If you're thinking of visiting Japan, but are concerned about it being expensive, maybe you needn't be?
Eating in Tokyo is an adventure and does not have to be expensive. There are many little restaurants with great food at reasonable prices in any neighborhood I've ever been in. (Try the ones that are crowded with locals.) Another way to cut costs and eat well is to shop at the grocery stores located on the underground level of nearly every department store. (They all have rice balls and other heathy, prepared foods you can take to a park and eat. The Japanese are as "on the go" as North Americans.) There are often inexpensive eateries underground, too.
As for transportation in Tokyo, with a transit map you can get anywhere inexpensively in the city by train or subway. Parks and museums have reasonable admissions prices. Shopping where local people shop and avoiding Ginza and hotel boutiques will be more fun and a lot less expensive. Pick a neighborhood with a garden to visit and then spend some time wandering nearby streets. With this method, I've come across indigo-dyers, tatami-makers, potters, and more, all selling their original wares at reasonable prices. With a phrasebook, pen and paper to doodle on, and a big smile you can communicate easily even if you don't know a lot of Japanese.
Herb, I can't make the link work. I will try again later. Kyoto is the only city where I can say I lived and traveled mostly on my own. I have not spent any time in Tyoko, and I think it is probably much different. So, here is a quick summary of my experience of Kyoto:
Breakfast was usually a leftover, a yogurt, green tea, (and a can of iced coffee from the vending machine at the train depot). My store had some exceptional yogurt and they provided a small spoon for eating on the go.
My bento box lunch was provided as part of employment (delicious), and tea and snack usually provided by the clients. Otherwise, there are several restaurants off the street level offering inexpensive fare. They usually have a small display at the stairs with prices. And what you see is what you get.
My favorite supper usually consisted of a beer from the local supermarket and items (usually sushi) from the small stands near the train depots. A great meal usually ended up costing about $5. The desert was a small pastry and a nice hot delicious soaking in the tub!
I was also treated to incredible meals that lasted hours and cost more than my plane ticket home. Should I post a picture?
Weekend splurges included the excellent restaurant at Kyoto International Center. The center had many resources including big screen CNN and email access (I was there when the 9/11/01 insanity hit and was constantly hungry for info. The Japanese emotions on this event were very enlightening).
Transportation is quick and easy with prepaid train cards and bus schedules. The trains are faster than cars, dependable, safe, and incredibly clean! This is THE recommended mode of transportation. Staff are extremely courteous and professional.
Bus travel is very similar to US, but when stopping somewhere the driver is not used to, it is good to give him a note as heads-up. Taxi is expensive.
When you do hit the pavement on foot, most major streets and destinations are posted with their Japanese names using English letters in addition to the Japanese. Study the maps and train lines before you visit and you will be amazed at how well you can navigate. For Kyoto, the train lines are intuitive and well identified. There is a learning curve and then it becomes pretty intuitive.
As a side note, while I lived with a family with mobility handicaps, we used the same travel modes as everyone else. This is when the staff really showed their professionalism and courtesy!
This has made me very hungry. Mata!
If the link won't work, Google the U.K. Daily Telegraph & then search 'Tokyo'. It was in the Sept 24 issue.
After reading both it & what you have to say, I'm tempted to make the trip.
The examples of the melon and the whisky in the original article are not really fair game --- they always have been and still are super expensive because there are special circumstances.
The melons in Japan are almost all intensively grown for absolute perfection, and they're almost always reserved for use as very special gifts. The whiskey costs a fortune in a certain type of bar because you're actually paying the equivalent of an expensive cover charge.
I lived in Tokyo for several years on a normal budget and loved it. Go, Herb, go!
Go...and share the photos!! I can't wait to see my favorite gardens through your lens!
Nice to read all the encouragement, but if we do go, don't count on worthwhile pictures - none of the ones I took on my trip to the Nitobe Memorial Garden in Vancouver a few weeks ago was worth keeping.
Herb- get any good shots of the teahouse area- esp the pathway? Everytime I'm there is either being cleaned up or off limits for some reason or other.
btw- did you check out the construction details in the entrance gate?
Herb, you NEED to go to Japan, that way the group can send you as our proxy representative. No money but lots of suggestions :-)
Yes, I got two more pictures of the teahouse garden paths but they're poorer than one that was already in my Pbase album. And no, I didn't get any of the entrance gate. I doubt they'd have been much good anyway, the light conditions were such a long way from ideal. Anyway, here are links to all three of the path pictures.
Click for the older picture
I can't comment on Tokyo, but I can speak a little about Fukuoka, the city I live in.
I live on lots of vegetables which are mostly locally grown, truly fresh, and pretty darn cheap when in season (daikon for instance usually costs a little over $1 for a huge root; shitake about $1 for 6-7 nice shrooms; all kinds of greens, my favorite being mizuna and horenzo (spinach); and on and on!). Fruit are excellent in quality but tend to be expensive. When in season they can be reasonably priced, even the melons.
Fish is generally very cheap, fresh, and the variety will blow your mind! All meat is pretty expensive except chicken and pork. Japanese tastes favor very fatty cuts, so if you like lean meat your in luck since it is the cheapest!
Rice is expensive but variable in cost and quality. Noodles of every shape, size, composition are everywhere with ramen and udon being the kings, followed closely by soba (buckwheat noodles). Even prepared noodle dishes tend to be cheap, in the $5 range.
And I could go on. If you stay put in an area you'll lean the good deals. The funny thing is that today McDonalds is one of the cheapest choices on the street and many young people are eating the stuff, god bless them. In general the Japanese people still eat a much better diet than Americans, and the portions they eat are far less. It will be interesting to see if radical change will come with the young generation and its exposure to western fast food. I hope not!
All this talk about mouth-watering food reminds me of one of my favourite movies: Itami's Tampopo -- a gentle comedy about a widow trying to learn how to make the best ramen for her shop, and many other 'delicious' intersecting stories ... not to be watched on an empty stomach !
If you do go soon, Herb .. have a great trip - and if you see any amusing signage ... there's also engrish.com :)
Here is a link that might be useful: coffee shop
The travel expense I hate the most is the "double" room charge for a hotel room. Most Japanese hotels charge by the person, not by the room. A couple pays twice the price for the same room.
Herb, when are you planning to come to Japan?
Well, everybody's urging me to go, but Hong Kong and Australia beckon too....... If we win the lottery, we'll definitely visit all three - make it a big enough win & I'd ask the Aussies if we could stay there permanently....... H.
Well, there's more than enough room over here, Herb -- even for all your bags of cement and molds :)
please tell me your package tour experience good and bad.
Spinach I wouldn't load up on due to its oxalic acid content. Once per week is recommended here.