Japan: How expensive is it really?


May 27th, 2010, 10:23 AM
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Japan: How expensive is it really?

As we plan for our early spring trip to Japan next year, I'm curious what others think as to the overall pricing in Japan.

I keep hearing horror stories from friends at social events who've been recently and say things like 'take your entire food budget for the 2 weeks you were in Bali and that's 2 days in Japan.'

I know it's expensive, but is it really that prohibitively expensive?

I expect hotels to be in the $300-400 range for Tokyo, but once we get outside of Tokyo, can we expect to pay that much at a decent ryokan/hotel?

I'm starting to get a bit concerned that this trip is going to break the bank.
filmwill is offline  
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May 27th, 2010, 10:48 AM
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Comparing Bali to Tokyo is the old apples to oranges thing.

You can get a King Room at the Hyatt in Tokyo where I stay for around $220.00 US per night for two people year round and very nice. Many, many, many cheaper options abound in Tokyo. Of course you can pay $500.00 to 650.00 per night at the Park Hyatt,Four Seasons, Peninsula or the Ritz but that is standard worldwide with these hotels.

Here is a listing of budgets in Japan that might help you get a better picture than the ones your friends are painting for you.


You don't have to break the bank with a trip to Japan especially with all the fodorites around here to help out, but you already know that.

Have you come up with a itinerary yet, just curious?

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May 27th, 2010, 10:58 AM
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I have stayed in Tokyo three times and paid $180 per night for both the Incontinental Tokyo Bay and the Park Hotel Tokyo. I paid $140 for the Villa Fontaine Mita.

We found Tokyo cheaper than Paris and Rome for quality food, and cheaper than NYC and Boston for drinks, if that helps.

A ryokan will set you back $100-250 per person but they often include kaiseki meals or outrageous buffets that would cost much more in a restaurant.

We find Japan cheaper than travelling in the USA and Europe.
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May 27th, 2010, 11:20 AM
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Actually one of the Four Seasons(there are two in Tokyo) is having a special where you pay $440.00 per night and get the third night free so you average out to $290.00 or thereabouts per night.
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May 27th, 2010, 11:44 AM
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Can't compare to Bali at all (yet!), but we paid about $120/night for the Shinagawa Price Hotel and 130/night for the Shinjuku Citadines this past Feb. Keep an eye on the hotel promotions, as the Shinagawa chain had multiple different promotions in the several months before our trip.

In Kyoto we stayed in a townhouse on homeaway.com that was about $130/night.

We didn't have any big dinners out and had a few meals at home while we were in the townhouse, so food wasn't a bank breaker.

Where money did fritter away was on transportation - this bus pass here, this subway there, etc. We had the JR 7 Day pass for the trip and got a day pass for one day in Kyoto, but the little trips outside of those added up for a family of 4.

I also found it really easy spend a pocket full of 100 Yen coins.... I miss the coffee vending machines!
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May 27th, 2010, 12:56 PM
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The Shinagawa Prince Hotel is currently offering free buffet breakfasts with our room booking (we booked for the first week in June). We found it came out cheaper than Hotel Pacific Tokyo (fka Le Meridian) next door which doesn't include breakfast.

There are very expensive restaurants as well as cheap, inexpensive diners, just like any other metropolis around the world.
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May 27th, 2010, 01:02 PM
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We're going to Tokyo and Kyoto in July. Prices vary by time of year, day of week, and also the restrictions on the reservation (eg, refund policy). There are also extra charges for a second person everywhere I've looked - up to almost 1/3 more, even without breakfast. Tax and fees are adding 15.5% to our lodging charges.

I've booked carefully as DH is tall - 6 ft 4 in. There are less expensive rooms everywhere we've booked but the beds are shorter. (They have bed sizes published at a lot of hotels.)

It is definitely turning out to be one of our more expensive trips. The dollar is bad vis-a-vis the yen, as well.

We are staying in very good hotels. Kyoto is going to average us just over $300/night, including tax and breakfast. (Blended rate of a special festival and holiday wkend and lower wk rate) We had very few choices in Kyoto due to it being a holiday and booking about 3 months in advance. I looked at several less expensive hotels and they were already booked. If you want choice, and are coming at a popular time, book early.

For Tokyo, I got a good rate our first night by pre-paying and accepting a non-refundable rate - again just over $300 for one night. I got a second hotel for the end of our trip that is not as conveniently located, but I love their website and the comments about them on tripadvisor - for just over $200/night(so friendly!).

Hope this helps. We do not normally stay in such expensive hotels. The ryokans I looked at cost more. This is our first trip to Japan. Next time, we may feel more at ease booking differently, and I will hopefully have enough lead time to book well in advance.
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May 27th, 2010, 01:13 PM
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Forgot to add, I found the rates lowest when I directly booked through the hotel. This is difficult for some of the non-international hotels, though. It was hard to navigate some of their websites. Some of the hotels are just huge, and you'd read somewhere to book in this or that tower or annex, or above a certain floor, and it took a lot of time to figure this out, going through webpage after page, and sometimes the info wasn't all there. A lot do provide bedsize in centimeters, and I had to convert to inches, plus measure our own beds, as I had no idea what we were used to.

