Can I visit Japan in cherry blossom season on a budget?

Welcome to the new and improved Holiday Hotline!

From now on, I’ll be selecting just one holiday query a week but I’ll be going IN on it, and covering all the bases.

If you want me to help you in the future, make sure you’re following me over on Instagram.

THE REQUEST

So, Amy’s been in touch, and here’s what she’s after.

  • Japan
  • End of March
  • Cherry blossom season
  • 2 people
  • Flying from Manchester
  • 2 weeks
  • £1500 each

As someone who visited Japan last year in cherry blossom season and booked it all pretty last minute – not advised, by the way – I know that this can be done!

Cherry blossom season is always super popular – with both tourists and the Japanese – and you can check out the best dates to visit the different areas here.

For 2020, Tokyo’s supposed to start flowering from 21 March and be in full bloom by 27 March.

But be aware that last year it came early and so it’s not quite an exact science!

I was so lucky as I found our flights for just £258 (ridiculous, I know!) and so the first hurdle is gonna be getting Amy to Tokyo on a budget…

Let’s do this.

FLIGHTS

So, as Amy wants the end of March, it does make things a bit pricier (it’s getting close to Easter!) so as a quick aside, if you can fly between Thurs 12th – Fri 27th March, you’ll pay £133 each less.

But anyway, onwards!

Tues 24th March to Tues 7th April
Manchester to Tokyo
Nippon Airways / Swiss Air
£670 each

£670 may not seem a great price initially but actually, according to the stats on Google Flights, it’s not too shabby at all!

There is also a £469 flight on the 29th March yet the connections are a total horror show. But… I guess an option if you love flying and long layovers???!


What about other airports?

Alright, alright, I suppose I can help a few others out as well.

London – Tues 24 Mar – Tues 7th Apr – from £370 each

It does involves a long layover in Shanghai both ways but they do have a 72 hour visa pass for people in transit and there are plenty of hotels in and around the airport for that overnight layover on the way home!

There’s also this option with much shorter layovers for £433 each.

If you wanna fly direct, the best price is from Mon 16th for £780 but if you want to go later on like Amy, it’s going to set you back £979 each!

Edinburgh – Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr – £706 each

It does involve a 19 hour layover in Amsterdam on the way out but it’s timed really nicely for you to enjoy an evening there and get up with loads of time for your early afternoon flight.

Inverness – Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr – £630 each

Another long layover in Amsterdam on the way out but again, a nice excuse for a quick trip there too!

Cardiff – Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr – £695 each

Once again! KLM with their Amsterdam breaks!

The hilarious thing is that if you were to fly direct from Amsterdam on all of these KLM flights it would cost MORE than any of these listed above. How does that even make sense?!


RAIL PASS

Normally I’d move onto accommodation but for exploring Japan, the rail pass is a very important component.

But first of all, what is it exactly?

The Japan Rail pass – also known as the JR Pass – is a special discounted ticket available for tourists. It offers unlimited travel on trains operated by Japan Railways Group and includes the high-speed service known as the Shinkansen, or the Bullet Train.

Prices – correct as of December 2019

TypeJR Ordinary PassJR Ordinary PassJR Green Pass
(First Class)
JR Green Pass
(First Class)
DurationAdultChildAdult Child
7 day£200£100£268£134
14 day£319£160£433£217
21 day£408£204£563£282

Can you find a discount? No. There aren’t any, so don’t waste your time looking for one (I did).

For a two week trip, I think 7 days feels too short and 14 feels too long but I think if you’re trying to save money, think about doing a stint in Tokyo either side of your travels (that’s what we did!) so you can go for the shorter pass.

However, I’m going put Amy down for the full whack – £319 each – just to cover all bases (and because I love to make life difficult for myself).

There’s no set website to buy your rail pass on – a load of third parties do this – but I can personally recommend Japan Travel Centre as they offer free delivery (they also offer free pick up if you’re in London which is what I did).

Top tip: You cannot reserve seats on most trains outside of the country so make sure you head to a travel centre when you arrive to get a seat! You’re travelling at peak times so it’s deffo worth doing this. More details are here.


ITINERARY

I swear I’ll get to accommodation next but more important is to first work out where you want to go.

There are loads of great two week itineraries available online – one of my fave things to do is to look at a professional tour and then try to recreate it – but for the purpose of this challenge, I’ll be following this:

25th – 29th Mar / 4 nights / Tokyo
29th Mar – 1st Apr / 3 nights / Kyoto
1st Apr – 3rd April / 2 nights / Hiroshima
3rd April – 5th April / 2 nights / Osaka
5th – 6th April / 2 nights / Tokyo

This is loosely based on my own journey but do your own research and see what you fancy.


ACCOMMODATION

Here we go then! We finally made it!

As the flight arrives in a day later, we actually need to find 13 nights accommodation for this trip.

Given that the total for flights and a rail pass is already £931 each (jeez) this means we have £519 each left for places to stay.

That’s just £43.67 a night each.

