How I Spent 15 Days in Japan in just $50 per day

Disclaimer: this is not, in any way, a travel guide.

Japan has always be on top of my dream destinations list together with Maldives and South Africa. So imagine my excitement when I was able to make that dream come true! Everything was so surreal, and every day I still couldn’t believe that I am in Japan.

Don’t get me wrong. I have been to other countries, traveled even to the other side of the world. But Japan has always been a dream and I had such high expectations, which was why I wanted to be ready (whatever that means!).

After spending 2 months in Malaysian Borneo and Indonesia, and a week in Seoul and Busan, it was time to make my way to Japan. Not wanting to travel to Japan alone, I met up with a friend in Seoul, who traveled with me to South Korea, Japan, Myanmar, and Thailand, and came home together to the Philippines.

Anyway, Fukuoka was our entry point and we crossed the border from Busan to Fukuoka by ferry.

Since the visa granted to us only allowed us to stay in Japan for 15 days, we had to carefully plan our itinerary. Initially, we planned on going from South all the way to Tokyo, but decided against it and made Kyoto our last stop instead. We figured that we will be going back anyway so we might as well travel slow, and not rush anything.

We already expected that the cost of traveling in Japan will be higher than in Seoul, but we were actually surprised that it was quite reasonable.

Below you will find a simple guide of how and where we spent our days and nights in Japan and how much I actually spent. Please bear in mind that all these are subjective.

Number of nights I spent in each city:

  • 2 nights in Fukuoka

We didn’t know much about Fukuoka when we first arrived. Good thing, we have a friend, currently living in Fukuoka, who took time out of her busy schedule to take us around and took us to the best Ramen place in Japan. It was our first meal in Japan and we can still remember how good it tasted. Fyi, Hakata is known to be a Ramen city so we came to the right place!

Fukuoka is a small city and not frequented by tourists, which was something we liked. Out of all the cities we’ve visited, Fukuoka was our favorite.

Fukuoka Castle Ruins, Maizuru Park

 

Fukuoka Castle Ruins, Maizuru Park
  • 2 nights in Hiroshima

Hiroshima was high on our places to visit in Japan. It was impressive how the city managed to preserve the history and culture of this city. I don’t know if it was just me, but it felt kinda gloomy when walking around the Peace Memorial Park and Atomic Bomb Dome. Something truly worth visiting.

Hiroshima Castle
Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima
  • 1 night in Miyajima

Miyajima is a small island 10 minutes away from Hiroshima by ferry. A lot of people go here on a day trip to see the Floating Torii of Itsukushima Shrine. But we strongly recommend that you stay the night so you can see the Torii up close and personal when it’s low tide, and it’s also kind of enchanting during the night. Plus, not much tourists spend the night so you get to appreciate it more.

Miyajima: Floating Torii of Itsukushima Shrine during the day

 

Miyajima: Floating Torii of Itsukushima Shrine at night

Note: restaurants are overly priced so we suggest bringing food with you from Hiroshima or buying from 7-11. Or if you have the JR pass, you can ride the ferry back to Hiroshima to eat then go back to Miyajima again. With the JR pass, you have unlimited ferry rides.

  • 3 nights in Osaka

In my opinion, there’s nothing much to do in Osaka but go to Universal Studios, Dotonburi and Kuromon Ichiba Market. So safe to stay that 3 nights were too much for us, and also considering that we didn’t go to Universal Studios just because. Still, Osaka is a good city that you shouldn’t miss out on.

Kuromon Ichiba Market, Osaka

 

Osaka Castle
  • 1 day in Kobe

We were bored in  Osaka so we decided to take a day trip to Kobe and try the authentic Kobe beef. It did not disappoint. Kobe is just a small city so it didn’t take long to roam around.

  • 1 night in Nara

We highly recommend doing a day trip, or better yet, staying for a night in Nara. Next to Fukuoka, Nara was our favorite city. There’s so much history and culture in such tiny city. Beware as it’s also a tourist trap, but regardless, it’s definitely worth a visit.

Sarusawa Pond in Nara
  • 6 nights in Kyoto

We decided to spend 6 nights in Kyoto, why? Because it was that big that spending only a few days were not enough. The map alone has to be on 2 sides because there were too much to cover!

And since it was our last stop, we wanted to relax and take our time. We didn’t want to rush through the city and end up getting tired.

Kyoto is famous for its Fushimi Inari Shrine, or the shrine with a thousand (more like a million) Toriis, and the Golden Pavillion. After that, more temples and shrines to visit.

If you have limited time, spend more time in Kyoto and Nara, and a little less time in Osaka.

