Eat Kobini / Convenience Store food or if you find your place near a supermarket even better (more choices). You can load up on water, bread and/or onigiri for your breakfast or to snack on during your shinkansen trips. Some stores also have hot meals. The food is good especially if you’re trying to save some money.
I also buy my pasalubong here, since people nowadays enjoy food as pasalubong. Oh and the bigger supermarkets have an area for sweets, we bought ice cream mochi and strawberry mochi–super yuuummm!
For lodging, Airbnb is especially cheaper if you’re in a group. A huge chunk of your travel budget goes into lodging, compared to a hotel you can share a place that’s nearer to a station and with bigger space. There are even places that are styled like a traditional Japanese home, and you can sleep on a futon. Just make sure to read the reviews beforehand to see if it fits to your needs (i.e. private room, private toilet, etc.).
Remember that you are not in a hotel so you need to be more considerate, most hosts would specify that they are in a residential area and that you need to be quiet, you also need to remove your shoes at the entrance, try to keep it clean. Respect the rules and remember that you are only sharing the house (even if you are paying) and you’ll be fine.
I cannot stress this enough, plan your itinerary. Exploring on your own is very feasible, we only booked a tour once because it included a temple that is only available if you’re on tour. Also check if the places you want to visit need to be booked in advance. Take note of the train stations and the exits before going out. Some museums (like Ghibli) don’t sell tickets on the actual venue.
And although doable, I wouldn’t recommend visiting both Tokyo and Osaka on the same trip. I enjoyed the trip more when I visited one area in one trip.
Don’t worry about language too much, be more aware of their culture. It’s easy to get around with the English signs at the stations. People are also okay with you asking for directions, you can get by with keywords and pointing directions. If there’s no English menu we taking pictures of what we wanted to eat and showing it to the server is also okay. Not everyone can speak in English but there will always be someone there that can help you somehow as long as you are respectful and you show them you’re nice person.
In that regard, Learn a basic Japanese phrases. They appreciate it. To get you started:
Arigato = Thank you
Sumimasen = I’m sorry / Excuse me.
[Place] Doko desu ka = Where is [place]
Toire = Toilet
Youtube will be a big help here.
Look for unlimited ride train tickets. Osaka has unlimited subway pass that was sulit. JR Pass would also be an economical option if you will ride the Shinkansen twice. We were able to get our JR Pass though our trusted tour agency, they printed it our after fifteen minutes of payment. This reiterates planning your itinerary, you can check your train fares and routes in hyperdia to make sure you are getting value for your money.
This is one of the most frustrating but one of the biggest savers: Wait for seat sales – I got my Fukuoka tickets for only 300 php for 2 persons, roundtrip. Fukuoka and Nagoya tickets sell out slower than Osaka and Tokyo tickets. Nagoya is a good starting point to get around Japan. We landed in Nagoya then went to Osaka then Tokyo in a 1 week trip (T-I-R-I-N-G trip. But sulit).
Check the weather and temperature online, it is mostly accurate and pack appropriately.
My first trip to Japan (my first trip to a country with 4 seasons) I was wearing my tropical summer clothes (my country only has rainy and sunny weather) and it was 10 degrees Celsius outside. It only hit me when we were going out the subway and the wind blew. My first thought was “They had air-conditioners outside?” Of coourrrse not. They had heater inside. Hah! So we walked for 15 minutes and I was wearing a thin cardigan over my spaghetti strapped lace mini dress. We stopped by every convenience store pretending to look around just to get some head.
And. I don’t know if it’s just us but I haven’t found a place where we buy clothes cheap in Japan. Better to pack everything you need.
Call the bank to reserve yen and after less than a week pick it up from the branch. The exchange rates of banks are usually fair and we like to avoid the hassle of finding a foreign exchange there. The biggest no no would be to exchange in the airport 😭
And for the last tip, please splurge at least once in your trip for food – You’re already in Japan so make the most of it! You must eat restaurant food at least once in your trip. Allocate part of budget to eat out at least once even if you’re on a budget. You can get a good meal for 500php in a restaurant.