Sunday, November 4, 2018

Japan Travel: Money-Saving Tips

When I first set my foot on Japan N years ago, my impression about Japan was that many things are more expensive as compared to Singapore. For example, taking subway to one stop away costs 200 yen (~SGD2.50), which is more expensive than taking MRT from Pasir Ris to Tuas in Singapore! Anyway, this does not deter me from visiting Japan again and again, and after visiting Japan a few times, I figure out some ways to save some money during Japan travel.

How to Save Money on Transportation

Using Japan Rail Pass
If you are travelling long distance, so it was more worthwhile to get JR Pass as compared to buying tickets separately.

There are 2 steps in obtaining JR Pass.
Step 1: Purchase the exchange order (MCO) from local travel agency.
Step 2: Upon arriving Japan, go to JR Ticket Office with MCO purchased in step 1 and your passport, redeem the actual JR Pass

We used JR Pass in our Kyushu trip and Central Japan trip. Read our blog post on Central Japan Itinerary for the amount of saving we had for our Central Japan trip using Takayama-Hokuriku Area Tourist Pass!

Using Discounted Ticket and Day Pass
Check out the transport passes at different regions too! For example, Fukuoka Tourist City Pass, Kumamoto City Tram One Day Pass, Hokutetsu Bus One Day Pass (Kanazawa), and many different discount tickets and passes in Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Nara).

Taking Bus
Alternatively, you can take bus which is usually cheaper, but may take more time.

How to Save Money on Accommodation

Toyoko Inn is a chain of business hotel in Japan. We stayed at different branches before, and had generally pleasant experience with this hotel chain. Read more about our experience with Toyoko Inn in our blog post Japan Travel: Budget Family Accommodation Toyoko Inn.

If you can understand some Japanese, you can book your accommodation via Japanese portal called We used this platform once to book a hot spring ryokan at Kyushu. Usually, the rate from this platform is slightly cheaper than some other hotel booking websites. By the way, you can also use this platform to book activities, we used it to book raman and gyoza cooking class in Kyushu.

How to Save Money on Food

When we travel, we would spend slightly more on some meals, and so we would spend less on other meals. While we can't get economic rice at SGD3 in Japan, we can have a decent meal by visiting the following places.

In the evening, some of the food like sushi, sashimi and bento at the supermarket would be on sale. Look out for the label with xx% (it means how much % off discount). So it is a great place to get dinner and supper!

Convenience stores
7-11, Lawson and Family Mart can be found almost everywhere, and the variety of food is amazing, from bread, beverages, dessert, rice ball to bento, some stores even have oden and fried food.

Fast food chains and family restaurants
In Japan, eateries like Matsuya, Yoshinoya, Sukiya and Cafe Gusto offer reasonable price meal.

Before I had children, I liked to visit Matsyua and Yoshinoya in Japan, a bowl of rice with beef slices can cost as low as around 300+ yen. But when we visit Japan with children, as the layout of the eatery is counter seating, it is quite difficult for us to sit together, so these eateries are not so ideal for family with children.


During our trip to Kanazawa, we visited Cafe Gusto near our hotel. Slightly more expensive, but there are tables for our family. This cafe serves western food like hamburg and pasta.

We also visited McDonald's in Japan, because it offers some food and Happy Meal toys that are not available in Singapore. By the way, the food at McDonald's Japan is more expensive than that in Singapore.

How to Save Money on Shopping

Our family trips focus on experiential learning, but at times, we would do some shopping! One of our favourite shopping places in Japan are 100 yen shops. The main 100 yen shops include Daiso, Can Do and Seria. Please note that the price of each item is 110 yen including tax, and such shops do not offer tax exemption.

From 1 October 2019 onwards, the consumption tax in Japan is 10%, and the tax-free purchase amount at the same store in a single day is more than 5000 yen before tax. Check Japan Tax-free Shop for the details of tax-free shopping! If possible, consolidate your purchases from a particular store to enjoy the savings.

Take note that in order to enjoy tax-free for purchases that include consumable items, you cannot consume them before you leave Japan. The purchased items are packed in a transparent sealed bag like this:

Some shops offer tax exemption service, so that you pay the amount without tax at the cashier. However, in some shopping malls, individual shops within the mall do not offer tax exemption service, you have to pay the amount with tax at the shop, and then proceed to tax-free counter of the shopping mall to receive the tax refund. For such situation, you would not get back 10% tax refund, because the counter would take in administrative fee at around 1+%.

Final Tips
While we try not to overly spend money during travelling, we do pamper ourselves once in a while.

Do you have any money-saving tips when you travel to Japan? Please share with us! 

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