Japan on the cheap - Minimum cost for a 90 day stay?

Salutations Dopers,
I have been to Japan twice already, for two and nine weeks respectively; however, I had monetary concerns mostly provided for me, so I did not keep very detailed track of how much I was spending. Mainly, I had housing provided for me by a Navy friend, so apart from food and plane-fare I was fine money-wise.

This time however, I wish to go again in the coming summer for as long as I can stay on a tourist Visa (90 days I believe). I also want to pay for it myself, and thirdly I wont have housing provided for me. Sadly, I am a poor 23 year old student with not a lot of money at my disposal. I’m trying to calculate the minimum cost of living for myself, but there are so many variables that I’m having a little bit of trouble. Would anyone with experience living in Japan mind helping me out?

The main expenditures are plane-fare, housing, food, and travel/sightseeing/misc. I dont mind living modestly, so food and housing can be spartan. As for location, I plan on staying in the Nara-Kyoto-Osaka region, so all travel will be relatively local.

As for the date I can travel, I must return to school by early September, so the dates I am looking at are early May through mid-August. I would go earlier, but I currently have 600 dollars to my name. With my full-time job, I am earning roughly 1100 a month. So, by the end of April I will have around 3K, at which point I plan on preparing for my departure.

I guess, put simply, how long can I afford to live in Japan with 3000 dollars minus planefare?

Any help is appreciated.

You want to fly from Orlando to Osaka and then live there for 3 months, on $3000? A round trip plane ticket will cost you about $1300-1400 dollars.

Well, I’ve already found planefare for around 800$ if I go to Tokyo first, so that’s already untrue. Care to be a little more helpful instead of just incredulous?

Get thee to a gaijin house:

Currently about 120 yen to the dollar, so between $333 and $833 per month, per that cite.

Disclaimer: I’ve only spent a few months there and stayed with friends the whole time. I heard that gaijin houses are a bit crowded, even by Japanese city standards.

Okay, rough guesses, I’d say that you’d need a minimum of 1200 yen a day for food (assuming you just eat cheap bentos/Yoshinoya beef bowls), and about 1500 yen a day to stay in a really cheap gaijin house. I’ll guess 500 yen a day for travel (assuming purely local travel as you said). Toss in random expenses and call it about $30 a day as the absolute bare minimum. I wouldn’t want to do it, but I think its theoretically possible.

At that rate, assuming your $800 for airfare (plus $100 to get you from Tokyo to Osaka and back), you could stay in Japan for 70 days.

I should say, though, that at that rate the occasional 1000 yen expense (which will pop up) will cut you dearly.

Personally, I would just use the $3000 to stay for 30 days with financial stability, which is more than enough time to experience Kansai.

Thanks everyone for the great replies. Keep 'em coming :smiley:

By the way, I understand the draw of a particular country, and Japan is truly awesome, but given your limited budget have you considered another Asian destination - one that isn’t one of the most expensive countries in the world?! E.g. Vietnam, which is a fascinating adventure of a country, in which you’d be able to experience vast swathes of the country on your budget, or Thailand, a little more expensive but no less fascinating? Or China, which is dirt, dirt cheap, vast, and increasingly important on the world stage.

Also, if you give us more of an idea as to how you hope to be spending your 90 days, we could give a better estimate as to the cost.

Well, as for “Why Japan?,” I speak the language mostly fluently (finally), am somewhat familiar with the culture, and, most importantly, upon graduation from college wish to pursue a career in International Business. Any time I can spend in Japan will be beneficial. That’s the official reason. The less-serious reason is that I have made a lot of friends recently in the Oosaka/Kyotou/Nara area that I would love to spend some time with. I’m hoping maybe I can crash with one or some of them, but I cant bank on that at this point.

