Last October 2015, my friends & I went for a 9-day x ₱40,000 (each) journey around 3 key Japan cities. We enjoyed our first 5 days in the very busy Tokyo, literally walked around the ancient capital Kyoto & sort-of relaxed in the hippie city of Osaka. Towards the end of the trip, I kept on telling my friends that I will go back to the country really soon.
It didn’t take long until the next Japan trip happened. 3 months ago, I went on a 13-day solo Japan trip around 7 cities. I met 2 friends along the way, but I was on my own most of the time. It was a life-changing experience! I want to do it again.
Deer selfie at Nara Park
In 2015, I only spent ₱40,000 for the whole 9 days in Japan. For the 2016 trip, I challenged myself to try to fit in ₱50,000 (all in!) for the whole 13 days in. That’s additional 5 days & 4 nights, but only an additional ₱10,000 from the last budget. I may not have someone to share the cost of getting a pocket Wi-Fi, but not buying tickets for theme parks like DisneySea & Universal Studios Japan helped stretch the budget for a few more days.
The Japanese Yen (¥) to Philippine Peso (₱) exchanged rate changed from ₱0.39 in 2015 to ₱0.45 last year. This change in the currency rate affected the budgeting a lot; but it was all good. I was able to fit in ₱50,000 for the whole 13 days (including tickets); I even managed to hoard some chocolates & treats for my family & friends back home.
Hiroshima’s Shukkeien Garden
Let me elaborate below how I conquered the challenge. The discussion will be divided into 6 parts – Plane ticket, Bus pass, Route / itinerary, Accommodation, Pocket Wi-Fi & Everyday expenses.
It was late January 2016 when I came across a Cebu Pacific Air seat sale to all their destinations. I randomly checked possible dates of a Japan trip; I found a round-trip ticket for November for less than ₱5,000 (fare only). With no hesitations, I booked the said Manila-Nagoya-Fukuoka-Manila ticket. The trip was 13 days long; it includes 2 weekends & 1 Philippine holiday. What made me more excited is that my trip coincides with the peak of autumn in most places in Japan.
Round-trip Japan ticket for less than ₱6,000 was definitely a bargain!
I added baggage to my ticket a few days before my departure to & from Japan. Overall, I paid ₱5,907.87 for my round-trip ticket. A normal ticket Japan would cost around ₱15,000; so getting a ticket at this price is such a bargain.
Note that a Philippine passport holder is required to pay a travel tax worth ₱1,620 before leaving the country.
The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines does not accept personal visa applications. All applications should go through their accredited travel agencies. I submitted my requirements to Reli Tours & Travel Agency in Dusit Thani Hotel, Makati City. Visa handling fee costs ₱950.
It only took 3 working days before I got my passport back. The Embassy of Japan in the Philippines granted me a 5-year multiple entry visa valid until October 2021. Good stuff.
Willer Express Japan Buss Pass
The bus pass allows you to book up to 3 rides per day for 3, 5 or 7 days days at a certain amount. I took advantage of this promotion & got myself the ¥10,000 3-day bus pass which can be redeemed Mondays to Thursdays. I took 3 overnight rides & 1 night ride using the bus pass. It saved me around ¥8,000 & 3 nights of hostel accommodation.
Kobe’s iconic tower
If you think about it, 13 days is quite a long trip; so I told myself I must visit as many cities / places as I can.
Note: I will not talk about where I went in these cities; watch out for the 4 separate entries about these 7 cities.
I flew in to Nagoya & stayed there for 3 days & 2 nights. People normally skip this city because they believe there isn’t much to see. To be fair, they actually have scenic temples, parks & gardens. On the 3rd night, I took a 3-hour bus to Osaka, then another 6-hour overnight bus to Hiroshima.
European vibe in the middle of Nagoya – inside Noritake Garden
Genbaku Dōmu / Atomic Bomb Dome – UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hiroshima
The following morning, I met with my friend Michiko at the Hiroshima JR Station. We spent 2 days & 1 night in Hiroshima Prefecture; we visited Miyajima Island, then walked around the historical city & ate the best okonomiyaki in the area. On the 5th night, I took a 7-hour overnight bus to Kyoto.
With my friend Michiko before in Hiroshima
Upon arrival in Kyoto, I went to the hostel & waited for my friend Rona. We went around Kyoto for 1.5 days; we’ve been to the bamboo forest, plus temples & shrines. We also went to Gion to hunt for some geisha. We also met some cool people (Japanese, Dutch & some Filipinos based in Australia) at the hostel bar & enjoyed a night of drinking & sharing stories.