I was telling DH, if we were going to Europe, I wouldn't be looking so hard at all the details, but I feel like we are going somewhere really different, and I want to have as many bases covered as possible before we walk into this land where communications could be a challenge. (Somehow, in Europe, it never is. Enough speak English, I can read all the signs, and I know a bit of a few other languages- enough to get by, plus body language is similar. Japan seems very exotic to me. I'm sure this trip will make it seem a lot easier and I am already thinking about planning future trips to Asia.)
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May 27th, 2010, 01:33 PM
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I'm from NYC and I really didn't find the food/restaurant prices in Tokyo to be outrageous at all. Plenty of small local places to eat ramen, sushi etc for very reasonable prices.

As for hotels, my one caveat would be to at least splurge for a hotel with a concierge. I am normally a DIY type traveller, and like figuring things out on my own. But in Tokyo it was very helpful to have a concierge print out a map of where to go and label/highlight it etc. Otherwise it would be next to impossible to find a precise street + building number on your own.
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May 27th, 2010, 02:09 PM
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One of the many things I love about Japan in general and Tokyo in particular is that you don't forsake cleanliness and neighborhood safety when you go from a $350/nite room to a $100/niter. Instead, the difference is in room size, room appointments, hotel facilities and staff, and toniness of neighborhood. I paid about $120 for the large room at the Sutton Place a few mos ago, and I'd challenge anyone to find a comparably nice room in a comparably decent neighborhood in NYC, Paris, London, or Venice. (OK, I might know some places in Paris in the 14th, but they wouldn't have the Toto and a good-size flat-screen tv.)

For food, an astounding amount of money can be paid for the presentation of food. The difference between a sushi dinner that will cost $250 at fancy sushi restaurant like Roku Roku (at the Hyatt in Roppongi) and the sushi dinner that will cost $35 at a modest place like on of the Sushi Zanmai shops is largely in the ambience of the dining room, the presentations, and the skill level of the sushi chef. The quality and freshness of the fish will be excellent in either place.
DonTopaz is offline  
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May 27th, 2010, 04:27 PM
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FW-thanbks for starting this thread. Japan is definitely on our radar, but we have price concerns as welll. It sounds like it is affordable, but one needs to pay careful attention to details.
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May 27th, 2010, 04:46 PM
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We have been to Japan three times now and are planning our fourth visit this fall. We find the cost the same or cheaper than traveling here in the US. We live in Northern CA. I can eat in Japan a lot cheaper than I can eating out here at home.

Please remember that when you book a ryokan at $200.00 per person that does include your lodgings plus a kaiseki dinner and breakfast that would cost you an arm and a leg if bought in a fancy restaurant. Also included in your price is the use of the hot springs and baths in which everything is supplied for you(ie soap,shampoos, towels, toothbrush,sleep wear). The baths in the $200.00 range of ryokan are like country clubs here in the States, believe me. All you need to bring to a ryokan is the clothes you are wearing and a change of underwear if you want. They supply the rest so all in all we find it a bargain to stay in a ryokan for all that is included in the price.

We have stayed at the Citadines in Tokyo and loved it at $180.00 per night.

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May 28th, 2010, 12:48 AM
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The other poster covered the hotels pretty well.

For restaurants, I felt there seems to be a tiered system not obvious to the visitors. There seem to be restaurants for those who pay for their own meals and the restaurants meant to impress others using expense accounts. The former are similar to the U.S.; cheap fast food, business decent meals, nice family out restaurants, and special occasion high end restaurants. I have stumbled into some in probably the expense account mostly category. The maitre d' usually indicated to me in very oblique ways that I did not belong there. I followed their lead and got a heck out of those places. One of my colleague told me he did not get the hint and had a miserable expensive experience.

The transportation is expensive. Take advantage of the savings provided by various regional passes. Additionally, the ticket offices don't always accept credit cards, so the cash was flying out of my wallet.
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May 28th, 2010, 01:39 AM
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For hotel, maximum you will pay is 300$ per night maximum, i paid that last for Royal Park exec floor with huge breakfest for 2 persons. Meal are cheaper than in NY ou Boston. Stay out of the tourist restaurant and it will be cheap and good. A must is a Japan Rail pass, cheap and efficient system.

Have a good trip
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May 28th, 2010, 08:27 AM
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An alternative to restaurants is to buy pre-prepared foods (or whole meals) in the foodhalls of department stores (generally the basement). The range of food was great and certainly cheaper than eating out all the time. I was like a kid in a lolly shop - I didn't know what to try next!

Make sure you always have some cash on hand as credit cards are less common than we are used to in the west.