My typical day I suppose would be… wake up, eat breakfast, walk around for a few hours, lunch, maybe spend a few hours at a net cafe, eat dinner, go to my best Japanese friend’s mom+pop bar in Nara and chill out, then go home and sleep. Please understand that schedule is right off the top of my head. It also sounds less frugal than I first envisioned.

So far it seems like unless I come up with another source of income, I’ll have to cut my stay a bit. C’est la vie.

Yeah… unless you get free drinks I’d say that the bar and the net cafes would add a couple thousand yen to your daily cost…

Could you save money by working your passage on a ship? Be a dishwasher or something?

I don’t know why you would want to limit your stay to the Nara-Kyoto-Osaka region. Ninety days is a long time for such a relatively small area, especially when there is so much to see and experience in the rest of the country.

I spent 90 days hitch hiking out of Tokyo all the way up the east coast to Aomori ( the northern tip of Honshu) and then back down the west coast all the way to Kagoshima and back up again to Tokyo.

Hitching a ride was easy and the best thing was that to get to visit areas where very few (if any) foreigners ever go. I always had a particular youth hostel as a destination, but it wasn’t that unusual to be invited to stay at some one’s home. I always insisted that I would be too much trouble and that the hostel would be fine, but often the people would be just as insistent that I stay with them. Outside of the large cities people actually have homes with space enough for visitors unlike the cramped apartments you see in Tokyo.

The only problem I had hitching was that people would often want to bring me to the train station. They couldn’t understand that I wanted to hitch hike and needed to find the highway, not the train station.

You really should consider hitching around the country. You certainly won’t spend any more money doing it and you’ll probably spend a lot less than if you just stayed around the Nara-Kyoto-Osaka area

The stories I could tell you!.

It’s possible but very difficult for foreigners to get part-time jobs in Japan. As far as the ship-passage idea, I’ll look into it. It sounds straight out of an adventure novel ^^

I am also attempting to start my own internet-based Japanese-English tutoring business via the use of Skype and/or MSN. Any clients I get now I might be able to keep upon the time change.

If my romantic interests dont work out in Nara, then I will definitely try that! How did you go about hitchhiking? I never figured Japan to be an easy place for a foreigner to hitchhike, seeing as last time I went everyone was afraid of me :frowning:

The OP actually calls more for some informed opinions as oppposed to answers to a single factual question. Moved to IMHO.

samclem GQ moderator

Hitchhiking was easy. The first thing I did was look at a map of Tokyo at the hostel I was staying at. Then I found the closest subway station that was near the major highway going north. I arrived there and stuck out my thumb and was almost immediately picked by a truck. I got in, but he wasn’t going as far as I was so he put out my destination on his radio. Another truck responded and we met at an on ramp a few miles up the road and off I went.

It wasn’t unusual at for the very first car to stop and often 2 cars would stop at the same time.

As long as you don’t look Japanese you’ll be fine. The locals told me that they never hitchhike because no one would ever give them a ride. I never saw any one else hitchhiking (Japanese or gaijin), but people seemed to know what I was doing. (Maybe from American movies.) Almost everyone seemed very curious about the fact I was alone. I learned the word “Astori?” very quickly.

If things don’t work out for you in Nara, don’t be surprised if you find “romantic interests” on the road!

You mean ‘hitori’? :smiley:

Not necessarily. There are always English schools around, and not all of them are particularly strict about visas. If you ask them if they need anyone to sub or teach a short-term student, you may be able to pick up a few thousand yen each week for a few hours’ work.

If you don’t have a bachelor’s yet, that may be a problem, but a school that needs someone just to fill in may well not care.

From what I recall, the last thing you want to do in Japan is to be caught working there without the appropriate employment visa.

You could just buy a one way ticket. You could eat at Americatown although it’s a bit expensive. Later attend a sumo match and possibly challenge one of the sumo wrestlers.

You could cover some of your costs by getting a job in a fish-gutting factory in Osaka. When it is time to come home simply win a ticket on Happy Smile Super Challenge Family Wish Show.