So the world cup is on its way and you’re considering a trip to Japan, exciting right? Don’t let your budget stand in the way of your dreams to tick Mount Fuji off your bucket list! We’ve compiled the ultimate guide for an unforgettable experience in Japan – without breaking the bank.
Whether you’re a solo backpacker, road tripping with your buddies or have only managed to save a few pennies, Japan is waiting for you. Here are the top things to do on a budget.
1. Get a pass for the Shinkasen Bullet Train
When arriving in Japan, make sure you are able to get around hassle free. With the Shinkasen Bullet Train, you’ll be shooting from A to B in no time – reaching speeds of up to 320km/hour. No need for expensive airport transfers and costly flight tickets, the Shinkansen Ticket will take you from Tokyo to Nagano, Shin-Fuji and Hiroshima each in only a few hours coupled with fast speed Wi-Fi to catch up on all those Instagram posts. The train also does overnight trips between cities which is a great way to score on free accommodation!!
Besides a transport means, the Bullet train is a must-do attraction for anyone who wants to experience the Japanese culture and is one of Japan’s proudest super-inventions.
Great news - you can pre-arrange your Japan rail pass online. For ¥29,110, you’ll have full national access to the Bullet train as well as other local and express trains that will get you to almost every attraction in Japan, including those important world cup games. The pass also includes 7 days of unlimited access to the Tokyo Monorail, local bus lines as well as the Japan Rail WEST Miyajima ferry.
2. Visit Mt. Fuji
What is a trip to Japan without visiting its best known landmark? The majestic Mount Fuji is the highest mountain peak of Japan and is climbed by over a million people each year as an act of pilgrimage – not to mention the sunset from the summit is worth every step of the way.
However, on limited time and budget the view from afar is enough to stop you in your tracks and ponder about the wonders of the snow-capped beauty that poems are written about. An added bonus is that autumn is the most beautiful time to see this mountain as the warm tones of the autumn leaves complement the soft blue lakes and snowy mountain caps perfectly.
Whether just passing by to take a look, or if you prefer to spend the day along the riverbanks having a picnic under the trees, you can spend anything from 1.5 hours to a full day in Fujikawaguchiko. This is a resort town at the Northern foothills of Mount Fuji.
If you enjoy hiking, the Mount Tenjo trail will take about 45 minutes and is free and suitable for all fitness levels. Alternatively, for only $12, you can take a ride along the Kachi Kachi Ropeway directly to Mount Tenjo’s observation deck to experience the spectacular views of Mount Fuji and enjoy a beautiful scenic picnic. By foot, the base of Mount Tenjo is an easy 10-15 minute walk from Kawaguchiko station.
3. The imperial Palace
The imperial palace is a place anyone will enjoy if you find yourself visiting the capital of Japan. It consists of 3,41 km2 of land and has enough sights to make sure you get your daily health steps in. For new travellers, we recommend starting at the East Gardens side of the park where you can take an escape from the hustle and bustle of the densely populated city and enjoy the tranquillity of the beautiful slopes of green. The good news is that the gardens are open to the public and are completely free to enter. Just be sure to check up on open days as they are usually closed on Mondays and Fridays.
Access the East gardens from the Otemon entrance via a short walk from Otemachi Station. You can catch either the Chiyoda, Tozai or Mita Subway Lines that will take you straight to the station. Alternatively take a 10 minute walk from Tokyo Station. Plan to spend anything from 3-4 hours here to include lunch and some free museum tours too.
4. Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park
Whether museums and the historical meaning of cities interest you or if you’re just into modern travel, the Peace Memorial Park is one of the most prominent features of the city and is an inspirational experience, no matter your travel style.
The park is located where the commercial and political powerhouse of the city once existed before the bomb was dropped. The peace memorial museum is also located there and remembers the history of Hiroshima. As a visitor, you can either walk past the “Bomb Dome” or, for only $3, you will have full entry into all the museums and sights around the area. Better yet, you can use your Japan Rail Pass and take the Bullet train straight to the Hiroshima station and after that, hop on the tram from line No. 1, getting off at Hondori stop (approx 30mins) to arrive at the Dome.
5. Attempt to cross The Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble
Shibuya is notorious for its scramble crossing that is often featured in movies and international news broadcasts, providing for an estimated 2,500 people crossing at a time. It’s no surprise that this is one of the busiest intersections in the world and may be quite daunting when you’re thinking of a holiday away from the chaos, however there is nothing quite like the real-life experience.
In the midst of the crossing, attempt to embrace the loud adverts, the flashing lights and the hustle of thousands of people around you while at the same time, stop to appreciate how orderly the intersection functions. Everyone seems to know exactly when and how to go and really reflects the structure, nature and respect of the Japanese culture. It’s quite something!
6. Senso-Ji Temple
This Buddhist Temple exists in the beautiful city of Asakusa and is a pathway into an experience of Japanese spirituality. Whether to pay respects or just to admire the Japanese culture, Senso-Ji is definitely something to see. The temple is open to the public with free admission and is a great way to have a close look at the detailed, intricate architecture of Japan. After a morning visit here, you can visit Nakamise Dori, a nearby street that is set up with heaps of little shops to buy your morning tea or even a souvenir or two.
Take the Ginza line to Asakusa Station, keep walking for about one minute after leaving exit 1 until you reach Kaminarimon Gate. This marks the entrance to the shopping street where you will find the temple a short walk down the road.
7. Meguro River – Cherry Alleys
If you are lucky enough to catch Japan in sakura season, take a trip down to the Meguro River where you can experience the beautiful frame of the dense cherry blossom alleys along the riverbank. Be captivated by the lovely soft pink blossoms in the day or embrace an evening walk as the pink lanterns light up. We suggest a visit here during the week to avoid the masses of people as this will really allow you to experience the beautiful scenery and all it has to offer.
If you do this, it is suggested that you start at Gotanda and take about an hour walk along the banks to Meguro Sky Garden (it's almost a 5km walk) but don't worry, you’ll be so captivated by the beauty of the experience that it will hardly feel like exercise. However, if you’re short on time, start at Meguro Station and take a walk to Nakameguro to ensure you tick off the main attraction.
8. Osaka Wonder River Cruise at Dotonbori
If you find yourself in Osaka – it’s a must to take a river cruise on one of the riverboats! These tours are about 20-40 minutes and at only $13, they are worth every cent. This is a great way to experience a new mode of transport and to see the views of Osaka from a different perspective. Be romanticised as you glide by the Osaka Castle or watch the city as it begins to light up in the evening. The tour is fully guided and with limited space on the boat, you can enjoy a unique experience away from the heaps of tourists on the mainland.
Keen on more travel tips? Check out our destination guides or ask the experts in your local Travel Money Oz store.
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