Japan is one of the world’s best travel destinations. There are incomparable natural wonders like Mount Fuji and Yaku Shima Island; world-class cities like Tokyo and Osaka; UNESCO World Heritage sites like Himeji castle and Gingaku temple; and a mysterious culture that is sure to both confound you.
Unfortunately, most budget travelers don’t visit Japan because they figure it’s too expensive. What they, and perhaps you, don’t know is that a vacation in Japan can be quite affordable.
Avoid peak travel times. During holiday periods in Japan airfares and hotel rates increase dramatically, so avoid traveling during these periods if possible.There are three distinct holiday periods in Japan: (1) during New Year holidays — December 27 to January 4; (2) Golden Week holiday season — April 29 to May 5; and (3) Obon festival season — three days centered on August 15.
While you are in Japan, utilize public transportation. This will save you a lot of money. Consider buying a bus pass if you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing.
Trains. Railway networks are extensive, fast and efficient. Japan Railways (JR) connects all major cities nationwide while private railway companies operate in each region. Large cities also have their fair share of subways and monorails.
Buses. In big to mid-size cities in Japan, like Tokyo, Yokohama, Nagoya, and Osaka, buses function as a secondary means of public transportation, complementing the train and subway networks.
Hiroshima. Hiroshima Peace Park with its almost free museum (50 yen), Mazda Museum and climbing Misen and visiting Daishoin Temple on nearby Miyajima.
Kyoto. Fushimi Inari Shrine, the Imperial palaces and villas (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sento Palace, Katsura Villa, Shugakuin Villa), Nishiki Market, walking the Philosopher’s Path and exploring the historic districts around Gion and Kiyomizudera.
Nara. Yoshikien (foreigners only), Heijo Palace and strolling through Nara Park and Naramachi.
Tokyo. Tsukiji Market, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace and East Gardens, Sensoji Temple, observation deck of the Tokyo Government Office and people watching and window shopping in bustling Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, Akihabara and Ginza.
Yokohama. Kirin Beer Village and exploring Minato Mirai and Chinatown and the pleasant waterfront promenade in between, featuring Osanbashi Pier and Yamashita Park.