@Namba Parks, Osaka where else can you get sexy horsemen in the sale?

The travel misconception that bugs me the most is the fact that people, notably backpackers who focus on the very very cheap countries, think that Japan as a travel destination is absolutely unattainable because it's so crazy expensive.

This is based on three basic misconceptions:
  
1) Japan's bubble economy

There was a time when Japan was insanely expensive. That was from the early 80s to the early 90s, ergo more than 20 years ago, when the economy there boomed. Since the recession in 1992/93, it hasn't really recovered, which means there has barely been any price inflation since then. Surely, as Asia's most developed country, Japan is more expensive than other places in Asia (except for Singapore and Hong Kong, which are equally developed). It doesn't have Thailand prices, but that's also because there are no beach huts or toilets from 1930 or thousands of street food carts. Even the cheapest of the cheap in Japan will be above the standard you are used to if you're coming from a rich western country.


2) Japan isn't just Tokyo and Kyoto

Tokyo is the capital, and IS crazy expensive. A day ticket for the subway costs $30, and you can't even ride all lines with that! Insane. Kyoto looks cheaper at the first sight, but eating out doesn't come cheap here, and all the 'important' temples charge entry fees of around $15-20 - although there are more than 1,000 temples and shrines in and around Kyoto and a millions all over Japan, and 98% of them are free. Now, most people who go on a trip to Japan fly into Tokyo and take the bullet train to Kyoto and back. Then, they come back and complain how crazy expensive everything is. Price-wise, this is like going on a backpacking trip to Europe and only visiting London and Stockholm, and flying British Airways inbetween the both.

3) Japan Rail Pass & The Shinkansen Bullet Train 

The stupid Shinkansen. Yes, all the travel agencies and everybody and their mum online will tell you that Japan Rail Pass is the way to go. Japan Rail Pass only pays off if you want to see the entire length of Japan in less than 2 weeks, otherwise it's a massive ripoff. Sure, riding the Shinkansen Bullet Train is amazing experience and very fast, but Japan isn't all that big (it's got about the same land mass as Germany) and local trains and other modes of transport will get you anywhere in double the time but for half or even a third of the price. In fact, there are many worthwile places that the Shinkansen doesn't go to yet.

Sure, it always depends what you are into, but as as a solo traveller who loves culture and food above all, Japan has proven to be one of the cheapest destinations anywhere outside Asia. A daily budget of around $40 is perfectly fine, and it's possible do travel much cheaper. Unless elsewhere in Asia, foreigners pay exactly the same prices Japanese people do, and many of the great things - parks, hiking trails, museums, festivals - are free! There's nothing you need to sacrifice for travelling cheaply in Japan.

Overall, travel in Japan can easily be around the same price range as South America or the cheaper countries of Europe - Portugal, Poland, Hungary etc. are about as 'expensive' as Japan. I've found Chile, Argentina, Vietnam, Morocco and many other destinations that might seem 'cheap' to be more expensive than Japan.

Have you been to Japan? Did it eat up your travel budget or did you find ways to make it an affordable trip?

dinner in towntown Tokyo - 'one person' serving that filled up two starving travelers for $8, including free drinks and j-pop!


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