Is Japan Expensive?

In today’s Japan Travel Q&A we answer a question about whether Japan is expensive from Brian in Atlanta, Georgia:

“One big question for me would be how to control costs. I’ve heard Japan is very expensive – is that just Tokyo, or elsewhere as well?”

Don’t feel like watching a video? Read below for today’s answer!

Great question, Brian!

Japan is not as expensive as you think! But this is a really common myth about Japan.

While it may be more expensive than places like China and Thailand, it’s generally cheaper than places like Singapore, the UK, Australia, and Scandinavia!

Prices are generally a little higher in Tokyo than elsewhere, but it doesn’t vary drastically. And one of the great things about Japan is that you can tailor your experience to your budget!

How Expensive is Japan Really?

japanese yen 10000 yen bill

A ¥10,000 bill

For example, if you want to have the best sushi meal in the world, it’ll cost you around US $300 per person… and will be worth it!

On the other hand, for just US $2 or $3, you can have a great, and healthy, lunch of soba or udon noodles.

So to give you a better idea of how much things really cost in Japan, here is a list of real-world examples to help you budget for your trip.

Please keep in mind that prices can vary, and exchange rates are constantly fluctuating. All estimated prices are listed in Japanese yen and US dollars as appropriate.

Food Prices In Japan

ramen kagoshima japan kyushu

A bowl of ramen

The quality of food in Japan is so high that it’s definitely worth splurging on some special meals.

But you may also find that some of your favorite meals while traveling in Japan end up costing under ¥1,000 (US $10).

  • Onigiri (rice ball): About ¥150 (US $1.50)
  • Pastry at a bakery: About ¥200 (US $2)
  • Bowl of soba or udon noodles: About ¥200-¥700 (US $2-$7)
  • Ramen: About ¥700-¥1000 (US $7-$10)
  • Inexpensive sushi meal: About ¥1,000-¥2,000 (US $10-$20)
  • A lunch “set” (teishoku): About ¥800-¥1,200 (US $8-$12)
  • Michelin-starred restaurant meal: Ranging widely from about US $150-$400 per person
  • Dinner and drinks at an izakaya: About ¥3,000-¥6,000 (US $30-$60)

Speaking of drinks…

Drink Prices In Japan

Japanese sake

(Photo Credit: macglee via Compfight cc)

  • Tea: Tea is provided for free at many restaurants
  • Bottled water: About ¥120 (US $1.20)
  • Coffee: About ¥200-¥500 (US $2-$5), depending on the quality and the shop
  • Draft beer at a bar or izakaya (for example, Asahi, Sapporo or Kirin): About ¥400-¥600 (US $4-$6)
  • Glass of sake at an izakaya: About ¥400-¥600 (US $4-$6)

Getting Around Town

Tokyo Metro Marunouchi line subway train at Ochanomizu in Tokyo Japan

Tokyo Metro (Marunouchi Line)

Getting around in Japan is surprisingly easy, and its transport systems are clean, extremely efficient and reasonably priced.

  • Subway ride in Tokyo: About ¥200 (US $2)
  • Bus trip in Kyoto: ¥220 (about US $2.20)
  • Bicycle rental: About ¥1,000-¥1,500 per day (US $10-$15)
  • Taxi ride: Varies widely with distance, on average about ¥600-¥2,000 (US $6-$20)

Entrance Fees & Tickets

sumo tournament match japan

(Photo credit: davidgsteadman via Compfight cc)

  • Temple or shrine entrance fee: Sometimes free, otherwise about ¥300-¥500 (US $3-$5)
  • Museum entrance fee: About ¥1000-¥2000 (US $10-$20)
  • Cat cafe: About ¥1000-¥1500 per hour (US $10-$15) (entrance usually includes one drink)
  • Sumo tickets: Ranging widely from about US $35-$130 per person, depending on seat type

Accommodations & Flights

Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

Signature Restaurant, Mandarin Oriental, Tokyo

Hotel and ryokan prices can vary greatly depending on the season, day of the week, and other factors.

Please note that most ryokans charge per person (rather than per room), since a multi-course dinner and breakfast are typically included.

  • Budget accommodations: From about US $50-$100 per night
  • Mid-range accommodations: From about US $150-$250 per night
  • Luxury accommodations: Ranging widely from about US $300-$600 per night or more
  • Luxury ryokan stay (including multi-course kaiseki dinner): Ranging widely from about US $200-$500 per person per night or more

A note about flights: airfare is especially subject to fluctuations depending on seasonality, fuel prices, advance purchase, and other factors.

  • Round-trip Los Angeles-Tokyo flights: About US $800-$1,200
  • Round-trip Sydney-Tokyo flights: About US $750-$1,150
  • Round-trip New York-Tokyo flights: About US $1,000-$1,500
  • Round-trip London-Tokyo flights: About US $800-$1,200

No Tipping in Japan

Another added bonus is that there is basically no tipping in Japan.

Japanese service and hospitality are among the best in the world, but despite how good the service is, tipping is usually neither required nor expected.

You can read our full article about tipping in Japan for more information.

Kaiseki japanese food ryokan kurashiki

Kaiseki cuisine at Ryokan Kurashiki

I hope this gives you a better idea of how much things really cost in Japan, and shows you that it’s not as expensive as you thought.

On the other hand, if you are looking for a splurge Japan’s the place to do it, being home to some of the best luxury accommodations, fine dining and shopping experiences in the world.

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Is Japan really as expensive as people think? Today we debunk one of the biggest myths about Japan travel, and show you how much things really cost in Japan.
About Andres Zuleta

Andres is the founder of Boutique Japan.

Unlike a lot of travel companies, we don't work from a cubicle!

In 2005, I first moved from New York City to Tokyo to study Japanese, and living in Tokyo changed my life, leading me to want to dedicate my life to helping others really experience Japan, the way I have been able to do so!

  • Hajime Sano

    One thing to keep in mind that Japanese food portions are small. Back in my 30s, I was training quite a bit for short track speed skating. With my high metabolism, I wouud up ordering two meals at every sitting when I went out. Luckily, my mom had warned my relatives about my appetite so dining at their homes, they were not shocked by the portions I ate.

    If you are expecting American-sized portions at restaurants, you will have to adjust your expectations.

    • This is true, although (maybe because I am not a terribly heavy eater) I find their portions to be perfect!