The Cost of Three Months in Japan


Japan is our second home. It was hard to believe that we were in the middle of a trip around the world while we were there, since it felt so…normal to be back. It felt like a sort of break from traveling, a deep breath before the Europe plunge.

We stayed the maximum number of days US citizens can stay without a visa (90), and most of that time was spent catching up with friends. We did make a fair amount of new friends while we “lived” in Kyoto for a month and a half, and even traveled to Miyajima in Hiroshima for the first time!

But you must be wondering, how much did this extended trip “home” cost us?

Note: Most of our purchases were on the credit card, but some were made in cash. To get an accurate approximation of how much in USD we spent, I used the exchange rate that our cards gave us on the day on or nearest to the date that our cash purchase was made.

Tadaima Nippon!

March: US$1,441.42/23 days ≈ US$62.67/day

Transportation: US$575.97

Accommodation: US$0

Food: US$671.11

Adventure/sightseeing: US$50.95

Miscellaneous: US$143.40

Some numbers might look weird here to you. How did we spend NOTHING on accommodation this month, you ask? We stayed with our friends in Yamagata for the first month we were in Japan, and while we did pay them “rent,” we counted it towards our April spend. You might also be wondering how we only spent US$575 on transportation, which includes our flight from Cairns to Sendai. That, dear readers, is thanks to all our lovely credit card points getting us (basically) free flights to Japan! Actually, MOST of our transportation costs this month come from renting a car for a week while our friends were away on their long-overdue honeymoon (yes, they let us stay at their place while they were gone, and yes, they are pretty much the best people ever and we love them and we miss them every day).

April: US$1,800.02/30 days ≈ US$60/day

Transportation: US$131.17

Accommodation: US$467.35

Food: US$846.01

Adventure/sightseeing: US$109.89

Miscellaneous: US$245.60

April saw us bid adieu to Yamagata and make our way south to Tokyo, where we crashed with yet another wonderful, amazing, glorious friend for nearly the whole time we we were there. The few days we didn’t spend with him, we spent with a fantastic older couple we met through Couchsurfing. Pretty much every night we were there was a mini-party with various members of their family coming over to have dinner, drinks, and chat. We always enjoyed Tokyo before, but after the few weeks we spent really immersed in it, we really fell in love. That said, our hearts will forever belong to Kyoto, which was our next stop…

May-June: US$2,911.72/37 days ≈ US$78.70/day

Transportation: US$546.64

Accommodation: US$717.21

Food: US$1,256.27

Adventure/sightseeing: US$213.22

Miscellaneous: US$178.38

The highlight (for me, anyway) of our trip in Japan was finally getting to go to Universal Studios Japan and explore the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! Ever since I first heard about the construction planned for the Universal Studios in Orlando back in 2007 (holy rusted metal, Batman, was it really so long ago!?), I have been dying to go and see Hogwarts for myself. Now I finally have, and it was honestly one of the most magical days of my life. Anyone who knows me well knows that Harry Potter has played a huge role in my life since I first read Philosopher’s Stone at eight (again, holy rusted metal, Batman!), but I won’t get into that anymore here. I absolutely had to splurge and bought myself some Hufflepuff swag, since my poor house is THE most neglected in terms of marketing and merchandise.

Besides my childhood fantasies coming true, May and June were great because Jeff and I got to experience living in our favorite city in Japan: Kyoto. We met a ton of great people there and fell even harder for this gorgeous place. We did end up eating out a lot once we moved from our friend’s apartment (where we had been cat-sitting while she was away) to an AirBnB near Kinkakuji, but the food in Kyoto is amazing so we couldn’t help ourselves. This month we also took a short trip to Hiroshima, and since we were pressed for time we opted for the (much pricier) shinkansen instead of the (much cheaper) night bus, which pushed our transportation costs up a bit.

Grand Total for Japan: US$6,153.16/90 days ≈ US$68.37/day

Due to the kindness of our friends (and a few strangers), some great finds on AirBnB, and staying in one place for long stretches of time, Jeff and I managed to spend less than US$35 per person per day during our time in Japan! That’s a whopping US$25 less than our goal of $50 per day per person! We even splurged on round trip shinkansen tickets between Kyoto and Hiroshima, and spent an overpriced (but totally worth it!) day exploring Hogwarts at Universal Studios Japan. Even though we spent a majority of our time in two of Japan’s most expensive cities (Tokyo and Kyoto), we totally rocked our budget’s tabi socks off.

A rambling tangent: Jeff has been freelance translating since last fall, and I gulped down the Kool-Aid on (kind of) accident after a game translation jam in Tokyo. While we spent a fair amount of cash in Japan, we feel like the emotional recharge of catching up with friends, plus the benefits of the new connections we gained (professionally and personally) while we were there really deserve mention. There’s no way we could even begin to put a price on the value of these relationships, but in our minds, the “cost” of spending three months in Japan was nothing at all.

Grand Total So far: US$7,820.69 (New Zealand) + US$3,547.80 (Australia) + US$6,153.16 (Japan) = US$17,521.65

Divide that by 206 days of travel and that leaves us with an average of just over US$85 for both of us, or about US$42.50 per person per day. The rest of our time, however, is going to be spent in Europe, bouncing around from place to place, and all that bouncing is bound to shake a huge chunk of change out of our pockets. I just hope the slack Japan gained us will be enough to balance things out!

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