Some prices of various food items from various outlets (Nov 2009):

Y210-Y245 - premade sandwiches from Lawsons
Y179 - 2 litre bottle of water
Y105-Y147 - bottled softdrink/soda (~500ml) from Lawsons
Y472 - 3 x yakatori chicken skewers from Takashimaya
Y150 - bagel from Bagel & Bagel
Y138 - Meiji chocolate bar
Y160 - ice cream from vending machine
Y290 - prawn/shrimp burger from McDonalds
Y120 - large flavoured rice cracker from street vendor
Y500 - 8 x 'octopus balls' from street vendor, Miyajima Island
Y735 - hot noodle, cabbage omlet type dish from food hall
Y346 - chicken meatballs from Daimaru foodhall
Y293 - small salad from Daimaru foodhall

The convenience stores also sell packs of plastic cutlery quite cheap and small (~100ml) bottles of soy sauce. I bought one to use in the hotel room on my foodhall dinners.

I mistakenly bought a bottle of Aquanus drink instead of water one day. It wasn't very nice and definitely not thirst quenching.

One tourist past time in Japan is specialty Kit Kat hunting. There are many different types, which can vary from region to region and also season to season. Avoid the 'carrot and apple' flavour - not nice. The 'Ginger Ale' flavour was surprisingly nice. It had a bit of a sherbie taste with a mild hint of ginger.

Also Pepsi put out a new flavour about once a year for a limited time. When I was there it was Azuki Bean flavour. It was different, but not awful. It didn't really taste like Pepsi, just some other flavoured soft drink.
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May 28th, 2010, 09:15 AM
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About 13-15% more expensive than when I went (yen is at 90; was at 103-106).

Load up breakfast foods at Vie de France -- less expensive and better than Au Bon Pain or similar US chains, found at most of the major train stations.

Oakwood residence hotels = less than $200/night.

Agree with Speckles re: department store basements -- there are some really good ones near the major train stations. KitKat hunting is a good pastime outside the US because of its unique manufacture: in the US, KitKats are made by Hershey's under license from Nestle; in the rest of the world, they are Nestle confections and Nestle tries to cater to local tastes (Hazelnut in Poland was excellent). That said, Japan has a wide range of them.
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May 28th, 2010, 11:26 AM
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In Tokyo, we stayed at a nice Toyoko Inn in Asakusa for about $100 a night double including taxes and a simple breakfast.

We booked accomodations too close to Cherry Blossom season to have a lot of selection, but we ended up in a very pleasant ryokan (Sawaya Honten) in Kyoto for 23,000 yen a night with private bath and breakfast.

At that price it obviously was not an upper end ryokan with meals served in your room (which we wouldn't want anyway), but it gave us a taste of the ryokan experience at any rate. Service was cheerful and efficient and the location was fine.

We only got the private bath because it didn't cost a lot more to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night and leave the room in case nature called. Just FYI--we also stayed in a couple of places on our trip that did not have private bathrooms, and we found them to be uniformly clean and not overrun with guests. In fact, we usually did not encounter other guests at all when using the facilities.
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May 28th, 2010, 02:44 PM
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Greg's post on the restaurant experience (being in the wrong one) reminded me of an experience I had checking out hotels in Tokyo. Just for grins, I priced out one of the new Tokyo hotels, the Shangri-La. They are up there with the Peninsula, and others you will read are five-star. Somewhere on their website (I think it was "Hotel Fax") they say that it is a business hotel and guests are expected to dress appropriately. I don't remember exactly how they put it, but it was clear that capris, tees and daypacks - typical tourist clothes, were NOT okay. I was quite taken aback by that. I x'ed out that entire category of luxury hotels when I read that. Actually, we got a great rate at the Strings Intercontinental for our first night (That's the hotel where I accepted a "no refund" rate - yikes! Plane better not be delayed!), so we'll be in one hotel that is pretty high up there. We're only breezing in fairly late in the evening and leaving in the morning, so I'm not too worried about what I'll be wearing in their public spaces. I hope it's not a snooty one, though.

I'll do a trip report when we get back and let you know if we got the look anywhere. We're staying at the Granvia in Kyoto, which isn't cheap but they are used to tourists so I can't imagine they are snooty. (crossing my fingers!)
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May 28th, 2010, 03:02 PM
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We're staying at the Hotel Niwa in Tokyo our last night. Check out its website, also tripadvisor comments. Sweet. It's a bit of a walk from the train station but I figure we'll be more comfortable getting around by the time we get there. Our rate there with tax is just over $200/night. We got the larger sized beds, again, due to DH's height, so there are less expensive options. (And no, I'm not fat like an orca - I'm actually trim. I just like orcas)
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May 28th, 2010, 04:31 PM
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I've stayed at several Shangri-La hotels and all have been welcoming to me as a leisure traveler. Could you be more specific about what you saw on the web site, Orcas?

The Strings is a much smaller hotel than the Shangri-La. During the week, you're more likely to see lots more people in businessman costumes than in tanks and backpacks, but I would expect the hotel staff to be equally accommodating and gracious to both.
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