Previously, I wrote about my monthly budget during my first year in Japan, living in the city of Ichikawa, western Chiba.

My methods for achieving those relatively low numbers lie in that I do not count travel expenditure nor my guilty pleasures; first camera gear, then whiskies.

Here, I would like to shed some light on living cheaply in Japan while spending within your means.

I mentioned that a starting ALT/ eikaiwa teaching salary will range between 192,000 and 240,000, net. I admit that I was able to travel cheaply in Japan using the following methods.

The seishun ticket can be shared, making it an excellent way to travel with friends or your loved ones

First, I travelled across Japan almost exclusively using the Seishun 18 ticket.

Whenever I tell my students that I have been to 25 prefectures out of the 47 in Japan, they always seem impressed and their first impression is that I am a rich man. After all, one Shinkansen ticket can cost upwards of 200 dollars for long distance journeys. If I had used the Shinkansen exclusively for all my travels, I must have spent thousands of dollars on train tickets alone, hotel costs not withstanding.

To save money, I usually use the mythical Seishun 18 ticket, the cheapest ticket available to the general public sold by JR. To purchase one, simply head to the Green Ticket window (midori no mado) and tell the staff in the booth that you want to buy one. (Seishun ju-hachi o kaitai desu)

The price of one ticket is 11,800 yen. At first impression, it may not seem cheap, but the conditions merit closer inspection.

The conditions are as follows:

1 the ticket allows for unlimited travel across all JR managed train lines (this includes the JR Ferry Service that goes to Miyajima, the island with the world famous Tori gate in the water).

2 you can use the unlimited travel privilege for 5 days over the validity period of the ticket.

3 you cannot use the ticket in conjunction with an express train, even if you are willing to pay for the express surcharge.

The Seishun 18 ticket is thus a magical ticket that gives you complete freedom to enjoy travelling through the scenic landscapes of Japan at a leisurely pace. Trust me, you will definitely see things that you don’t see from a Shinkansen simply because you will be travelling too fast otherwise.

In any case, try using one with an open mind, a good book or a portable gaming console and an adventurous spirit. You will enjoy yourself 🙂

My second way of living cheaply in Japan is to indulge my camera collection hobby by buying exclusively second hand items.

As many websites have already covered, Akihabara (Akiba) is the place to go for all things anime and electronic.

Personally, I go to a small, nondescript just beside the Akihabara electric town ticket gantry. This building is packed with small shops selling random electronic items. The second floor is where the action takes place. Upon going up the stairs, you will be greeted by case upon case of second hand goods, ranging from used camera gear to telescopes and even fake guns. (be careful with buying these, the airport security will not take too kindly to your bringing such items to the airport).

I also frequent second hand sites such as craigslist and jmty; scouring for deals to get, such as my Macbook and some of my furniture as well.

An affordable selection of excellent whisky from Bic Camera, of all places

Finally, I generally indulge in my whisky drinking hobby by buying bottles myself instead of heading to the bar. Granted, you may enjoy the atmosphere of a bar/ izakaya. If that’s the case, knock yourself out.

If you are like me, someone who just enjoys the taste of whisky, then I would strongly recommend buying the bottles for your private collection.

Take, for example, a bottle of Ballantines 12, 17 or even 21 years. One shot glass of these drinks will run upwards of 1000 yen in a whisky bar. Should you just cough up the cash in a supermarket or a liquor shop, even the Ballantines 21 years will not cost you more than 8000 yen for a bottle.

Finally, if you, like me have no time to cook and have to eat out, remember these shops :

-Yoshinoya 吉野家

-Matsuya 松屋

-Sukiya すき家


The top three names are shops that specialise in gyudon, the Japanese equivalent of fast food that serves a bowl of piping hot rice topped with some well marinated beef. These shops are also known as salarymen havens, giving them vital energy in a convenient bowl of food that they can wolf down before returning to their non stop cycle of work.

this isn’t my picture, but i have eaten this so many times I’ll take a picture to replace this one soon

The last name is the legendary “Italian” restaurant that promises to give fill your stomach at lunch with just one 500 yen coin (try the lunch menu set). For 500 yen, you can get a bowl of soup, a small salad, one bowl of rice and a menu meal item of your choice. Or you can try their most famous menu item, the Milano fu Doria (basically, Milan Doria). For 299 yen, you can do worse than this tasty, cheese baked rice with some meat sauce.

There you have it. This is how I live a relatively cheap lifestyle in Tokyo on a budget while indulging my hobbies.

After all, one should try to enjoy life, whatever the budget, don’t you agree?