Can we do it?

YES WE CAN!


Hold on a second…

Before we get into this, what I found was the best way to keep to budget in Japan was to change accommodation every couple of nights or so. This allowed us to explore new areas, work around a hotel’s busy calendar and also save money on some nights and splurge on others.

Due to this, I’d also recommend packing light. I actually only took my 45L Patagonia rucksack and James took a small wheelie case and a backpack. It made it so much easier.

Please be aware that Japanese rooms are MUCH smaller and if you’re staying in an Airbnb, it can feel pretty basic, but it’s a great insight into how many live in the city. Plus, make sure you check out some pod hotels because they are AMAZING/BIZARRE AF.

My top advice would be to get on trivago, enter your dates and just see what you can get for your money.

I’ve done some searching for you, but please do see the following places as a pick’n’mix selection!


Tokyo

Andon Ryokan – £84 a night / £42 each
Pssst – make sure you’re signed in to Booking.com as the price can go down more!

Traditional Ryokan style (you sleep on fold out futons on the floor) but with a modern twist – and a cracking breakfast included too!

Take a look at when we stayed there here!


ONE@Tokyo – £94 a night / £47 a night each

More western in style but with smaller rooms to keep the budget down.

Take a look at when we stayed there here!


9h nine hours Askusa – from £15 each

Yes, you do sleep in there.

Bizarrely, the price is often cheaper for men than women on the same night. It can also fluctuate from night to night and as you have to fully check out in the morning, I’d only recommend this as a first night or last night in an area. But a great experience!

Check out when we stayed in this type of capsule in Kyoto here!


Airbnb – £45.50 a night / £22.25 each

Not used Airbnb before? Get £25 off your first stay here!

It’s not looker, but if you’re wanting to save money and have more space than a pod, it’s not a bad price!


Airbnb – £70.75 a night / £35.37 each

Not used Airbnb before? Get £25 off your first stay here!

Teeny tiny, and in the traditional style, there’s not even room to swing a cat but with close transport links to Shinjuku, it may be just right for you!


Booking.com Apartment – £80.50 a night / £40.25


Book Tea Bed Ginza – £30.50 each

Book lover? Sleep amongst your favourite stories! How cool is that?!


Kyoto

The Millennials – £43.33 a night each

One of my most fave places I’ve ever stayed! It’s a pod hotel – but high tech with boutique hotel vibes. And a free beer hour!

Check our my written review here, or watch the video here.


Urban Hotel Kyoto – £77.67 a night / £38.84 each


The Celecton Kyoto Horikawa Sanjo – £65.66 a night / £32.83 each


Airbnb – £64.66 a night / £32.33 each

Not used Airbnb before? Get £25 off your first stay here!

Set in a hillside artist residence, you’re slightly out of the city and amongst Kyoto’s beautiful greenery here! But don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to travel central (they also have free bikes!)


Hiroshima

We didn’t go to Hiroshima but I wished we’d cut our Osaka trip slightly shorter to include it so that’s why it’s here.

WeBase Hiroshima – £64 a night / £32 each
Psst – remember to sign in to your account, you may get a cheaper price!


Nest Hiroshima – £79.50 a night / £39.75 each
Psst – remember to sign in to your account, you may get a cheaper price!


Airbnb – £62.50 a night / £31.25 each

Not used Airbnb before? Get £25 off your first stay here!


Osaka

Sonezaki Luxe Hotel – £71 a night / £35.50 each


Airbnb – £45 a night / £22.50 each


Airbnb – £59 a night / £29.50 each


PHEW!

So much for only choosing one hotline a week to save time – I think that was the most epic holiday search I’ve ever done!!

But I hope it goes to prove that Japan definitely can be done on a budget EVEN when the flights are coming through pricey.

I hope that helps Amy and whoever else is planning a Japanese getaway!

Wanna say thanks?

If I’ve helped you out, or you fancy getting access to more perks (and more holiday hotlines!) then you can also support me over on Patreon for the price of a really average coffee once a month.

Also, make sure you’re following me over on Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.


Want my help?

To be in with a chance of getting your request selected, make sure you’re following me on Instagram where I’ll give you a weekly reminder to get your request in.

Until next time!


I have used some affiliate links throughout this article. They don’t charge you more, but if you book through them you’ll be helping me to continue my cheap travel booking hobbies. TA PALS!

3 thoughts on “Can I visit Japan in cherry blossom season on a budget?”

  1. Chelsea, absolutely LOVING your blog now I have found it… via James and Radio X… inspirational! I have a 11 month old baby so a TAD more complicated but we managed backpacking in India and Bangladesh. Japan has been on my hit list for ages but have always written it off due to cost.

    Like

    1. The best thing about Japan is that you can wander into any old Ramen shop off the road, pay around £6 and it will be SO MUCH BETTER than any Japanese you’ve had at home! People often talk about how pricey it is but we really didn’t find it to be – we just made lots of cheaper choices and then treated ourselves every now and again and that worked out really well for us!

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s