Tips for Backpacking Japan Economically
Trains are the most efficient way to travel around the country, but they can also be expensive. Read our blog post about Japan rail tickets for some tips, and otherwise, it’s often cheaper to just take a bus (hint: night buses between cities can save you 1 night’s accommodation!).
If you’re staying in the country for a while, it might be worth getting yourself a motorbike, or even scooter. Both are very cheap compared to many other countries (Japan is one of the largest bike/scooter manufacturers in the world!), and an incredibly enjoyable way to travel around. Budgeting around $1500 for a motorbike, or less than $500 for a scooter, and you should be able to get something very reliable. Keep in mind though, that scooters are not permitted to drive on highways, so getting from A to B will take longer (but will be a much more scenic journey – mountain roads throughout Japan are STUNNING!!) Goobike is one of the best sites/magazines to find great deals in.
As for keeping daily living costs to a minimum, such as food – supermarkets always have a great range of healthy, cheap “bento” lunchboxes which are nutritious, and satisfying, and there are also a wide range of very affordable restaurants, especially during lunch time, offering set menus for $5-10. If you like drinking, it’s legal to drink alcohol on the street and in public places, and convenience stores sell very cheap beer and other alcohol (not to mention great fried snacks for those late-night binges).
As for accommodation, there are a wide (and very entertaining!) number of options. You can of course stay in one of the many youth hostels around that are cheap, but also very nice. You could stay at a more traditional guest house (more expensive but an incredible cultural experience!), you could couchsurf, sleep in a capsule hotel (our favourite – there are usually accompanying mineral hot springs, cinema rooms, restaurants inside, etc… so much fun!), or an internet cafe (possibly the cheapest option, the lounge seats are big and reasonably comfortable, and the internet is super fast!).
If you’re keen to stay in one place for a while, it may be cheaper to explore other accommodation options, such as monthly rentals (easy to find in the local tourist guides / magazines), or you might like to stay on a farm doing WWOOFing, or even in a homestay (though these are few and far between). Our best suggestion, if you’re keen to really get to know a single place for a few months, is to spend a couple of months working in a resort! You’ll be living in dormitory-style accommodation with many other young Japanese and foreign co-workers, working hard but earning money for the next step of your journey, and most importantly, skiing for free or lazing on tropical beaches in your time off!
Working at a resort gives you an opportunity to do something not many people get to do. Not only is it a great way to learn Japanese, and experience Japanese work culture first-hand, it gives you time to learn about the best places to see, and the best things to do, from those who know best – the Japanese.
After working at a resort and experiencing the magic of some of the world’s best snow, or tropical beaches like those on postcards, you can put your backpack back on, and head out fully-equipped with language skills, Japanese friends all around the country, and priceless awesome memories!
So what are you waiting for? Combine your backpacking in Japan with an unforgettable experience working at a Japanese resort.