With Rona in a local ramen restaurant before she left for Tokyo
After another morning of temples & gardens, Rona & I boarded the 30-minute local train to Osaka. Rona stayed for a night (before she left for Tokyo) while I stayed for 3 nights. I went to some new places in the city – those I missed when I was there in 2015. I also met some amazing locals in Osaka plus a few tourists from Malaysia, South Korea & Germany. I also took day trips to Nara (with Rona) & Kobe (all by myself) which were both 1-hour local train rides from Osaka.
A beautiful sunny day in Nara Park
Dōtonbori – Osaka’s busiest place at night
On the 10th night, I took a 9-hour overnight bus all the way to the port city of Fukuoka. My final 3 days & 2 nights were spent here. Some parks & temples basically made up my last days in Japan. There were also awesome nights of drinking & walking around with some new friends from Singapore, Argentina, France & the US.
Ōhori Park – a place of scenic beauty in Fukuoka
I made a good choice of staying 2-3 days per city; I was able to visit most of what each city has to offer.
I’ve mentioned in my How I enjoyed a 9-day Japan trip for less than ₱40,000 all in blog post that Japan has one of the most expensive accommodation rates in Asia. To save some money, I decided to stay in hostels. Daily rate per bed in a dormitory room costs around ¥2,700 – ¥3,200. Each bed includes free Wi-Fi, a bed sheet, a pillow, a universal plug & a reading light. Also, these beds have curtains around so you still have your own privacy.
My dormitory bed in Osaka Hana Hostel
Hostels in Japan are generally clean & quiet. Dormitory rooms have common & clean shower areas & toilet. Hostels also provide free shampoo & soap. All properties have common lounge areas & kitchen facilities where you can meet fellow travelers.
Backpacker K’s House Kyoto Communal Lounge & Dining Area
I’ve stayed in 5 different hostels for 9 nights (3 nights were spent in overnight bus rides). The Hana Hostels / J Hoppers Group gives a ¥300 yen discount for every 3rd night stay in their hostels. I was able to get 2 x ¥300 yen discounts. I’ve provided a table for a summary of my accommodation costs:
The average daily rate would cost around ₱1,320 per hostel bed. It is a bit expensive if you compare it to the hostel rates in other Asian cities, but they are pretty affordable & reasonable in Japan. Also, all the hostels I stayed there are near subway stations & have excellent reviews online.
Given I will be on my own most of the time, I got myself a pocket Wi-Fi to help me navigate around each city / place. It also helped me check on the train schedules to different places.
I got my 3G pocket Wi-Fi from Japan Wireless for ₱3,268.15 for 12 full days. The package was delivered directly to my 1st hostel in Nagoya. The package included an extra battery bank, a pouch, charger & an envelope (to be used when sending the package back). I returned on my last day by dropping it in the nearest post box (can be dropped anywhere in Japan). I recommend getting a pocket Wi-Fi every time you go to Japan to prevent from getting lost.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest – a must-see place in Kyoto
Just like the 2015 Japan trip, I gave myself a daily budget to cover all meals, transportation costs, entrance fees & beers (lol). I raised the daily budget to ¥3,500 per day (higher by ¥500 from the last year’s daily budget) because I was on my own & I don’t have anyone to share my meals & expenses with. There were also times where I splurged on food, like when I ate at Ichiran Ramen twice! Their ramen was soooo good I had to go back. I also had a kobe beef lunch set in Kobe which was also gooood!
Ichiran ramen was sooooo good! Too bad we don’t have one here in Manila
Kobe Beef’s melts-in-your-mouth goodness!
Instead of getting daily breakfast from 7-Eleven or Family Mart, I drop by the supermarket before going home at night to buy my own bento meal. Most supermarkets offer discounted food at night because they need to sell all cooked food before the stores close. I store these packed meals at the hostel fridge & just reheat them the following morning.
One of the many bento breakfasts I had
I also had some spare money from the daily budget which I used to buy some chocolates & treats for family & friends back home.
All expenses are in. Let’s have a look how much I spent all in for this 13-day trip. Note: Exchange rate during my trip: ¥1 = ₱0.45 (doesn’t include items paid via credit card -> pocket wi-fi & bus pass)
See? I made it! I survived a 13-day Japan trip around 7 cities for less than ₱50,000. It may not be as super affordable as travelling in Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City or Kuala Lumpur; but Japan offers a different kind of experience you wouldn’t want to miss.
I know I’ve said it in my previous Japan blog, but I will say it again here. Travelling to Japan isn’t that expensive as many people think. There will always be ways to make it really affordable. I’m telling you, next time you see a cheap round trip ticket to any city in Japan, go ahead & book it. It’s a trip you’ll never regret!
Watch out for the specific blog posts about the experiences I had in the 7 cities mentioned above. It will be posted here in the coming weeks. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or send me an email to email@example.com. You can also send me a message on Facebook, drop a comment on Instagram or send me a tweet on Twitter.
Autumn colors in Meijō Park, Nagoya 😍
PS. All photos above were shot using my HTC Re.