So, before I get started on my recent little ‘adventure’ I want to just mention one thing: travelling cheaply in Japan is possible. I tried on a budget of 2000 yen, so around 14 euros, but that was on the bottom end of the scale and my destination wasn’t exactly cheap.
Anyway, here’s how:
– Accommodation – this one, if you want to do it totally cheap, and safe, you can couchsurf. I did it in Fukuoka, and the people are very friendly. However, this requires your schedule to be a lot more prepared and rigid in advance. Another way is bumming it on the streets, which a few people do do at night when they’ve missed the last train home. There’s also camping, which, to be in an accessible place, isn’t easy around a city, but when you go to islands like Shikoku or Yakushima, then it’s a very good option. Mind the humid weather though!
Now, if none of those options sound feasible to you, then the final option is sleeping in an internet café. Yes, people do it a lot here! Especially after a night out or something. I guess it’s a way to get away from the enclosed family homes. So they have special night rates, and it’s not all that expensive (you may need to do some shopping around) – I stayed in a really decent one in fukuoka for 1700 yen for 9 hours. And in another one in Kagoshima 1000 yen for 6 hours. You may be thinking : “do you sleep in a chair??” but that’s the beautiful thing – you pay the same price for a flat booth! So it’s like a mattress in an isolated area! Look at my photos to get an idea… and there’s free drinks and even a shower! Why not eh?
– Food – the best way to eat cheaply in Japan is to eat local food. You can get some decent portions for 6-700 yen. Also, there’s chains like fujiichiban, hotto motto or yoshinoya where you get a big meal for 500 yen. And there’s also the convenience stores, that are open 24/7 and what I’ve been loving is onigiri, rice ‘balls’ or triangles, with a filling in it, and it’s cold so it’s great for summer. They’re 120 yen a piece and after 3 you’re full. It’s a great healthy snack too. If you want to cook your own, then the accodomation options above aren’t very accommodating to hot homecooked food…
– Transport – this is the one that will get you down. Walk a lot, you have feet don’t you?? Buses are usually pretty cheap, but here’s Japan’s best kept secret – seichun juuhachikippu. (seichun 18). It’s a pass that’s only available in the school holiday periods – march-april, july-august and December. You buy a ticket for 11,500 yen, and you get 5 bits. 1 bit = 1 day’s travel. Anywhere in Japan. The only downfall is: you can only take local JR trains. Which means that this pass is only good when you’ve got a lot of time on your hands. But if you do – you can go ANYWHERE for SUPER cheap. I came back from way fuck down south to Nagoya, it took me 30 hours (an overnight stop) but it only cost me 4800 yen… But then again, if you’re on a tourist visa, it’s probably nicer to just get a rail pass… sadly that’s not an option for me.
Got it? Now get a-coming to Japan!
So, I just spent the last 10 days in Fukuoka, Nagasaki and Yakushima.
I started in Fukuoka, and did some couchsurfing. Honestly, I wasn’t enjoying it, it’s another big city and I was travelling by myself bla bla. But still good to see. The next day I met another couchsurfer who told me about Seichun 18 and she helped me cancel my return bus ticket, and offered me a ride to Beppu, on the other side of the island (all of these places are in Kyushu, which is the 3rd largest island of Japan, just to the south of the main island – under Hiroshima etc). I decided against it and was on my way to Nagasaki. It’s a really nice place!! It’s a very pretty city and the people are so friendly. They also some old ass tram system down there, and the conductors drive you crazy. They’re constantly talking like this in Japanese: turning left, turning left, turning left. Right, going right, going right. Stopping at a traffic light. It’s a traffic light. ETC ETC! Drive. You. Insane. Anyway, the a-bomb museum is interesting, I’ve heard it’s not as shocking as the one in Hiroshima. I then met up with this Dutch guy from couchsurfing who was weird, and we were shown to a bar by a principal of a high school! It was all pretty random. I stayed in an internet café booth there… I got a lot of sleep actually! It’s a new experience. The next day I went walking around some of the older parts of town – the Dutch and Chinese were some of the only people allowed to do some trade down there for a long time, so there’s some very western-influenced architecture etc.
I hopped on a long train journey to the south – to Kagoshima. The nice thing about these is that you meet a lot of people! I spoke to this Japanese guy and then this girl from Hong Kong. I couldn’t get into a hostel the time I arrived so it was another short night at an Internet café before heading to Yakushima – by slow/cheap ferry it’s 4 hours south of the southern coast… so pretty far! But it’s BEAUTIFUL! You can do some great hikes amongst 3000+ year old cedar trees. The iconic one is called yomon sugi (sugi = cedar) but that’s a 10 hour return trip, and the bus connections are fairly shit. So I didn’t do that one, but I did a short 2.5 hour one and a 6 hour one the next day. It’s amazing, all very mossy and ancient. It’s currently a UNESCO world heritage site. After the 1st hike I ws taken to a small minshuku (guesthouse) by the lady who was in the tourist info office, and that night I went to a natural hot spring at nice – it was amazing with the ocean there and the stars… Then I went for the long hike and met this cool Japanese ojiisan (grandpa) who wanted a photo with me, and I went camping after that. It wa right next to this amazingly stunning beach where I stayed for a whole day doing nothing! It’s also really interesting because most people that camp are the ones that are biking around the island, which is really tough, but it makes for great conversation. I was about to leave then when I decided to stay another night and go snorkelling which was pretty cool – it’s not amazingly pretty but you get porcupine fish, and some big parrothead fish and stuff, pretty cool.
Then I embarked on my long journey home, and that night I did the real bummy thing – I slept in my sleeping bag by the station! But it was safe, don’t worry.
And so now I’m back. And don’t want to see trains for a LONG time! But if you ge the chance, yakushima is awesome.