What does a trip to Japan cost? Obviously, it depends on many factors including where you're going, where you're coming from, how long you'll stay, and what you do when you get there.
And of course, you know that. But it helps to have an idea, right?
In this article, I'm sharing our actual expenses from my family's trip to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto to help you get an idea of what a 2-week trip to Japan costs for a family of four. We took our trip in June 2023, not long after Japan re-opened after the pandemic. The U.S. dollar was strong against the yen, so a lot of things cost us less in Japan than they would have in the United States – especially food.
Keep reading to get an overview of our trip, what we actually spent, and my top tips for saving money on this trip.
Overview of Tokyo
We traveled with our two teens (ages 16 and 18) from Los Angeles to Tokyo in early June 2023 on Delta Airlines. We flew from our home near Salt Lake City to Los Angeles on Southwest Airlines using points and spent one night in an airport hotel because it saved us at least $1,000 on airfare.
On Delta, we paid $150 per person to upgrade from Basic to Economy. so we could choose our seats and have more flexibility with changing or canceling our tickets. We booked our tickets six months in advance when we spotted a Basic rate of $600 per person from Los Angeles to Tokyo.
We only paid $44 total for our Southwest flights because of the strategies we learned from the Families Fly Free program. Being able to fly to bigger airports on Southwest for almost nothing puts a lot more international flight deals within our reach. Be sure to plan at least 3-4 hours between flights and buy travel insurance when you buy tickets from different airlines.
Including travel time, our trip was 14 days. We spent 1 night at a hotel near LAX at the beginning of our trip.
We flew into Haneda Airport in Tokyo and used public transportation exclusively.
We stayed in two hotels in Tokyo – four nights near Tokyo Disney Resort and two nights in a more walkable, central location in Asakusa. The first hotel was JR East Hotel Mets Tokyo Bay Shinkiba. It was right next to the Shinkiba station, which was just two stops (10-15 minutes) from Tokyo Disney Resort, and fairly convenient to the rest of Tokyo. Since it is outside the popular tourist zones, the price was almost half the price per night as our second Tokyo hotel.
Our second Tokyo hotel was the Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International. It was a block away from the spectacular Senso-ji temple and the neighborhood was walkable, with lots of personality. This hotel was nicer than our first hotel, and we would have liked this neighborhood for the entire trip. However, it was a 7-10 minute walk from the nearest train stations and I found the trains in this part of Tokyo more confusing than in Shinkiba.
Our Japanese hotel rooms were smaller than the typical American hotel room. With teens, we booked two rooms, each with two twin beds. It worked well. We spent 6 total nights in Tokyo.
Our Tokyo itinerary included:
- Tokyo Disneyland
- teamLab Planets
- Ghibli Museum
- Tokyo SkyTree
- Shibuya Crossing
- Yayoi Kusama Museum
- Senso-ji and other shrines and temples
- Shopping at historic outdoor markets and modern malls
They're all wonderful. Tokyo is a must on any trip to Japan and I feel like we just scratched the surface.
Related: 12 Tips for Your First Trip to Japan
Overview of Hiroshima
We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Hiroshima. It took about 5 hours. We bought our JR (Japan Rail) passes through Klook before our trip, exchanged the vouchers at the airport, and made reservations for our Shinkansen trips on a machine at the Shinkiba station. Reservations are not required on the Shinkansen, but for a family of four with a tight schedule, they are recommended.
We stayed at Capsule Hotel Cube Hiroshima, which is conveniently located in downtown Hiroshima within walking distance of the Peace Museum and A-Bomb Dome. I thought that the bed was uncomfortable (a pad on a hard surface), but otherwise, I loved this experience. My teens had no problem with the bed. A capsule hotel is not for everyone, but I'm glad we tried this uniquely Japanese lodging.
Our Hiroshima itinerary included:
- Peace Museum
- A-Bomb Dome
- Okonomiyaki Village
- Day trip to Miyajima
Hiroshima was a surprise favorite for my family. It's a smaller, less-touristy city so everything felt easier.
