Spring is a very popular time for tourists to come to Japan because of the appeal of the transcendent sakura or cherry blossoms. Contrary to the impression that traveling to Japan can cost you an arm and a leg, enjoying this peak season on a budget is highly possible if you know where to look for the cheapest treats.
Watch out for discounted fares. Your airfare can eat up almost half of your budget if you are not eager to find cheap flights. Compared to other destinations in Asia, Japan can be a little more expensive, but not that expensive to hinder you and not go at all. Thanks to all the low-cost carriers that are traveling to and from the Philippines, you can avail a cheaper airfare compared to those offered by major airlines. Flights by low-cost carriers are cheap enough for your budget, but if you want to save even more, better wait for seat sales that happen 3-6 months before your desired travel time. Sometimes they are difficult to get because they easily get sold out so it requires perseverance and patience to wait and book for these kinds of fares. Moreso, these carriers now also offer flights to other parts of Japan like Osaka, Fukuoka and Nagoya that can be a little cheaper than the direct flights to Tokyo. These sites can also offer you an interesting adventure that is very different from the highly urbanized Tokyo.
Book service apartments. With a growing number of people offering their own apartments or vacant rooms to tourists, you can now stay in an authentic Japanese residence like a local via websites like airbnb. Or if you are up for a greater adventure and if you don’t mind sleeping in a stranger’s uncomfortable couch for free, you can try couchsurfing and meet a new friend who can probably help you get around Japan too.
Eat at nice restaurants during lunch time. There are a lot of nice places that offer good food and relaxing ambience may it be in Tokyo or Osaka. However, the prices of dinner menus in these posh restaurants with good views Tower can skyrocket in the evening. But there’s a cheapo way to experience these places. Make a reservation during lunchtime where restaurants offer cheaper lunch menus, sometimes as much as half the price. You get to try the food, enjoy the view and even save up a little for the next good restaurant you see around town.
Avail special train passes. Transportation in Japan can be quite expensive but with a number of different train lines offering special passes, you can save a lot. There are passes that offer unlimited train rides or bus rides in a particular area for a day or more like the JR Rail Pass and the Kansai Wide Pass or a discounted round trip fare to a nearby destination like the Hakone Pass and the Nikko Pass.
Go to free sightseeing spots. You can go to these places without spending a penny for entrance fees. See the Tokyo skyline for free at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building or stroll around the moat of the Imperial Palace in Chidorigafuchi to see the lovely cherry blossoms dangling on both sides of the river with boats filled with lovers scattered all around the river.
Peak seasons like spring in Japan do not always equate to overpriced traveling costs. There’s always a way for the cheapo traveler to make ends meet! - Herlyn Alegre
*This article was originally published in our March 2016 issue.
(Photograph by Din Eugenio)