As soon as our contracts as English teachers ended, Jeff and I jetted off on a three-week tour of southern Japan. We spent a week in paradise, a day in hell, and got to see the chaos of Japan’s biggest festival–Tokushima’s Awa Odori. To the chagrin of our mothers, we also tried our hand at hitch hiking for the first time, but more on that in just a bit.
Three Weeks of Travel in Southern Japan Cost Us HOW MUCH?
I’ll start by presenting a total for each category, then add it all up at the end to get a grand total. Then I’ll divide the grand total by the number of days we spent traveling to get a daily average.
All totals are per person. For the sake of simplicity, monetary exchange valuations are calculated using today’s (August 17 , 2014) rates, as provided by Google.
- US$303.90 for plane tickets and two car rentals
- ¥16,059(US$156.90) for night buses, local trains and buses, and one car rental because their reader couldn’t read my card
An Interlude About the Magic of Hitch Hiking
Typhoon Halong hit Japan just as we were getting ready to take the ferry from Beppu to Yawatahama. Our plans were delayed two days and we were unable to re-rent a car to drive to Tokushima like we had originally planned. It had been our intention from the beginning stages of this trip to hitch hike our way back up from Tokushima to Yamagata, so we decided to try our hand a bit early and see if we couldn’t hitch from Yawatahama to Tokushima.
Living here for several years had already given us plenty of evidence for the kindness of strangers in this country, but hitch hiking brought that awareness to a whole new level. People who couldn’t give us rides offered words of encouragement instead. People who did give us rides went out of their way to make sure they dropped us off at a place where we would have a good chance of getting picked up again; in the case of arriving in Tokushima, our driver actually dropped us off right in front of where we were staying, even though it was out of his way. Our last leg from Niigata back to Tsuruoka looked hopeless until a kind woman stopped to get us at 11:30 at night. Time and again we were the beneficiaries of the kind of generosity and compassion that you wouldn’t believe if it didn’t happen to you.
Here are some quick cold stats Jeff whipped up about our experience:
- Total Distance: 249 km (154 miles)
- No. of rides: 3
- Longest wait: 20 minutes
- Shortest wait: <10 minutes
- Longest ride: Iyonada Service Area to Tokushima, 195 km (121 miles)
- Total distance: 879 km (546 miles)
- No. of rides: 3 (yes, just 3)
- Longest wait: 1.5 hours (at 10 pm at a tiny rest stop in Kurosaki, Niigata)
- Shortest wait: ~10 minutes
- Longest ride: Taga Service Area to Kurosaki Parking Area, Niigata, 484 km (300 miles)
- No. of sports drinks received as moral support: 1
- No. of dinners bought for us, despite our protests: 1
I estimate that we saved at the very least two days worth of travel time and around ¥12,545 (US$122.58) each: that includes about ¥1280 ($12.51) for the train to get us from Yawatahama to Matsuyama, ¥5340 ($52.18) each for the rental car from Matsuyama we ended up not getting, and ¥5925 ($57.89) for our back-up plan of the all-you-can-ride on local trains Seishun 18 ticket that, while cheap, would have taken us the better part of two days from Tokushima to Tsuruoka and would have required us spending more money on a place to stay for one night.
More than that though, we met a ton of amazing people we never would have had the chance to meet otherwise. Several of our drivers are now friends with us on Facebook, and we might even go visit them the next time we come back to Japan.
Since Japan is an unusually safe country, hitch hiking here (especially in pairs) is not nearly as dangerous as it can be in other places. That said, if you are thinking about hitch hiking here, or anywhere else, remember to always exercise caution.
- US$231.45 for online hotel reservations
- ¥14,703 (US$143.65) for in-person payments
Total: US$375.10 each
Since we procrastinated on arranging Couchsurfing hosts (and also since we were traveling during summer vacation), we ended up spending a lot more on accommodation than we originally planned. The typhoon also cost us two extra nights in our hostel in Beppu, since otherwise we would have been staying with a friend in Kagawa Prefecture on our way to Tokushima.
- Jeff spent ¥38669 (US$377.81)
- I spent ¥33823 (US$330.46)
Adventure and Sightseeing
- US$18.83 for Rurouni Kenshin movie tickets and admmission to Shuri Castle in Naha
- ¥7358 (US$71.89) on other attractions like the Jigoku Meguri (Hell Tour) in Beppu
Laundry, towels, sunscreen, onsen supplies, etc.
- Jeff spent ¥5884(US$57.49)
- I spent ¥4489(US$43.86)
- Jeff spent a total of US$1361.92
- I spent a total of US$1300.94
Our trip lasted from July 26 to August 14 for a total of 19 days, so we were just shy of three weeks. Jeff spent an average of US$71.68 a day, and I spent an average of US$68.47 a day. If we had been more on our game about getting Couchsurfing hosts set up from the beginning, we would have shaved a good chunk of money off of our bill, both by having free accommodation and by being in a situation where we could cook instead of eat out. Hitch hiking definitely helped us keep the costs down, saving us both time and money.
(top)What do you think about hitch hiking, in Japan or otherwise?