Overview of Kyoto
We took the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Hiroshima to Kyoto. It took less than 2 hours. At the end of our trip, we took the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo (about 3 hours) for our 4:45 PM flight back to Los Angeles.
We stayed at Ranzan in the Arashiyama neighborhood. We wanted a ryokan (traditional guesthouse) experience with futons on the floor and Ranzan offers this option for a price that was within our budget. This was our most expensive hotel. We figured out after we booked that Arashiyama is not centrally located in Kyoto, but we were in a scenic area within a short walk of the Bamboo Forest, Monkey Park, and several temples, which was nice. The train station is a 15-minute walk.
Our Kyoto itinerary included:
- Monkey Park
- Bamboo Forest
- Kinkaku-ji temple (Golden pavilion)
- Nijo Castle
- Fushimi Inari (orange torii gates)
- Kiyomizu-Dera temple
- Flaming ramen
- Nishiki Market
- Scenic train trip
- Other beautiful temples and shrines
- Shopping at historic outdoor markets and modern malls
Related: What Does a Trip to Europe Cost?
What We Spent
Here are our actual expenses for our trip to Japan. These are the amounts that were charged to our credit cards in U.S. dollars.
- $3,000 – Airfare from LAX to Tokyo for four on Delta
- $44 – Southwest flights from SLC to LAX and back on Southwest, using points
- $211 – LAX Airport hotel (1 night)
- $902 – 4 adult 7-day JR Passes (price is going up soon)
- $793 – Public transportation
- $4,950 TOTAL
- $713 – JR East Mets Tokyo Bay Shinkiba, 2 rooms, 4 nights
- $695 – Richmond Hotel Premier Asakusa International, 2 rooms, 2 nights
- $115 – Capsule Hotel Cube Hiroshima, 4 premium capsules, 1 night
- $1,339 – Ranzan, 1 room, 4 nights
- $2,862 TOTAL
- $500 – Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea adult tickets, 1-day each
- $115 – Priority passes for 2 total rides at Disneyland and DisneySea
- $84 – Tokyo SkyTree
- $86 – teamLab Planets
- $25 – Ghibli Museum
- $24 – Nijo Castle
- $24 – Yayoi Kusama Museum
- $24 – Karaoke, one hour on a weekday afternoon at Big Echo
- Small admissions to temples and shrines – this came from the cash that is in the public transportation budget
- $882 TOTAL
We ate what we wanted when we wanted, but mostly avoided expensive full-service restaurants. We ate a lot from street markets and convenience stores like 7-11, FamilyMart, and Lawson's. Our most expensive meals cost around $70 for four. Our average meal cost around $30.
- $1,560 TOTAL
- $245 – travel insurance
- $58 – Pocket Wi-Fi rental
- I did not track souvenirs, because this is a totally optional and personal expense.
- $303 TOTAL
Grand Total: $10,557
Our budget was $10,000 for this dream trip and I am patting myself on the back for coming in so close. We did not count costs during the trip. We splurged on the experiences that were important to us and saved on things that were less meaningful.
How we saved money
Airfare was our largest single expense, and finding fares for $750 per person made this trip possible. We searched fares for alternate airports and found that it was much less expensive to fly from Los Angeles than Salt Lake City. We adjusted the dates of our trip to match the lowest possible fares.
We flew from Salt Lake City to and from Los Angeles for a total of $44 plus points. We basically got those flights for free using the strategies we learned from Lyn at Families Fly Free.
The JR (Japan Rail) Pass lets you take unlimited trips on JR trains (including bullet trains and local trains) for 7, 14, or 21 days. The cost of this pass is going up soon. Do the math to make sure that an unlimited pass makes sense for your trip and buy the least number of days you need. We bought a 7-day pass for our 14-day trip since we were taking the bullet train only during the last week. We were comfortable in the regular car. No need to upgrade to the Green Car.
