Some predictable advice on saving money while travelling in Japan:
- buy a japanrail pass before you go (sold only outside the country) - Japan virtually writhes with trains. Your pass will enable you to ride both the shinkansen as well as the slower, local trains. The pass is a great money- saver if you plan on covering a lot of ground. Japan is actually a surprisingly large country (4 main islands)
- do not travel there anytime during 'spring blossom season', or during the summer, or christmas for that matter, if you can avoid it. Fall is an excellent time to visit the country. I was there in November and in Sapporo the trees were ablaze with red, purple and gold colours but it was comfortably warm. In Nagasaki, however, it was hot and I was picking oranges from trees.
- stay in hostels (warning: hostels in Japan- especially in the cities- can be EXTREMELY difficult to locate. Tokyo especially. If not for the citizenry and/or Koban (police) I would never have found some of them. It helps to do some 'hunting' online beforehand before tackling this challenge- something I failed to do.
- tourist information centres in Japan (often in or near train stations) have personell- English speaking- who will assist you with finding affordable digs (at least in the main cities) THERE ARE CHEAP HOTELS in Japan, most especially during 'low season'. And while they may be spartan, they are adequate and reasonably clean, at least the ones I stayed in were. There are capsule hotels in Shinjuku and Ueno park in Tokyo.
- buy your coffee and tea from the omnipresent machines. much more affordable, and the stuff really is not all that bad. In supermarkets and even in 'convenience stores' there are pre- packaged, acceptable foods which will save you money for sure. ditto for outdoor markets (often near temples) and ramen houses.
- Many cultural sites (temples, etc.) in Japan are free, or cheap (make a donation) - don't miss Miyajima. Your train- pass gets you there- by ferry- for free. Tokyo and Osaka subways mostly free, with pass, as well. Best, Kevin.
Yes most capules are probably not for women,( though ones with a womens section would probably have a better "vibe" about em, and as stated may not be cheapest option. I've only stayed in one in Hakata,( Kyushu) and didn't like it, and it wasn't that cheap. ( about 4000 yen ) I felt like an inmate in a halfway house, with some characters there to match.
Kezins advice about cheap hostels is worth remembering. ( A "Koban" is a police box often one near a train station, and even the Japanese have to ask them for directions as Japanese addresses seem mainly designed to confuse invaders and make no sense whatever. ( no street names only a non spatial jumble of number addresses. ie 1 beside 1348, beside 23b... ) also many train company staff speak some English, and at a pinch remember these 2 words "yasui ( Cheap )minshuku" ( guesthouse )
As for hunting online, its definitely worth a try but most info is in Japanese.
I would also say that if you can hunt down someone who wants to learn English online or a similar homestay it would add depth to your Japan experience and get you cheap or more likely free accomodation for a few days. In such circumstances the Japanese tend to be very ( excessively? ) kind and generous hosts.
They often want to take their guests out for dinner, go up country somewhere, or even take you to Disneyland or something. ( even though its a 5 hour drive away...) One of my wifes friends family had an Aussie young girl for about 3 nights, as an example, ( I also taught their kids and friends English ) and they were stressing and calling up for advice about it for months b4 hand. ( in the end they took my wife and I out to dinner with them on the first night so they didn't have to worry about their guest not understanding their " poor" English.
Other legendary and notable acts of kindness like this I have had or heard of;
A free ski trip with COUSINS of someone I knew, never knew them from adam b4 that. ( the father also offered to teach me surveying, and wanted to give me his poor wife's shtter car to drive, once I figured out that she needed it I had to say no.
long term free accomodation and food ( in a wealthy house) and use of a car to "teach" English p/time to the family( Someone I knew at uni in Japan, and he abused that trust shamelessly, little prik, he also ended up crashing that car, loser, and he used MY car once without asking... once.. it shames me to say he was a fellow aussie..)
A woman who would pay for another mate of mine at the time to come visit every weekend, including dinner and a nice hotel, and a 150klm train trip, 'because he was a student and she was working" you figure out why, Im not saying, even if I knew.
A guy that not only paid me to "practice English" with him, fed me once a week, and introduced family, friends, and more English jobs, but also got me a factory job in his neiborhood when I needed the cash, and as a final act of kindness, through connections, stopped an ashole in the uni's student admin from having me kicked out of school cause I didn't kiss his ass right.
One of my uni lecturers who got me a job teaching English 5 hours a week at his wifes Music school, to cover someone on leave, and would often feed me wifes Italian food,( she lived in Italy once) and pass the beer and scotch/ wine ect after class each week. ( He also saved my ass a few times which I didn't know at time, with my running battles with admin, because it turns out he was also a "governor" on the foriegn students board, where my other inexplicable enemy, the board chairman ( and buddy of the other asshole) wanted to "vote me out"( kick me out) for reasons best known to himself.) To this day I don't know what their problem was, but twice over my friends saved my ass from an embarassing and damaging expulsion. (Thanks guys.) For context most Japanese uni students are basically guaranteed a pass, and expulsion is unheard of, wonder what I did to upset them to this day. This lecturers wife also gave me a piece of Japanese pottery from her dead fathers collection when I left Japan that time. ( dont know if its valuable, probably is, I tried hard to refuse it, to no avail.)
