Touring Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara on a budget

Exploring the beaten path while beating the buck
Set meals in Amano Hashidate
Set meals in Amano HashidateContributed photo

Adventures of Teacher Maita

As Teacher Maita, a passionate artist, art teacher, and writer, I've always harbored a deep love for travel. I view every trip as a chance to broaden my horizons, experience different cultures, and carry on with my insatiable thirst for knowledge. So, I jumped at the chance to see Japan, eager to learn about this dynamic country without going into debt, as soon as the opportunity presented itself.

Charcoal-Matcha Ice Cream at Kiyomizu Dera
Charcoal-Matcha Ice Cream at Kiyomizu DeraContributed photo

For budget-conscious tourists like myself, a trip to Japan doesn't have to break the bank. I made the most of my eleven-day journey through Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara by meticulously preparing and being inventive, and I savored every moment of it.

Prebooking is the key

In order to make the most of my budget, I had to do extensive planning before ever stepping foot in Japan. I found wisely-priced plane tickets and visa processing offers by searching travel fairs, so I was able to get all of my vacation necessities at a discount. I found out about free travel insurance and cash rebates through a fortunate interaction with a credit card agent, which allowed me to save even more money on my trip. Travelers should always get travel insurance. The unexpected is always a possibility.

After we arranged our flights and other logistics, we could focus on creating an itinerary that would meet our interests while staying within our budget. By communicating months ahead with my companions, we were able to avoid tourist traps and have genuine experiences at a variety of unique sights and restaurants. Universal Studios was a place that my buddies did not want on the itinerary. 

This store in Amano Hashidate is very classy. They have specialty sardines and cakes but are quite pricy.
This store in Amano Hashidate is very classy. They have specialty sardines and cakes but are quite pricy.Contributed photo

Museums were also not their thing. As a result, we used reputable websites to arrange our tours in advance. That was where we booked Amano Hashidate, tour as well as the car to Kyoto. Nara was pretty much on our own as more of the attractions in Nara are free so we only had to spend on lunch and train tickets. We opted for a contemporary hotel that provided convenience without breaking the budget, striking a balance between comfort and cost.

Daily allowance for food and shopping

Spending little more than 5,000 yen every day for food and shopping was plenty. A typical set meal in Nara, Osaka, or Kyoto might cost between 800 and 1200 yen. Because it includes soup, salad rice, and main dish, the package is a great choice. Typically, we would get breakfast items from a convenience store. The cost of a sandwich is 250 yen, while beverages like coffee or tea cost 100 yen. Another option is to visit the grocery store, where the most affordable bento will cost you 150 yen and up. Most hotels have microwaves so you won’t have any problems heating it. There are also more drink choices and at a cheaper price in the grocery.

Souvenir shop at Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Souvenir shop at Fushimi Inari Shrine.Contributed photo
Street food
Street food Contributed photo

As I made my way through the maze of streets in Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara, I stumbled onto a treasure trove of places to shop that were affordable. Shopping is our topic. You may get all sorts of tacky mementos from them. Those keychains will set you back 500-1000 yen each, so it might be best to steer clear of them. The finest pasalubong are chocolates. Gather the bags containing assorted items. Those are always a hit. 

For my aunts, I purchased vintage chopstick holders. Buying items in temple sites is a bad idea. The price goes up as you go closer to temples.  Secondhand obis and kimonos were also purchases of mine. I had to sacrifice a lot of suitcase room for this. Because they are easy to transport, stickers and stationery are also great pasalubong gifts for my friends. Even with the space, I can't picture returning home with that much. Walking to the station takes 10 minutes, whereas getting to the airport takes an hour and a half. Bringing your bags all the way to the terminal is another hassle. The airport does not employ porters, in contrast to the Philippines.

All of these bags and wallets are made of recycled kimono.
All of these bags and wallets are made of recycled kimono.Contributed photo

The best part about souvenir shops is that you can get tax-free refunds if you spend 5500 Yen on a single item. Nevertheless, I was able to avoid spending any of this because I am quite frugal. 

The grocery store and the Don Quixote department store are my preferred places to buy chocolates and candies. These have local pricing for you. Look for things that are unique in Daiso Japan, even though we have Daiso here. A hundred yen will get you the majority of them. 

Also selling kawaii things for tiny nieces, Seiyu is a 100 Yen boutique which has a lot of hobby selections. 3Coins is a 300 Yen retailer. They specialize in home goods for the most part. 

Book Off is the place to go whether you're looking for used comics, bags, miniatures, or games. You may find additional stores like this on Dotonbori Lane as well. occasionally, do back one-of-a-kind discoveries in Naramachi or Sanjo Dori. The goods are handmade in Japan and are sure to be one-of-a-kind, but they aren't cheap.


My trip to Japan was an inspiring tale of perseverance in the face of adversity, including sickness and bad weather. The endless cultural diversity and breathtaking natural beauty of Japan were on full display from the peaceful beaches of Amano Hashidate to the lively streets of Osaka.

Feeding the deer costs 200 yen for deer food.
Feeding the deer costs 200 yen for deer food.Contributed photo

My experience shows that with proper preparation and ingenuity, even a small budget may allow you to see Japan. When possible, book in advance for everything. Do your homework before you go. Research is key! 

To truly experience another culture, a trip to Japan is a must. In college, I went to Japan for the first time. At the time, my sister was a student there. Spending an entire summer in Japan, according to my mom, would help me become more self-reliant. That and much more followed. Having access to high-quality art supplies allowed me to develop my skills as an artist. 

When it comes to art, my sister also loves to show me what set Japanese modern and traditional art apart. The experience was rich and rewarding, and this round was no exception. 

I am really grateful for all the experiences and memories I have made during my stay in Japan. Whether it was the simple pleasures of tasting street cuisine or the enlightening experiences of meeting local craftspeople, every yen spent was an investment in adventure and learning.


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