This blog was inspired by my friend Nicole who will be traveling here during the time I am out to sea.
Japan wants tourists. The country may not want you to stay here longer than a month (98% of the population are native Japanese), but they would love for you to visit and spend some yen. The Japanese Tourism Board (JTB) is actually flying influential travel bloggers to the earthquake ravaged parts of the country so they can write about how great Japan is to visit. Without forcing you to visit an area devastated by natural disaster, I can tell you that Japan is a wonderful place to visit. What the JTB and to a lesser extent, the Japanese government, fail to realize is that Japan is too expensive of a place to visit.
Nearly 100% of my friends who recently have gone on round-the-world (RTW) trips or are currently on them have skipped Japan as part of their tours of Asia. When I ask them why, they all say the same thing, “Japan is too expensive. Cost to much to fly there.” I can do nothing but agree. I live here and if I want to fly out of the country, even to countries nearby like Thailand and Vietnam, I have to save an entire paycheck.
It costs over $1,000 USD to fly out of Tokyo to just about any where else in the world. A two-hour high speed round trip ticket from Yokohama to Kyoto will cost you about $250. Spending a day touring the sights of Tokyo by train would probably cost over $20. Simply getting in a taxi in Tokyo, you’ve already spent about $10 before the driver steps on the gas. Can I blame my friends for not traveling here when they can get more fun for their money in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and even Singapore and Hong Kong?
I have a reality check for the JTB. Until you, the airlines, JR train company and every restaurant in Japan realize that your high prices aren’t in line with the rest of the world’s financial situation, the travelers will stay away. But, there is hope JTB. I may not be an influential enough blogger but I do live here and I know enough from living here to let others know how they can survive Japan without breaking the bank.
Surviving Tokyo On the Cheap Part 1
For Part One I will focus on one of my favorite travel things to do- eating. Worldwide, people love Japanese cuisine. If you’ve traveled to or lived in Japan, no doubt you miss the local foods. For the uninitiated, Japan isn’t just sushi, miso and ramen though. We have a lot of great local food choices here that I didn’t know existed until I moved here. Now, I can’t imagine not having yakiniku, yakitori, Coco’s curry and shabu shabu.
When you get here friends, you’ll notice that the Japanese seem to eat out a lot. There are a lot of cafes, bakeries and restaurants here and you’ll see many of them filled. Eating out is great, I enjoy it, but it can be very expensive. If you’re a budget traveler, here are my tips to cheap but good eats in Tokyo.
Japan has convenient stores and they are similar to your convenient stores in the stores. Our 7-11′s are a little like the ones back in the states except they don’t get robbed every weekend and the bathrooms are a lot cleaner here. Another difference is the type of food you can get here.
Budget travelers will enjoy the selection of fresh food options throughout the store. For between 100 and 500 yen, you can have freshly made fried chicken, fries or salad. You can also get rice balls filled with salmon, chicken, vegetables or other things. The rice balls are quite filling, especially if you need to eat on the run.
Other options they have are instant ramen noodles and these delicious packaged sandwiches and bread.
When I lived in Costa Mesa, Calif., there was a Yoshinoya chain on the corner of Harbor Blvd. and Adams Ave., near the Orange Coast College campus. I knew the name was Japanese, but I had no idea that it was a Japanese chain restaurant from Japan until I moved here and saw them.
Yoshinoya is one of a few establishments where you can get very inexpensive (typically 240 to 500 yen depending on bowl size) beef/chicken bowls. My favorite to go to is Sukiya. They have chicken bowls there and I get down with the teriyaki chicken bowl. You’ll find these bowl places all over town and many stay open late into the evening.
Sushi Go Round
Sushi is expensive in the states and in Japan if you want to order your sushi, it can become expensive too. One great option to avoid high prices and get some great sushi is to eat at sushi go round restaurants. These places serve the sushi on a conveyor belt and you simply grab the colored plates as they… you guessed it… go around. Each colored plate represents a certain price. As your done with your plates, you simply stack them on top of another. Expect to pay between 140 and 320 yen per plate depending on where you go and the type of sushi you eat.
-in many alleys you will find people standing up next to smokey grills. They are eating yakitori- the Japanese version of satay. These sticks of grilled meat smell and taste incredible. Be fair warned, you may be eating a chicken heart and not realizing it unless you ask. These sticks of meat cost between 70 and 100 yen typically.
-Japanese curry is different than Indian, Thai and Jamaican curry. Coco’s curry house is a chain popular with foreigners and you can get a plate of curry here for less than 700 yen. They are very filling.
-The Japanese love bakeries and many of the bread making bakeries I’ve been to can rival Paris for the quality.
-Japan has some of the freshest, most filling fruit I’ve ever had. The tangerines and apples here are pleasing to the taste buds. Since you won’t find many traditional breakfast type places, I recommend that you go to a grocery store or fruit stand and pick up fresh vegetables for the week.
-Doner kabobs aren’t traditional Japanese food, but like in many other places, they have be come part of the international travel landscape. For about 500 yen, you can get a filling doner kebab at one of the many vendors throughout Tokyo.
These are my tips, as well as the tips shared by some of my friends who’ve been here. I think you will find things worthwile. With the money you do save, I suggest you at least treat yourself out to one night of good Japanese dining in Tokyo. Happy travels!
*if you know any other ways to eat cheap in Tokyo, please post them here. Also, please support my blog by “liking” this post and sharing it on Twitter and Facebook. Thank you.