A guy that used to be my Japanese teacher in a private school that let me live in his office ( a nice house ) for a couple of months in Japan. This same guy lived for a while a second time in my home town, and took me out for sushi and beer and to talk shit regularly. ( he is rich, true, but still unneccessarily generous)
A family that not only took their (student) homestay on holidays, but took her overseas on holiday with them,( not me, but one of my classmates at uni)
many of these stories may be at the "pointy end", that the casual traveller may not experience, but I have experienced and heard of countless other small and often extraordinary acts of kindness such as these from complete strangers.
For example, one time I was travelling in a town near the old "border" between kansai and kanto,on the old historic "road" and I happened to go into this little cheapish restraunt in the grounds of a hotel, and the managing drector of the hotel turns up and starts chatting in Japanese, and he gives me his card, offers me a casual job if I want one, and gives me a free machha. ( the good stuff, which is a luxury, not the weak sht, which I hate btw ) He didn't need to do that, all I bought was a 600 yen lunch bowl, it was because he wanted to be hospitable to the foriegner. Of course ANY attempt to speak the language also tends to get you brownie points in Japan, no matter how feeble, and at the time my Japanese was not so great.
Another example I heard of was someone who asked directions and got personally escorted ( for 2 hours) to be sure they got where they were going. You can forget that in Australia, because we suck at hospitality here I think.
Although it may seem like some greedy list, often times such generosity is poignant, memorable, and impossible to refuse, even though you would really rather refuse. Yes Japan can be many other more negative things too, its a love hate kinda place, but overall the kindness to especially western foriegners can be downright embarrasing.
In short if you can find more ( guilt inspiring) hospitality than Japan, I have never heard of it. ( Ps dont abuse it, but I certainly recommend experiencing it. ) As such, you should try to get some personal experiences in Japan,as they could be the start of long friendships ect and have some real meaning as travel experiences, personally I doubt they can be had in a capsule hotel, but you never know. Certainly there is a good chance to make lifelong friendships in Japan, though they are basically shy people, while the average westerner can be chummy imediately, and forget you tommorrow.( thats also nice, but its not unforgetable, like Japan can be.)
Well thats my rant/rave, Im done..
Thanks for the info guys.
In short if you can find more ( guilt inspiring) hospitality than Japan, I have never heard of it. ( Ps dont abuse it
That sounds a bit worrying. I like my space and independence. I dont feel comfortable at all when people start taking me to this and that in the name of hospitality. No chance of me abusing it. I will likely put more energy into trying to escape it. Maybe I had too many experiences while travelling where people were just a bit too interested in me.
[ Edit: Edited on Dec 3, 2007, at 12:01 PM by Mel. ]
Some of the official hostels (get a card) are very good and amongst the cheapest forms of accom. Some (the whole of Shikoku, when i was there) do reverse discrimination in that non Japanese get in half price. Others, like in Hakkodate, was about 4700yen which is NOT cheap. There are independant ones in Kyoto and Tokyo especially which are often cheap as well.
Most Capsule hotels don't admit women full stop. Some do (almost always through a different door), and there are a few women only ones. They are basically designed for drunk businessmean who miss the last train home - and as this is 1am in most cases in Tokyo for suburban services - expect to be rudely awoken by the drunken hoardes coming in between about 1 and 2.30. Also, expect most people to be getting up at 5 or 6. I stayed in a couple, and they are surprisingly roomy and comfortable (my blog has a full entry on one i stayed in in Tokyo).
Other options are 24hour comic/internet centres, which generally have all night packages (inc free food/drink/shower/internet etc) and several levels. the base is normally a PC in an open area, but 1 or 2 higher can be a luxurious reclining leather sofa in an enclosed area, and can actually work out as a bargain, providing you accept that it is an allnight comic/gaming/internet places, and not a hotel, so you may get a bit of noise (normally not).
You also have to stay in a Ryokan (Kyoto is good for this, as they are often cheaper than normal, and also used to dealing with foreigners), and another option are love hotels. You need to be of a certain personality to even try and use them like a normal hotel, and also accept that they are all different and will almost certainly include some twists etc to your room, but they are worth considering. They are often quiet at nights and allot do specials for longer stays (most people only want a couple of hours), and whilst they can be surreal, are normally very comfortable.
Also, some night trains are covered by the JR pass, and accom is free. Being a bit clever, you can choose the useful and free ones not all have sleeping accom, if that's a problem and save on accom that way. Even if you travel further or not to where you actually want to go, if you are close enough to a Shinkansen the following morning, you can get to where you really did want to go very quickly.