Planes, Trains & Automobiles: 7 Low-Budget Travel Options for Japan this Winter

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Japan is a country full of diversity when it comes to traveling options. From the snow-deep depths of Hokkaido to the tropical islands of Okinawa, there is an abundance of locations to choose from. However, getting to those places can prove to be quite an expensive hurdle to overcome, with bullet train tickets and domestic flights potentially costing the same as an international flight to someplace in Asia. Since 2012, Japan has boosted its low-cost carrier (LCC) options across the country, as well as other budget-friendly options, making travel within Japan more affordable.

For some, the winter season is one of the few rarities that allow for a quick getaway, and unless you are quite literally swimming in cash, this period could be an expensive period to go someplace. This budget traveling guide might be just for you if you need a vacation on the cheap.

By air

1. Peach Aviation

Photo by Tokyoship

Based in Osaka and partly owned by ANA, this is a budget airline offers a wealth of domestic routes. Some of the popular destinations include Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo and Naha. They continue to add new routes as they expand as a company.

Domestic Price Range: ¥1,000+

Domestic Destinations: Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Naha, Sendai, Matsuyama, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Miyazaki, Ishigaki, and Kagoshima.

Carry-on Allowance: 2pcs/10kg max

URL: http://www.flypeach.com/pc/en

Example Winter Itinerary (prices correct at time of publication)

  • Dep: Osaka – Matsuyama (Dec. 21) / Ret: Matsuyama – Osaka (Dec. 28) = ¥7,850

2. Jetstar Japan

Photo by YSSYguy

Owned by Qantas Airlines, the Japanese branch offers various domestic routes within Japan. As it is a large airline company, more routes and further connections are easier to come by. If you want more flexibility in places to travel, Jetstar might be the option for you.

Domestic Price Range: ¥3,000+

Domestic Destinations: Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Matsuyama, Nagoya, Oita, Naha, Osaka, Sapporo, Takamatsu, Tokyo, and Miyazaki.

Carry-on Allowance: From 1pc/7kg max

URL: http://www.jetstar.com/jp/en/home

Example Winter Itinerary (prices correct at time of publication)

  • Dep: Tokyo – Sapporo (December 21st) / Ret: Sapporo – Tokyo (December 27th) = ¥11,240

3. Vanilla Air

Photo by Cheng-en Cheng

Based at Narita Airport and wholly owned by ANA, this is Tokyo’s answer to Peach Aviation. The airline offers a similar quality of service and airplanes to Peach Aviation but with different route options.

Domestic Price Range: ¥3,650+

Domestic Destinations: Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Hakodate, Naha, Amami Oshima

Carry-on Allowance: 2pc/7kg max

URL: https://www.vanilla-air.com/en/

Example Winter Itinerary (prices correct at time of publication)

  • Dep: Tokyo – Amami Oshima (December 21st) / Ret: Amami Oshima – Tokyo (December 29th) = ¥16,320

4. Air Do

Photo by Air Do

Air Do is another domestic airline previously known as Hokkaido International Airlines. In collaboration with ANA, they provide connections between Honshu and various locations in Hokkaido. This option is perfect for those want to explore more of Hokkaido.

Domestic Price Range: ¥8,500+

Domestic Destinations: Tokyo, Kobe, Sapporo, Asahikawa, Memanbetsu, Kushiro, Obihiro, Hakodate, Sendai, Nagoya, Okayama

Carry-on Allowance: 1pc/10kg max

URL: https://www.airdo.jp/en

Example Winter Itinerary (prices correct at time of publication)

Dep: Tokyo – Sapporo (Dec. 22) / Ret: Sapporo – Tokyo (Dec. 29) = ¥18,180

5. Skymark Airlines

Photo by SkyMark

Currently based out of Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Skymark Airlines offers domestic routes all across Japan for an affordable price. They focus on flying to smaller airports such as Ibaraki and Kobe, allowing you to visit some places that might be out of reach with other domestic airlines.

Domestic Price Range: ¥6,000+

Domestic Destinations: Tokyo, Sapporo, Sendai, Ibaraki, Nagoya, Kobe, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Naha

Carry-on Allowance: 1pc/10kg max

URL:

Example Winter Itinerary (prices correct at time of publication)

  • Dep: Kobe – Ibaraki (December 21st) / Ret: Ibaraki – Kobe (December 27th) = ¥18,200

URL: http://www.skymark.co.jp/en/

By rail

Photo by Yasu

7. Seishun 18 Kippu

Bullet train and limited express tickets can come at a premium but don’t let that put you off travelling by train this winter season. The Seishun 18 Kippu offers unlimited travel on local trains within the Japan Railways (JR) network across the country for a period of five travel days, which can be separated over the validity period. The travel days are also assigned per person which means that more than one person can use the same ticket to travel to a destination. Each person will use up one of the travel days on the ticket.

Passenger Type: Anyone

Validity Period: December 10th, 2017 – January 10th, 2018

Price: ¥11,850 per ticket for a period of five travel days.

URL: http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/seishun18.html

Example Winter Itinerary

  • Day 1: Osaka – Shibata (Niigata)
  • Day 2: Shibata (Niigata) – Goryokaku (Hakodate)
  • Day 3: Goryokaku (Hakodate) – Asahikawa (Hokkaido)
  • Day 4: Asahikawa (Hokkaido) – Wakkanai (Hokkaido)
  • Day 5: Wakkanai (Hokkaido) – Sapporo (Hokkaido)

By road

Photo by RSA

6. Willer Express

Willer Express is a popular choice amongst the international community in Japan as it offers a booking website in English. Their network has expanded over the past few years to cover the four main islands of Japan. The night bus options are the best for covering long distances, especially with a small fee to upgrade to luxury seating options to help you sleep through the night.

Domestic Price Range: ¥3,650+

Domestic Destinations: Tokyo, Osaka, Sapporo, Hakodate, Naha, Amami Oshima

Carry-on Allowance: 2pc max

http://www.willerexpress.com/en/

Example Winter Itinerary (prices correct at time of publication)

  • Dep: Osaka – Hiroshima (December 21st) / Ret: Hiroshima – Osaka (January 3rd) = ¥7,440

By sea

Photo by Kounosu

8. Japan Ferry Pass 21

If you are a tourist and would prefer to take your time and travel by sea, the ferry pass might be the best option. Similar to the Seishun 18 Kippu, the ferry pass allows you to travel for up to 6 travel days within a validity period of 21 days. The ferry routes cover the four main islands that make up Japan, allowing a fantastic budget friendly option for seeing the whole country.

Passenger Type: Overseas Tourist

Validity Period: All year (21 days)

Price: ¥21,000 per ticket for a period of six travel days.

URL: http://jlc-ferry.jp/jfp21/index.html

Example Winter Itinerary

  • Day 1: Tokyo – Tokushima (Shikoku)
  • Day 2: Tokushima (Shikoku) – Shinmoji (Kitakyushu)
  • Day 3: Shinmoji (Kitakyushu) – Kobe (Hyogo)
  • Bus from Kobe (Hyogo) to Maizuru (Kyoto) not included
  • Day 4: Maizuru (Kyoto) – Otaru (Hokkaido)
  • Train from Otaru (Hokkaido) to Tomakomai (Hokkaido) not included
  • Day 5: Tomakomai (Hokkaido) – Sendai (Miyagi)
  • Day 6: Sendai (Miyagi) – Nagoya (Aichi)

 

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Osaka-based playwright, director and producer who is also a passionate traveler and shutterbug

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