Japan: Only As Expensive As You Make It

By Marc Pereira, ISA Student Services Advisor

Living in Japan can be a wonderful and exciting experience. However, it can also become an expensive experience for the frivolous traveler. With a reputation as one of the most expensive countries in the world, living in Japan can seem a little daunting at first glance. But don’t worry! There are plenty of ways to beat the pricey lifestyle that foreigners in the country have come to expect. The fiscally responsible traveler simply knows the lay of the land and has little tricks to save a couple yen here and there. With a little determination and practice, making your money stretch while abroad won’t even feel like “Life on a budget.”

First and foremost, it’s important to know that entertainment in Japan doesn’t always mean spending huge sums of cash. In fact, many of Tokyo’s most beautiful temples and shrines offer free admission. This offers students the unique opportunity to delve into Japanese culture and history by visiting traditional temples. Meiji Jingu, one of the most famous shrines in Tokyo, welcomes visitors to explore their grounds and enjoy over 170 acres of sprawling forest in the heart of the city. The lucky sightseer visiting on a Sunday will even have the chance to witness traditional Japanese weddings, complete with a ceremonial parade and beautiful bridal kimono. Within the heart of the Shrine lies the breathtaking iris garden that can be found in full bloom around late June and the Treasure House, which holds many imperial keepsakes. Each attraction can be visited for only a ¥500 admission fee.


Meiji Jingu – Free

Iris Garden – ¥500

Treasure House – ¥500


From Musashi University take the Oeda line toward Tochomae for Roppongi/Daimon at Shinekoda Station. Exit the train at Yoyogi Station and use the south exit, following the signs to Meiji Jingu (About 5 minutes walking).

Transportation: ¥220

Total trip time: 25 minutes

Many museums in Japan also offer free admission, so visitors may visit Japan’s history in a variety of ways. Students interested in marketing, commerce and business will enjoy the exhibits at Advertising Museum Tokyo. Here guests can see displays ranging from retro to contemporary advertising, all presented in an ultra-modern fashion which is sure to captivate guests. After exploring the museum, it is only a short 5-minute walk to visit Hamarikyu Gardens, a traditional landscape garden, where the seasons can be experienced in the quintessential Japanese fashion. February showcases delicate plum blossoms; autumn highlights the beautiful colors of the Japanese maple tree; and spring draws crowds to see the famous Sakura blossoms, all of which can be appreciated from the teahouse situated on a small island in a saltwater pond, where green tea and sweets can be enjoyed.


Museum Admission – Free

Hamarikyu Garden – ¥300

Green Tea and sweets – ¥500


From Musashi University take the Oeda line toward Kiyosumishirakawa for Roppongi/Daimon At Shinekoda Station. Exit at Shiodome Station and exit north for the museum or west for the gardens.

Transportation: ¥320

Total trip time: 35 minutes

Cost effective trips like these are abundant in Japan! Adventure waits around every corner, so here are some extra tips and tricks that will help save money while traveling Japan:

  • Japan is a cash-based society! Credit cards are becoming more and more popular, but cash still reigns supreme. Be sure to have at least a little money at all times so you don’t get stranded in the city.
  • ATMs do NOT always operate on a 24-hour schedule and some do not accept cards from the United States! Post office ATMs accept foreign cards, but have limited operating hours, while convenience stores generally have machines that are open 24 hours a day and most will accept foreign cards.
  • Invest in a nice coin purse. Coins are valuable in Japan, so keep track of them.
  • Avoid vending machines. They are everywhere, but stores are usually cheaper.
  • Pack your own food. Just because you’re traveling doesn’t mean fancy restaurants are your only option!
  • Get familiar with affordable places to eat. Sukiya, Matsuya and Yoshinoya sell tasty gyoza and donburi for great prices.
  • Buy a monthly rail/bus pass, it will save money on the daily commute. You’ll only be charged extra for traveling beyond your zone, and even then it will save you money.
  • Do your research. With just a little planning and effort a great day trip can cost less than 10 US Dollars.

Remember, while it is very easy to spend money in Japan, it is just as easy to save it. The helpful ISA staff is always ready to assist in any way possible, but be sure to pay attention to your finances while enjoying everything that this wonderful country has to offer. It’s sure to be the experience of a lifetime. And remember, Japan is only as expensive as you make it!

For additional information about Japan and things to do in the country, check out ISA Japan’s site or contact the ISA Japan Site Specialist.



Author: International Studies Abroad (ISA)

Since 1987, International Studies Abroad (ISA) has provided college students in the United States and Canada the opportunity to explore the world. ISA offers a wide variety of study abroad programs at accredited schools and universities in 73 program locations throughout the world.

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