Public transportation is the cheapest and best way to get around Tokyo. We did it with and without luggage, with no problem. Google Maps will always show you where you want to go. It will also show you the cost. I learned late in our trip that trips with more transfers cost more and provide more opportunities to get on the wrong train or bus. The top option in Google Maps is usually the fastest, but not always the easiest or least expensive.
Our public transportation expenses above are bigger than they actually were. $793 is how much cash we used and I didn't keep track of it because most of our cash went to Suica (public transportation) cards. Suica cards can also be used at vending machines, convenience stores, and other places. We also used a little cash for meals and admission to temples and shrines – anytime they didn't take credit cards. We used our Suica cards to buy vending machine drinks every day.
We wanted to stay in uniquely Japanese lodgings and we wanted great locations. Sometimes those priorities saved us money and sometimes they cost more.
The capsule hotel cost a total of $115 for one night. It was in a great location and was a lot of fun. So we saved money there, but it would not have been a good option for a family for longer than one night.
We saved money at the JR East Mets Hotel in Shinkiba because it was a no-frills hotel outside the touristy areas. It was great for Tokyo Disney Resort and teamLab Planets, but farther from the parts of Tokyo that most people visit. You can find this brand near other train stations in Tokyo, and I'd happily consider staying at another budget-friendly JR East Mets Hotel in Tokyo.
Our other two hotels were more expensive. BUT… our Asakusa hotel was less expensive than hotels in Shibuya and Shinjuku, but still in an interesting, central neighborhood. And Ranzan was actually low-frills and budget-friendly compared to some luxury Ryokans in Kyoto. We shopped around until we found what we wanted for a price we could afford.
Activities are always our priority, but they just weren't as expensive in Japan. The dollar was strong against the yen, so even our Disneyland tickets cost half the price of two days at Disneyland Resort in California.
We strategically splurged on Priority Passes on two rides at Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea. These are the rides that instantly have a long line and will eat up your whole morning. So we headed for the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th most popular rides first and used the app to buy Priority Passes for The Enchanted Tale of Beauty and the Beast and Soarin' for later in the morning. We walked on both rides for about $15 per person, per ride.
If you don't care about Tokyo Disney Resort and some other touristy spots like teamLab Planets, you can explore Japan pretty cheaply. We found museums, temples, parks, and general exploration to be inexpensive.
We arrived in Japan with a long wish list of foods we wanted to eat. Fortunately, you can enjoy most of them at food stalls for under $10 per meal.
Our average cost for food was around $25 per person per day. Our better restaurant meals on this trip cost $70 for our family of four and we often treated ourselves to snacks and drinks.
All of our hotels offered breakfast at an additional cost. Instead, we bought breakfast, drinks, and snacks every morning at 7-11, FamilyMart, or Lawson's convenience stores, which are located on practically every block. They offer a variety of hot and cold items including pastries, sandwiches, protein bars, yogurt, rice balls, hot buns, and fresh fruit. If an item needs heating, they will do it for you. They will also provide utensils.
If we did it again…
If I were to do this trip again, I'd consider spending more for a more comfortable seat on the airplane or flying directly from Salt Lake City. Honestly, flying economy on a 10-12 hour flight was uncomfortable for my tall, overweight, middle-aged body. I didn't sleep at all.
And we had a 6-hour layover between our Delta flight and our Southwest flight to get home – after we had already been traveling for 20+ hours! We tried to move it but couldn't. After a few more weeks, I might forget the discomfort and go with the cheapest option again next time, but paying for comfort was an immediate takeaway from this trip.
I'm happy that we tried the capsule hotel and Ryokan, but I didn't sleep well in Hiroshima and Kyoto where we were basically sleeping on the floor. My teens had no problem. Comfort matters when you are walking 20,000 steps per day and fighting jet lag. If you are a delicate sleeper, it's always a good idea to splurge on comfortable lodging.
Related: Why you should SPLURGE on Lodging
Now that we know that we can successfully visit Japan on a budget, we are excited to plan our next dream trip!
I hope that this information helps your family plan a great trip. If you have a question or tip for traveling in Japan, please share it in the Comments below.