Fushimi Inari-taisha Shrine, Kyoto

If you are curious about what to do in each city, simply ask your AirBnB host or the reception at the hostel and they will gladly give you tips and recommendations. And a map of course! The maps they provide were really informative and helpful!

Hostel recommendations

If you’re looking for places to stay in Japan, here’s a list of hostels and AirBnB we stayed at. If you’re not a fan of hostels, know that hostels in Japan are highly recommended. You can expect these hostels to be always cleansafe and secure, with superb facilities, toiletries and towel are always provided, and the staff are very accommodating. These hostels are also strategically located. Meaning, close to subway or bus stations and walking distance to a lot of tourist attractions.

 

 

Now, as the title would suggest, here’s the breakdown of expenses:
Details Amount %
Accommodation $316.96 41%
Activity $21.16 3%
Food $263.80 34%
Miscellaneous $89.30 12%
Transportation $76.71 10%
TOTAL $767.94 $51.20
JR West pass (Shinkansen) $180.95
special
expenses
Ferry from Busan to Fukuoka $67.31
Flight to Yangon from Osaka $251.04
TOTAL $1,267.25

Note: figures stated above are only for one person. The total $767.94 was divided by 15 day to get $51.20.

As you can see, majority of my expenses fall on accommodation. We stayed at hostels and the average price was $23 per night per person.

Next would be food! Food is one of my main reasons for traveling. If I don’t have the money to spend on food, then I will not travel at all. I’d rather sacrifice my shopping money than restrict myself from spending on food. And because it’s Japan! If there’s any food that I can eat every day, Japanese food it is!

Third, miscellaneous expenses which account for laundry, baggage allowance, postcards I sent, and a bit of shopping for souvenirs.

Fourth, transportation. I didn’t spend much on transportation because we did a lot of walking. Japan is such a walkable city and with the cool spring weather, it was just perfect. Our legs are made for walking, stop being lazy.

And coming in last is the money I spent on activities, which mainly covered the entrance fees in shrines, temples and castles. There were tons of temples, pagodas, shrines and castles that will require you to pay upon entering. It’s up to you, though, if you will go inside each and every temple there is. In my case, I just chose the ones worth entering because experience taught me that these pagodas and temples look better on the outside.

Note: we didn’t go to Universal Studios, not really into it. If you want to save on USJ tickets, buy your ticket in advance via Klook.

Perhaps you’d notice that I didn’t include the money I spent on JR West pass, flight out of Japan, and ferry from Busan. That’s mainly because the costs you will incur on these will be completely different. Also, you might choose not to purchase a JR pass to save money (but I hope you will seriously reconsider).

Reasons why you should consider purchasing a JR pass:

We purchased the San’yo San’in JR West Pass good for 7 days, which allowed us to go from Fukuoka to Kyoto with a lot of stops in between. We cannot stress enough how convenient and practical the JR pass was. It was definitely worth the money we spent and here are the reasons why:

  • We took the Shinkansen to go to Hiroshima, then to Osaka. Those 2 trips alone were already worth the entire fee if purchased separately. Not to mention, it only took 1 hour and 2.5 hours respectively.
  • The JR West Pass can also be used when you’re going to Miyajima via ferry. Plus, you have unlimited rides.
  • It can also be used in all JR subway lines, which are operational in every city, and also allowed us to go to Nara.
  • We were also able to use the JR pass to ride the tourist bus in Hiroshima. Rides were also unlimited.
  • And if those are not enough, riding the Shinkansen is an experience you should have in your lifetime. Japan got it right with their bullet train and complex but highly effective railway stations.

The technique, however, in maximizing your JR pass is how you plot your itinerary. For instance, since our JR pass only had 7-day validity, we made sure that we spent those 7 days going around different cities. We started using our passes when we left Fukuoka and it expired when we reached Kyoto, our last stop. You see, it’s all about careful planning.

This JR pass is the main reason why we didn’t spend much on transportation. In essence, we actually saved more than we spent.

Of course, it wouldn’t make sense buying a JR pass if you’re only staying in one city. Also, you have to note that there are different passes available. To know more, read here. And to get discounted ticket prices, book yours through Klook.

15 days will never be enough to explore Japan as there’s always more to discover and more Japanese food to eat. Speaking of food, watch out for my next post where I will be listing down our top 10 eats in Japan! It’s going to be yummy for sure!

If you have any questions about Japan, feel free to reach out. I may not be an expert yet but I will try my best to answer your queries.

Sending you love from my side of the world. Thank you for stopping by!