One of the most common myths about Japan is that it’s incredibly pricey — but is Japan expensive in reality?

The truth is, Japan is probably not as expensive as you think! While it may be pricier than countries like China, Thailand, and Vietnam, to the surprise of many travelers, it’s generally less expensive than places such as Singapore, the U.K., Australia, and Scandinavia.

So where did this outdated myth come from? Japan started to develop a reputation for being outrageously expensive during the bubble years of the 1980s, when prices were in fact exorbitant. But over the past few decades, thanks in part to Japan’s relative economic stagnation, it has gradually become a much more reasonable — and thus accessible — destination.

So to help you plan for your visit — whether you’re looking for luxury or on a less flexible budget — we’ve put together this handy guide to prices in Japan.

Originally published in 2014, we’ve updated and added to the original article.

10,000 yen bill
A ¥10,000 bill

How Much do Things Cost in Japan?

While it would be an exaggeration to call it a low-priced destination, one of the great things about Japan is that you can truly tailor your experience to your budget, meaning that how much you spend when you visit is more or less up to you.

If your budget is flexible, it’s very easy to spend money here, but even if you’re on a tighter budget, it’s completely possible to have a wonderful experience.

For example, if you want to have the best sushi meal in the world, it could cost you around US $200–$300 per person — and it will probably be worth it! On the other hand, for just US $3 or so, you can have a great, healthy lunch of soba or udon noodles.

While our service is not oriented towards budget travelers, if you’re on a budget check out our friends Tokyo Cheapo.

To give you a more concrete idea of how much things really cost in Japan, here is a list of real-world examples to help you plan for your trip.

Please keep in mind that prices can vary, and exchange rates are constantly fluctuating. All estimated prices below are listed in Japanese yen and U.S. dollars.

tonkotsu ramen in Hakata, Japan
Tonkotsu ramen in Hakata (aka Fukuoka), Japan

Food Prices in Japan

The quality of food in Japan is so high that it’s definitely worth splurging on some special meals, even if you’re not the type of traveler dazzled by Michelin stars.

But you may also find that some of your favorite meals end up costing under ¥1,000 (~$10). Here are some sample food prices to give you a sense of the cost of food in Japan:

  • Onigiri (rice ball) at a conbini: ¥200 (~$2)
  • Pastry at a bakery: ¥300 (~$3)
  • Bowl of soba or udon noodles: ¥500 (~$5)
  • Bowl of ramen: ¥1,000 (~$10)
  • Lunch set (teishoku), with fish, miso soup, rice, tea, and pickled vegetables: ¥1,200 (~$12)
  • Inexpensive sushi meal: ¥2,000 (~$20)
  • Dinner and drinks at a good izakaya: ¥5,000 (~$50)
  • High-end meal: Ranging dramatically from around $100-$400

Hopefully this helps you see that, while dining in Japan can be expensive, more than anything it comes down to what you eat.

It’s certainly worth spending a bit extra for the best-quality ingredients, but even affordable food in Japan is generally fantastic.

sake presentation at a Japanese restaurant
Three sake options for tasting (photo by Kent Wang CC BY)

Drink Prices in Japan

  • Tea: Quite often provided for free with a meal
  • Bottled water: ¥130 (~$1)
  • Coffee: ¥300 (~$3) or more for specialty coffee
  • Draft beer at an izakaya: ¥600 (~$6)
  • Cup of sake: ¥800 (~$8) or more
  • Glass of wine: ¥1,000 (~$10) or more
  • Glass of whisky: varies dramatically (read more about whisky in Japan)
Shinkansen (bullet train) passing Mount Fuji, Japan
Shinkansen (bullet train) passing Mount Fuji

Transport Costs in Japan

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

  • Short train or subway ride in Tokyo: ¥200 (~$2)
  • Bus ride in Kyoto (where buses are prevalent): ¥300 (~$3)
  • Taxi: Taxi fares in Japan vary greatly depending on time and distance, but typically begin around ¥700 (~$7)
  • Bicycle rental: ¥1,500 (~$15) per day
  • One-way shinkansen (bullet train) trip from Tokyo to Kyoto in Green Car (first class): ¥19,000 (~$190) (find out if the Japan Rail Pass is right for you)
Sumo wrestlers during a tournament in Tokyo, Japan
Sumo rikishi at the Tokyo basho (Photo by Bob Bloom)

Entrance Fees and Tickets

With some exceptions, many travelers find Japan to be surprisingly reasonable when it comes to entrance fees. For example, many temples and shrines are completely free, while those that aren’t usually have a nominal fee.

Inside the Aman resort in Tokyo, Japan
Inside Aman, a luxury resort in Tokyo

Hotel & Ryokan Prices in Japan

Hotel and ryokan prices in Japan can vary greatly depending on the season (for example, cherry blossom season is particularly expensive), day of the week, and other factors.

  • Capsule hotel: From around ¥4,000 (~$40) per night and up
  • Budget accommodations: ¥7,500–¥15,000 (~$75–$150) per night
  • Mid-range accommodations: ¥15,000–¥30,000 (~$150–$300) per night
  • Boutique and luxury accommodations: ranges dramatically from ¥40,000–¥80,000 (~$400–$800) or more per night
  • Luxury ryokan stay including a multi-course kaiseki dinner: ranges widely from ¥30,000–¥50,000 (~$300–$500) or more per person per night (learn more about the ryokan experience in Japan)

Flights to Japan

As any experienced traveler knows, airfares are especially subject to fluctuations depending on seasonality, fuel prices, timing, and other factors.

  • Round-trip flights from Los Angeles to Tokyo: ~$900
  • Round-trip flights from New York to Tokyo: ~$1,200
  • Round-trip flights from Sydney to Tokyo: ~$1,000
  • Round-trip flights from London to Tokyo: ~$1,200
  • Round-trip flights from Paris to Tokyo: ~$1,200
Yuba, a tofu dish in Kyoto, Japan
Yuba (photo by City Foodsters CC BY)

Tipping in Japan

When planning your trip, it’s also worth remembering that Japan does not have much of a tipping culture.

Japanese hospitality is world-renowned, but despite how good the service is, tipping is usually neither required nor expected. See our full article on tipping in Japan!

Hopefully this gives you a better idea of how much things cost in Japan, and shows you it’s not as expensive as you may have thought.

Of course if you are looking to splurge, with its incredible accommodations, cuisine, and shopping, Japan is the place to do so!

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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!

2 thoughts on “Is Japan Expensive?

  1. 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.

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