Is Japan Too Expensive? Debunking the Myths of Travel Costs in Japan

Is Japan Too Expensive? Debunking the Myths of Travel Costs in Japan

Today I was researching travel costs to Japan for a client and found that the Japanese Yen is now trading at approximately JPY 80 to the US Dollar. I remember in April 1995 when the Yen hit its all-time high against the Dollar at 80.43…OUCH. I started to wonder where the currency might be in the coming weeks and months as more and more travelers visit Japan during the peak cherry blossom season. When you do the simple math, it hurts. Japan can be very expensive, but like many aspects of this great nation, what is not said is often the most important.

One theme that continues to be on the minds of people today is the cost of travel. Given the current economic malaise in the USA and around the globe, many individuals have been forced to postpone or even cancel travel due to financial hardship or uncertainty. Travel is one of the first things to be Tourconsultancy when one has to make spending cuts due to new budgetary realities, but it is also one of the first areas on the rebound when individuals feel that it is time to take a long overdue vacation.

Over the past month I have received hundreds of requests indicating that they want to travel to Japan, but that it is just too expensive. This is one of the biggest hurdles when promoting travel to Japan. There is this mindset that Japan is just too expensive and when you add the language and cultural differences it all just seems too much and you sense that when you return from Japan, you will need to take another trip just to get over it. Well that simply is just not the case and in more cases than not, at the end of many journeys to Japan travelers are anxious to return again in the future.

So with that in mind I have dedicated this article to debunking the myths and explaining how to find affordable Japan today. I will identify what I consider to be the most helpful tools when planning a journey to Japan. You will find valuable websites to get the best value in air, accommodations, transportation and cuisine which are the building blocks to any successful trip to Japan.


Air travel is the most common way to get to Japan, but each year more cruise lines are offering Japanese cities as ports of call in their regional and/or global itineraries. The biggest story in air travel to Japan is the recent (Oct 2010) opening of the new International Terminal at Haneda International Airport for flights from around the world. Four slots from the USA were awarded to American Airlines (JFK), Delta Air Lines (LAX & DTW) and Hawaiian Airlines (HNL). Haneda is located in downtown Tokyo and just a short 30 minute ride to the center of the city.

I tell all of my clients that redeeming mileage for international travel, especially for upgrades to business or first class, is one of the best ways to maximize the value of your hard earned miles. Keep in mind that with fewer flight departures today, it is even more difficult to secure award space as the airlines continue to try to increase their revenues. You must plan ahead in order to fly on your preferred travel dates, but do not lose faith if you cannot get a free ticket or confirm an upgrade. Recently United Airlines launched their Premium Seating program which enables you to confirm an upgrade on international travel at the time of ticketing even when an upgrade award is not available. If seats are available in the upgraded cabin, the airline will make them available for a premium fee instead of mileage. For example I recently found a flight to Japan and when I was advised that an upgrade was not available from San Francisco to Tokyo using mileage, I was able to secure a confirmed Premium Seating upgrade for an additional $775 USD one way.