I struggle to answer the question “is Japan expensive?” time after time because, quite frankly, it depends who‘s asking. If you want a lazy answer then no, Japan isn’t expensive. Well, at least in my eyes it isn’t. Bloody hell, that sounds obnoxious, but I don’t mean it to, hear me out…
Japan isn’t cheap to me but I wouldn’t categorise it as expensive either. This isn’t because I bathe every morning in gold bars and 10,000 Yen notes, because I don’t
yet. It also isn’t because I have sworn allegiance to Japan either, because I haven’t yet.
It’s because the cost of living n Japan is comparable to the cost of living in the UK – at least for now.
What Makes Something ‘Expensive’?
The Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of expensive is: (adj.) costing a lot of money… As definitions go, I think this is one of the lazier ones. Personally, I would categorise something as expensive if it costed more than a comparable item/service that I’m familiar with, AND/OR costed more than I perceived it to be worth.
Similarly, when it comes to travel, all I am doing is comparing my home country to foreign countries; with my home country being the baseline for everything.
How is this Relevant?
“Is Japan expensive?” is an impossible question, because we all have different ‘baselines’, and I don’t always know yours. Our home currencies may be different. I could be flying from a different location to you. Hotels could be your preferred choice of accommodation, whereas I prefer to rent an apartment. And so on…
Sure, if you have been living in a rural part of Belgrade for six months and then decide to stay in downtown Osaka, it may expensive for you – but only in comparison. If you are fortunate enough to earn an average wage, in a country with currency that is strong against the Japanese Yen then Japan will be more affordable.
Whilst I believe that everything is possible and opportunities are endless, some of us were just born lucky. In my opinion, to assume that everyone has an equal starting point is quite arrogant. I was lucky enough to live and work in a country with a strong currency. The relative cost of living in Western Europe may be high compared to elsewhere, but the British Pound allows my money to go further in other parts of the world. This isn’t fair for many people, but it is the truth. In September 2015, £1 was equivalent to ¥180. These days I am lucky to get ¥140 out of £1. If I had moved to Japan in 2015 and budgeted everything based upon a favourable exchange rate, I would have found myself in a tricky situation one year down the line.
It’s also worth mentioning that what may be cheap to you or me, could be expensive to a local. Staying in a five-star hotel in any country is likely to be extravagant to any local of that country; it all depends upon what your baseline is.
Visiting Japan May Still Cost Less Than You Think
Despite all of this, I still believe that Japan as a tourist destination is often cheaper than people assume. Although Tokyo has more Michelin star restaurants than any other city in the world (Kyoto is second, Osaka is fourth), and you can spend a substantial amount of money on food very easily here. You can also find healthy and fresh Japanese meals costing less than 800¥ (about $7/£5.50) almost everywhere.
Flight costs and accommodation vary substantially depending upon which time of the year you visit (I talk about this more in my post here). But the most I have paid for a return flight to/from Japan from the UK is £600. There are cheaper ways to visit and enjoy Japan – it just depends upon your preferences!
Overall, it may be obvious that one month in Tokyo is likely to be pricier than one month in Manila. Yet even as a British person, nothing seems as expensive as to me as living in London!
Do you agree/disagree with this article? Let me know your thoughts.