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

Chelsea

Welcome to this week’s Holiday Hotline.

The place where, after asking what you’re after over on Instagram, I choose one and get to work finding the best deal I possibly can for you.

So, if you want my help in the future, make sure you’re following me and keeping an eye on my stories!

But less about future holiday hotlines and onto this week’s where we’re talking Japan and cherry blossom season.

THE REQUEST

This week we’re helping Amy who’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 natives – and for 2020, Tokyo is supposed to start flowering from 19 March and be in full bloom by 27 March.

You can check out the timings for other cities here.

A word of warning!
Last year the cherry blossom came early so just be aware it's not an exact science - but there's still plenty to see and do in the country whether you catch the flowering or not!

For our trip, 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…

So, let’s crack on.

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 she could fly between Thurs 12th – Fri 27th March, she’d pay £133 each less.

But anyway, onwards!


Manchester to Tokyo
Tues 24th March to Tues 7th April
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 UK airports?

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

London to Tokyo
Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th April
Air China
1 stop 
£402 each

This fare involves short layovers in Beijing and Chengdu.

If you want a direct flight, it will set you back £933 each!

Edinburgh to Tokyo
Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr
KLM
£746 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 to Tokyo
Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th April
KLM
1 stop 
£707 each

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

 

Cardiff to Tokyo
Tues 24th Mar – Tues 7th Apr
KLM
£784 each

Once again, a huawge stopover in Amsterdam but with that much time, make a trip out of it!

Top tip
With flights with one stop or more, it's always worth searching the flights separately to see if you can save more money by doing it yourself. However, in the case of these KLM flights, they're all more expensive that way so definitely stick with costs above!

RAIL PASS

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

 

What is the Japan Rail Pass?

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.

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

Prices – correct as of December 2019

Where should I buy my pass from?

If you’re outside Japan, the easiest way to buy your pass is online. There isn’t one website but instead a bevvy of third parties that sell on the passes.

I went with Japan Travel Centre because they offered free UK delivery and the option of picking up the passes the same day from their London office.

Can you get money off a JR Pass?

I searched high and low and found that most third parties offered very similar pricing though it may be worth checking Klook which, at present is showing slightly higher prices than above but sometimes the site in general offers discount codes.

 

How long a pass should Amy get?

For a two week trip, I think 7 days feels too short and 14 feels too long!

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 7 day pass.

However, I’m going put Amy down for the 14 day pass.

 

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

ITINERARY

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:

Two Week Itinerary

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

ACCOMMODATION

 As Amy’s 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!

Things to know before booking accommodation

A good way to keep to budget is to change accommodation every couple of nights or so.

This allows you to explore new areas, work around a hotel’s busy availability 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.

 

Please be aware that Japanese rooms are generally 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, use the filters 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

Places I've stayed

from £15 each

SO BIZARRE – but a great experience.

I’d only recommend staying one night here as you have to fully check out each day.

See what we made of it here.

£84 a night / £42 each

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

Take a look at when we stayed there here!

£94 a night / £47 a night each

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

And check out that roof view!

 

 

Take a look at when we stayed there here!

 

Other options

from £30.50 each

Sleep amongst your favourite novels!

£84 a night / £42 each

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

Take a look at when we stayed there here!

£94 a night / £47 a night each

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

And check out that roof view!

 

 

Take a look at when we stayed there 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.

https://www.instagram.com/p/B5N1w51ljjR/

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 PAL