Japan on the Cheap: 5 Money-Saving Tips to Keep in Mind

  • HOW TO
  • On a budget? No problem, you can still have an awesome time exploring, shopping, and eating your way through Japan! Of course, it will all depend on what you want to do while you’re in Japan, so the following are just some ideas to make every yen count!

    1. BOOK-OFF (ブックオフ)

    Any manga lovers and collectors out there?

    BOOK-OFF is a secondhand bookstore, and the great thing about this place (apart from cheap books) is that the books are in practically excellent condition! They have 100-yen sections, and also a bundles area where you could potentially find an even more awesome deal on a collection – just like the one below.

    Author’s photo

    Now, keep in mind that manga can be approximately 450 to 850 yen full priced (just a ballpark figure), so finding 10 volumes for 1,500 yen equates to around 150 yen per volume (not including tax), in comparison to approximately 4,500 yen (not including tax) if each volume was 450 yen.

    On the other hand, if manga or books aren’t really your kind of thing, they also sell secondhand CDs, DVDs, games, etc.!

    There is usually a BOOK-OFF in each city, so a quick search on Google Maps will show you the way.

    BOOK-OFF Website
    Access (There are many branches, but we will introduce one of them here.)

    2. Don Quijote (ドン・キホーテ)

    One of Japan’s popular discount stores! You can find pretty much everything here – from clothes and kitchen utensils to toys, cosmetics, and food!

    Don Quijote also has a tax-free shop option for travelers which is a bonus!

    Set aside an hour or two for browsing, and if you’re prepared to shop, make sure you’re also prepared to carry everything with you for the rest of the day. Otherwise, make your Don Quijote trip closer to the end of your day. Check out their website to search for the closest store near you and their opening hours.

    Don Quijote Website
    Access (There are many branches, but we will introduce one of them here.)

    3. 100-Yen Shops

    There are some discount stores or tax-free shops in Japan (e.g. Don Quijote), but keep in mind that there are 100-yen shops, too (like Daiso)! They have some pretty cool things for souvenirs, or maybe you’re just after some supplies for yourself while you’re traveling? Either way, 100 yen (108 yen including tax) for one item is still super cheap!

    4. Alcohol

    Alcohol is already pretty cheap at bars/pubs (izakaya; 居酒屋), with one drink (even cocktails) usually around the 500-yen mark, as compared to other countries. For example, in Australia, one drink can range between 6 to 20 AUD. But buying alcohol from the supermarket can be even cheaper! For example, you could get a six-pack of beer on special for around 800 yen. They even sell alcohol by the bottle or can, so you can mix and match if you feel like trying different flavors or brands.

    So for a cheap and fun night in, grab some drinks and have a party at home!

    For travelers: If you have any friends already living in Japan, see if they want to host a drinking party OR maybe your host (e.g. Airbnb host) would be up for a drink or two?

    5. Cheap Eats

    Author’s photo

    There is nothing wrong with eating on a budget, especially when you want to spend your money on other things like souvenirs, experiences, and/or shopping for yourself. Plus, you could always eat on the cheap during the day when you’re out and about, and then splurge a little for lunch/dinner, or when you already have set eating places you want to go to.

    So what classifies as a “cheap eat” when food in Japan is already on the cheap side?

    • Cooking for yourself – something even as simple as soba (蕎麦) noodles
    • Convenience store (konbini; コンビニ) food – another super cheap option
    • Supermarket (su-pa-; スーパー) specials – there is usually a section in the supermarket where ready-made meals go on special at the end of the day
    • Cheap food stalls – if you can find any in your area

    One handy tip is to have onigiri at the ready – filling and convenient when you’re on the go!

    By using the five tips above, I was able to get the manga I really wanted (cheap and in great condition) and eat and drink like a local. I was then able to save my big spending on experiences like going to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) and buying heaps (and I mean HEAPS) of souvenirs and snacks for my family and friends!

    *Featured Image: jp.fotolia.com/