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The Cheapskate’s Guide to Japanese Travel


When travelling in Japan as a tourist, getting around is easy. The rail pass makes travel a breeze and the tourist tracks are clear and well-travelled. However, it is once you become a resident that you realize that travelling within Japan is a lot more convoluted and expensive that it originally seemed, especially if you want to travel to some of the more unusual spots. Many times we have looked at the google routes offered and shuddered at the price tag. So below I list several sure fire ways to save yourself time and money while ticking off your bucket list here in Japan.


Number 1 – Car

If you are a lucky JET that already has a car then congratulations! All those hard to reach places are now that much simpler to get to. Woohoo! For those of us with an international driver’s licenses but no car, consider hiring one for your more cross country adventures from companies like Toyota-Rent-A-Car (www.rent.toyota.co.jp) or Times Car Rental (www.timescar-rental.com)). Both companies have multiple offices all across the country and even in remote areas. On top of that, the cost can be for as little as 7000 yen for 24 hours, so depending on the size of your travel group and the length of the journey you intend to make, you can save quite a lot of money. Alternatively, you can also do what I did and make friends with someone who has a car and volunteer as navigator whenever they have a journey in mind.


FromTennen-GasviaWikimediaCommonsNumber 2 – Bus

The bus on both day and night time routes is a popular option for many travel-hungry JETs. Depending on the day and time of travel, tickets generally range from 3000 to 10,000 yen for most journeys so there is a lot of saving to be done. Companies like Shinki Bus (www.shinkibus.com Japanese only) and Willer Express (www.willerexpress.com/en/) are regular favorites with a wide selection of routes and prices. A word of warning though: these buses are not made for light sleepers or the vertically unchallenged. Many a time, I have found myself cramped, uncomfortable and wide awake as a salary man snores loudly and blissfully beside me. The bus is by far the cheapest way for an individual to travel in Japan.


Number 3 – Slow Shinkansen

Of course we all know about the zippy, sleek and stylish shinkansen that frequent the station, but did you know that there are several “local” shinkansen services, for example the Kodama line (www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/en/) between Osaka and Tokyo? The journey takes about four hours compared to the usual two and a half but costs only around 10,000 yen compared to the usual 15,000 of the regular shinkansen. Tickets can be booked either at the counter by asking specifically or through a JTB travel agent, who will also throw in a drink voucher to use when you travel. So if you have time to spare and want to take a scenic route, the slower shinkansen are a way to go.


Number 4- Cheap ticket offices

Many a station and side street has one of these stores. Often barely bigger than a lotto ticket booth and remarkably similar in design, these stores are worth their weight in gold. Generally, they are open similar hours to regular stores and offer a wide selection of locations and journeys. Look for the tell-tale green of the JR ticket behind the glass to find one. Often they can save you anywhere between 10% to 50% off regular ticket prices, for example a round trip from Himeji to Osaka may usually cost around 5000 yen, but with a cheap ticket purchased before hand, it can drop to as low as 2500. Usual price for a ticket between Shin-Osaka and Tokyo is about 15,000, but drops down to 13,500 and can be swapped for reserved seats on any shinkansen line at the ticket office in the station. Not bad overall.


No matter what your travel plans are, be sure to shop around before you make the final booking. I hope this all helps, and have fun on your next big adventure!


Rackle Beaman

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