending machines greeted us at the door. We recalled reading a blog and knew just what to do. We searched the photos of dishes, found which we wanted, dropped coins into the machine, pushed the button for our selection, and out popped a receipt.
We repeated that sequence for another dish. Then we took the receipts to the counterman – also the cook. He asked, “Soba or Udon?” We said one of each. He nodded approval. A few minutes later, our meal was ready. Total cost for 2 of us: 8,000 yen (about $8 US).
Of course, you could spend more money to see interesting things, but we’ve had a fine time and haven’t sacrificed at all to stay within our budget. We’re glad that our assumptions proved to be wrong and that Japan can be affordable for the simple traveler.