How to travel around Japan on a budget

Your Japanese vacation plans are well underway. You’re researching flights, hotels, transportation – then, you take a look at your travel budget, and your countenance falls. Your plans seem to exceed what you can afford. What is such a downhearted adventurer to do?

Travel in Japan has a reputation for being expensive when compared to other countries in the region. However, expenses should not dissuade you from experiencing this geographically beautiful, culturally rich region.

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10 magical gardens you must visit in Japan

Traditional Japanese gardens are famous the world over. These gardens highlight the beauty of nature, avoiding artificial, man-made components wherever possible. The first of these gardens began to be built on the island of Honshu around 600 A.D.

Japanese gardens also capture aspects of the traditional Shinto religion, as well as Daoism and Buddhism. The gardens speak of the unstoppable march of time, natural aspects of the Japanese landscape, such as its volcanic peaks, and often include replicas of the legendary Mount Horai.

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Train Suite Shiki-Shima and Twilight Express Mizukaze: New luxury trains in Japan

Even before the advent of the shinkansen bullet train in 1964, luxury trains, often called “blue sleeper trains,” were a common sight across Japan. These trains were designed, not only as an efficient mode of transportation but as an experience in themselves. Getting there truly was half the fun.

In recent years, however, the use of luxury trains has largely given way to the rapid travel offered by the shinkansen. The last of the “blue trains” ceased operation in 2015. While some have called this “the end of an era,” luxury seekers are not to be disappointed by Japan’s all-new line up of first-class rail accommodations. Beginning in spring 2017, JR East and JR West will be launching two “cruise trains” for your traveling enjoyment.

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Getting around Tokyo with the JR Pass: Metro, trains and more

Tokyo, the capital city of Japan, is the most densely populated metropolitan city in the world, home to nearly 40 million people. The Tokyo Metropolis, as the area is officially known, spans nearly 850 square miles (nearly 2,200 square kilometers). Tokyo enjoys a rich cultural history, as it has been the seat of government in Japan since the year 1603.  Tokyo is comprised of twenty-three wards, each operated as an individual city.

Getting around in a city of this size – especially as an international traveler – may at first seem intimidating. However, Tokyo’s public transportation system, which includes airports, trains, buses, taxies, and pedestrian traffic – has been designed operate smoothly. With your Japan Rail Pass in hand and with the help of this travel guide, you will soon be navigating the streets and stations of Tokyo like a pro.

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Riding the JR Thunderbird Express around western Japan

Picture snow covered peaks overlooking lush forests, reflecting into serene blue-green lakes. Steam rises from natural hot springs, where people gather to be rejuvenated by the warm water. Charming towns and villages housing historic architecture dot the map. This is just the ideal scene set by the Japanese Alps, a series of three mountain ranges located on the Japanese island of Honshu.

Now, imagine yourself enjoying this view while traveling to your next destination on one of Japan’s famous bullet trains.

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Getting around Kyoto with the Japan Rail Pass

You’ve read about all the engaging attractions Kyoto has to offer – from its famous temples to its transcendent botanical gardens. After all, Kyoto is considered the premiere sightseeing location in Japan. But as an international traveler, you are also concerned with how to get from place to place once you arrive in Kyoto. Does Japan’s maze of rail and bus lines intimidate you? It doesn’t have to.

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How to use the local city bus in Japan

When most people think of transportation in Japan, they envision the vast railroad network and the Shinkansen bullet trains. While the trains are a primary means of transportation throughout the country, the rain lines do not go everywhere. Sometimes, the traveler has to take a bus to get around town or from the train station to their destination.

The use of local buses is especially useful in large cities such as Kyoto. Additionally, local buses are at times the only way to access some of Japan’s greatest secrets, getaways to small towns located deep within the countryside.

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Japanese night trains with the JR Pass: Sunrise Express and more

While many people choose to fly or take a bullet train, the still-popular overnight trains are a real treat for international travelers. Why take a night train? These trains allow you to travel quickly overland, arriving at your destination by the following morning. Also, you will be able to sleep while you travel, more comfortably than on an airplane or an overnight bus. If you are planning a visit to Japan, consider booking travel on one of these trains, using the following tips.

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Staying in a Ryokan, a traditional Japanese guest house

Would you like to relax and unwind during your international travels? Are you interested in a traditional Japanese experience? If you answered yes to either of those questions, a stay at a ryokan may be for you.

What is a ryokan? A ryokan is a traditional style Japanese inn or guest house. Typically small in size, these inns have often been run by the same family for generations. Ryokans are usually located near onsen, or hot springs used for therapeutic bathing, and their design, décor, and setting often focus on the simplistic beauty of nature.

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