Tag Archives: Kyoto

Life in Japan: Japan on a Budget

Japan has a reputation for being expensive. But in recent years, it’s not really that expensive. It’s about as expensive as Canada, USA, Australia, or any place in Europe.  This week’s question comes from Trisha Ann.

I’m planning to visit Japan in October. My trip takes 6 days and I’m on a tight budget (but I won’t leave Jp without ever going to Harry Potter world and Kyoto!!). Any tips?

I’ve already written about visiting Kyoto, so I’ll talk about visiting Japan on a budget.

It may seem daunting to some people, considering all the touristy areas tend to be expensive.  But there are many ways to save money, especially related to food and transportation.

Going to big restaurants in the busy, tourist areas is not recommended.  Those restaurants tend to be geared toward tourists, anyway, so they raise the prices.  If you want cheap, go on some of the back streets where tourists usually don’t go. You can find a large number of small restaurants that are actually quite cheap. Just be aware that they may not speak any English or have an English menu. If they have a display case of plastic food, that’s great to point out what you want.  If you really want to save money, you can always go to a supermarket and get food there.  It depends on if you’re able to cook or not (probably not). But they have already prepared meals in supermarkets and convenience stores which are much cheaper than restaurants. Convenience stores and supermarkets both often have microwaves and tables for you to eat at.

Transportation is fairly simple. Avoid taxis. They’re expensive. If possible, try taking the train as much as you can, or even just walking.  If available, you could get a weekly pass for the train. Kyoto is fairly walkable, so you could easily walk from one place to another. One of the good things about walking is that you get to see the real Japan, going through residential neighbourhoods. The central part of the city is based on a grid, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get around. Be careful about rickshaw rides. They could get pricey, but I don’t know what they’re like in Kyoto. As for Osaka, it’s a bit more difficult to get around because of the street layout. But the trains, like Kyoto, should be very useful, especially if you have a pass.

I hope that helps. Enjoy your trip to Japan.

If you have any questions about living in Japan, please see the original post and leave your questions in the comments.


Life in Japan: Touring in Kyoto

In honour of my tenth anniversary of living in Japan, I am starting a series where I answer questions about Japan.  I previously asked for questions and got several, and I’ll do them every week, once a week.  I’ll be answering them in the order that I received them.  So, here is our first question.

K E Garland had this question:

We’ll be visiting Japan in June. One of our trips is to Kyoto. Do you think a guided tour is best or looking around on our own?

Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.
Kinkakuji, the Golden Pavilion. Source: Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

Thanks for the question. Despite living in Japan for ten years, I haven’t actually had the opportunity to visit Kyoto.  I will visit eventually on subsequent trips back to Japan, but probably not during my last year in Japan.  However, the question is a good one, and is applicable to almost anywhere in Japan.

Kyoto is a large city, but from what I’ve heard, Kyoto is a very walkable city with a subway system that isn’t very complex.  You could easily get around with a good map (or GPS) and the use of the subway.  Kyoto is unusual in Japan because the road network is built in a grid pattern.  Most cities aren’t built this way, but when it was planned and built over 1200 years ago, it was modeled after the Chinese city of Changan. The central part of the city is grid-like, but outer parts of the city aren’t.  However, it’s easy to get around on your own.

Guided tours can be very useful, as well.  They’ll get you to the major tourist spots, you’ll have English information about the sites, and you’re unlikely to miss the famous spots.  However, you’d be getting the touristy side of Kyoto, rather than the real Kyoto.  Sometimes it’s worth walking through the side streets and discovering little shops and restaurants, old buildings that aren’t on the tour, and a chance to get away from the crowds.  Guided tours are likely to be done on a bus, so you won’t get as much of a chance to see things from the street level.  However, I’m sure there are walking tours, as well.

Either way, you’ll get to see the major sites.  If you’re good with maps, going on your own is fine, and likely cheaper. You can also do a bit more shopping, quite possibly.  Taking a tour is easier, and you won’t get lost.  You’ll also have the benefit of expert information from the tour guide.

I would like to add that licensed tour guides are walking encyclopedias of Japan.  They go through rigorous testing to become qualified, and must pass very difficult tests related to history and tourism, as well as English.  Japan takes its tour guides seriously.

I hope this helps you in your decision. I don’t want to make the choice for you, but this should help you choose what’s best for you.

If you have any questions you’d like to see me answer, please go to this post and leave your questions in the comments.