Stefanie Akkerman moved from the Netherlands to Japan in 2013 with her Japanese husband and son. She jumped into the niche of Dutch tour guiding in Tokyo and Kamakura in 2015 and occasionally writes articles about all the great sights and activities Japan has to offer. She loves (Japanese) food, and to work that all off she goes diving, snorkeling, cycling, or hiking.
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When you think about traveling on a budget, Japan might not be the first place that comes to mind. But did you know that there are actually various ways to have a very budget-friendly trip in Japan? One way to stay within a smaller budget while traveling in Japan is the JR pass for the train.
Especially if you are planning to see many different cities, the JR pass can be a great deal. If you want to travel very long distances, though, or even go to remote islands or Okinawa, traveling with an LCC might be a better idea. LCC stands for low-cost carrier, and they offer cheap domestic flights in Japan that can let you ball on a budget!
1. Overview of LCCs in Japan
Besides the two largest ‘regular’ airline companies, ANA and JAL, there are various inexpensive low-cost carrier companies in Japan, some of which operate only in certain regions and some of which operate nationwide and even internationally. Here is an overview of the various LCCs in Japan:
- Jetstar: Jetstar has the largest domestic network in Japan that services many smaller destinations domestically and popular international destinations from Narita (Tokyo), KIX (Osaka), and Nagoya
- Peach: Peach is operated by ANA and has main bases in Narita and KIX. They service many popular destinations domestically and internationally (mainly Asia)
- Skymark: Skymark has its main bases in Kobe and Haneda (Tokyo), and they service 11 destinations nationwide, including Okinawa
- Solaseed: Solaseed is specialized in Japan’s southern islands. They serve Kyushu from Haneda and Okinawa from Tokyo, Nagoya, and Kobe
- Spring Airlines Japan: Spring Airlines can be used to travel from Narita to Sapporo, Saga, and Hiroshima
- Air Do: with Narita and Sapporo as Air Do’s hub airports, you can use this airline to connect to various destinations in Hokkaido and Kobe, Nagoya, and Sendai
- StarFlyer: StarFlyer connects Haneda and Kitakyushu with Nagoya, Osaka, Fukuoka, Naha, and Ube (Yamaguchi prefecture)
- Fuji Dream: based in Chubu, the middle part of Honshu, Fuji Dream services airports spread all over Honshu, Kyushu, Tohoku, Sapporo, and Kochi in Shikoku
- IBEX: based in Nagoya and Sendai, IBEX, services 12 destinations on all 4 main islands of Japan, but it doesn’t service Tokyo
2. Special Discounts from JAL and ANA
But wait, there is more! International tourists have the opportunity to fly domestically with JAL and ANA for LCC prices. This means that you can get all the comforts that come with flying a high-service airline, including good baggage policies and free food and drinks on board, without having to pay a premium price. Especially on longer routes, these discounted flight tickets can save you quite a few yen and a lot of time compared to taking the train.
JAL Japan Explorer Pass for foreign tourists
ANA Special Fares for foreign tourists
3. How To Stay Cheap With LCC
Just like when you fly with LCCs anywhere else in the world, it is important to pay close attention to your baggage allowance as you can end up paying way more if you bring too much luggage and order things on board. It is also good to note that service levels can be lower than that of regular airlines.
Another very important way to stay cheap when you use LCC is to book further ahead of time. The closer to the dates you want to fly your booking, the higher the prices are going to be. If you are trying to book only a few days ahead of time, chances are that the ticket prices at LCC are around the same level as those of JAL and ANA. Along the same line, it is a good idea to avoid peak travel periods in Japan: the New Year’s holidays, the spring break from late March-early April, Golden Week, the summer break period and especially during Obon, and any time there is a 3-day weekend. Outside of these periods, it should not be hard to find a cheap plane ticket in Japan.
Another way to save is to book the less popular early morning or late night flights. Especially flights that are leaving before 8 AM are often significantly cheaper, but it is good to keep in mind that, depending on your location, it might be hard to reach the airport early enough to catch your flight without taking a taxi or staying in an airport hotel.
4. Popular Destinations to Visit With LCCs
As you see, being able to fly at affordable rates gives you a much wider scope of travel in Japan! While the train is comfortable and convenient, taking the shinkansen from Tokyo to Hiroshima, where you can learn about the important history and explore Miyajima, while going to Fukuoka, which is a great base for discovering the treasure trove that’s Kyushu even taking over 5.5 hours. Going to Hokkaido to hit the slopes or enjoy hiking in remote areas also takes more than 5 hours, and if you are planning to visit Okinawa, with its pristine ocean perfect for snorkeling and diving, there is almost no other way to go than by airplane (unless you like being on a ferry for a very long time).
5. Traveling in Japan
Are you planning a trip to Japan? Doing one or several legs of your trip by LCC can help you see a lot more of the country while not breaking the bank. So how do you discover the places that you visit the best way without spending too much? While hiring a private guide might sound expensive, you would be surprised how good an investment it actually may turn out to be. Of course, going around with a private guide every day is not very economical, but spending one day with a guide in a destination can save you not only money but also a lot of time. Local guides know their cities like the back of their hand, and they can make a program that exactly suits your interests. What could take you days to figure out by yourself, a guide can let you experience within one day. Besides, if you are traveling with a group or family of more than 3 or 4, hiring a private guide may well turn out to be cheaper than joining a large group tour where you would pay per person.
Japan Wonder Travel Tours
Japan Wonder Travel is a travel agency that offers guided tours throughout Japan.
From private walking tours to delicious Food and Drink tours, we can help you organize the best tours just for you! If you want to explore Japan and learn more about the history and backstories of each area you are visiting, our knowledgeable and friendly English speaking guides will happily take you to the best spots!
In addition, we can provide you with any assistance you may need for your upcoming trip to Japan, so please feel free to contact us if yu have any questions or need some help!
▶Tokyo Fish Market Tour @Tsukiji – Enjoy Local Food and Drink
Explore the most lively and popular fish market in Tokyo and try some of the local’s favorite street foods and sake with one of our friendly and knowledgeable English speaking guides!
▶Tokyo 1–Day Highlights Private Walking Tour (8 Hours)
There’s no better way to explore an area than taking a tour with a knowledgeable local guide. You will have the chance to learn about the history and interesting background stories of Tokyo, as well as discover some hidden gems which can be hard to do without a guide.
▶Kyoto Private Full Day Walking Tour
On this full-day private tour of Kyoto, you will be able to see the highlights of Kyoto in just one day and at the same time develop a deeper understanding of both the culture of the area and Japan as a whole.
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