Japan is an expensive place to visit. My costs averaged $190/day. The biggest expense was transportation at $110/day. This included my flight from the USA, 7 day bullet train pass of $260 and internal trains and busses.
Hostels are about $20-25/night for dorms. Food is expensive with an average dinner cost of about $20. I offset eating out with food from the market to bring costs down. 7-Eleven is actually a popular place for purchasing meals in Japan. About 75% of the store is devoted to ready-to-eat meals or snacks and they have a microwave to heat them. They even sell sushi at 7-Eleven.
To help lower my costs here, I took advantage of a cash back deal from MasterCard. This dropped my overall costs for this trip to $147/day.
Yum! I love sushi, so I indulged a lot. Restaurants, markets and even 7-Eleven have good sushi. I used to say I could eat sushi every day, but I learned that I do have my limits. I started craving pizza or a burger by the end of my trip, but pushed through it, as it will be a while before I have good sushi again. The display below was the lowest cost sushi place I found. There was a long line to get in at every meal.
Even though there is very high concentration of people in the big cities here, everything seems very efficient, quiet and laid back. I found the people to be friendly and helpful. Surprisingly, they also have a high attention to detail. For example, I was sitting at the back of the plane when I arrived and by the time I got to the luggage conveyor, it had already stopped. I found my bag off to the side by a counter. As I walked up to it, the man behind the counter knew my name by which bag I walked up to! The waiters and waitresses also wait for you to make eye contact with them to place your order, keeping an eye on you for when you are ready, which is a very nice touch.
The train and subway are the most common forms of transportation and the train stations are massive. Kyoto station is 4 stories with over 30 exits, so it does get confusing. The signs are in both Japanese and English, but even so, it took me a while to learn where to look, as there are signs everywhere. There are also multiple tourist information counters to help you.
I bought a 7 day Bullet Train pass, which is actually cheaper for tourists than it is for locals. The website suggested ordering it in advance and they sent me a receipt and map/timetable via 2nd day mail. You still need to wait in line at the airport to get an official version, I am not sure why, but it does add a comfort level to talk to someone one-on-one. I think they now have locations to buy a tourist pass in Japan, but it is convenient to buy in advance. Once you have the official pass, you select which day to start activation, but once you do, the days are sequential days.
All the reading I did before I left suggested renting a pocket wifi pack, as free wifi was not common. I found that I really didn’t need it as I could access wifi at my hostels, many train and subway stations, shopping malls and museums, but it was convenient. It’s a small electronic unit about 3″ x 4″ x 1″ that provides a personal wifi spot to connect to. There are various brands available, but pricing looked similar. Mine was $7.25 a day for 3G. If you want the optional insurance, it’s $2/day more. You can reserve one in advance (advised during heavy tourist seasons) or pick one up at the airport. You can also have them delivered to your hotel and return it via mail or drop it off at a different airport. Unless you feel the need to have wifi all the time, I don’t recommend it.
Just about everything in Japan has been re-made “matcha” flavor, which is a type of green tea. There are Kit Kat bars, cookies, Hagen Dazs ice cream, soft serve ice cream, smoothies, cakes, scones, etc…you have to try it as the matcha flavor is excellent. I’m hooked.
I didn’t understand all the tourists shopping in Japan, so decided to research it. It turns out to be a great place to buy Japanese skin care products and makeup. The Asians really do work hard to maintain their beautiful skin. During my travels in the past 18 months, I learned that the Asian women often wear face masks while sleeping. And many products in Japan have a reputation for being very good, like SK-II, Shesheido, Obagi, Cle De Peau, and many more.
I usually don’t splurge on expensive skin care products, as I believe it’s more important what goes into your body (diet, exercise and sleep), but did decide to splurge, since they are so much more expensive in the USA. There are a ton of small cosmetic stores, all crammed with shoppers and almost as many clerks. This exercise requires patience as there are a lot of options and many people doing the same thing in very narrow aisles.
OK…this is weird, but the toilets are cool in Japan. We have these fancy Japanese toilets in some sushi restaurants in Phoenix, so I have tried them before, but it was interesting to find them in odd places like the subway (!) and inexpensive hostels. All kinds of options are available for remaining squeaky clean.
I really enjoyed modifying some of my photos from Japan with my Prisma app. Somehow they seem especially fitting for my photos from here.