As a budget traveler, my priority on a trip is to stay housed and fed for the lowest possible cost.
Most of the time, my spending goes as far as memory making and photos! So finding cheap, cheap, cheap things in Japan that I can actually buy is like a dream come true.
Thankfully I’ve found that Japan has my back on cheap items that make great food, souvenirs, or housewares.
To keep your Japan trip costs down, I’m sharing my go-to list of cheap things in Japan; 11 that might surprise you, but all of them are super cheap!
1. An Izakaya meal and drinks Cost: $14
Japan is the land of amazing cuisine, but many of its finest foods, like Fugu, or prime Wagyu beef, can cost hundreds of dollars.
A budget trip to Japan doesn’t mean you have to subsist on cup noodles though, you just have to ensure that you eat meals at the right places.
Izakaya, Japanese pubs, or taverns are usually the best choice for eating out cheaply. My friend Kirk taught English in Japan for years and never ate out anywhere else!
This is because the priority of these taverns is selling shochu, beers, sake, with food on the side.
A meal consisting of yakitori, karaage, and a drink should cost about JPY 2000 ($14). This is equivalent to the cost of an entree back in the States.
2. Chopsticks Cost: $1+
If you’re looking for a cheap souvenir from Japan for family and friends, chopsticks (ohashi) are a great budget buy that can cost as little as JPY 150 ($1).
Of course, I’m not suggesting that you fill up on the free disposable chopsticks that you get in restaurants.
There are many specialty chopstick stores and brands where you can pick up something special.
Look out for classic ohashi from the town of Obama in Japan which makes over 80% of the country’s chopsticks.
3. Pocket Tissues Cost: FREE!!!
Hygiene is a big thing in Japan, so it’s no surprise that you will find cute packs of pocket tissues being handed out for free by businesses as promotional items.
Generally, the quality of these tissues is good, and they come in a variety of cute designs.
If you’re savvy or short on cash, save some of these as an ultra-cheap souvenir!
4. A tenugui (手拭い) Cost: up to $10
A tenugui, a thin cotton hand towel, is a cheap and unusual gift that will have you wishing you purchased more when you were back in Japan.
The word tenugui means ‘hand wiper’ and that is what these long towels are traditionally used for. The thin, woven natural fabric is sustainable and a great alternative to kitchen towels.
People also pick up tenugui in Japan because they come in a wide range of designs.
Prices are as low as a dollar. They have loads of uses including, home decor, or use as an impromptu sweatband!
5. Dango (団子) Cost: $0.50 to $1
If you are looking for a sweet treat on your Japanese travels, dango won’t break the bank!
This popular street food is a sweet traditional Japanese rice dumpling, served on a stick.
The closest thing to dango is probably mochi, but the globular glutinous rice is prepared a different way and covered in a sweet sauce rather than being filled.
Delicious dango can be enjoyed for cents in the dollar. If you want something chewy, soft, and satisfying this tasty dessert hits the mark!
6. Socks Cost: $1
If you want a hassle-free souvenir that will work for everyone back home, Japanese socks have got your back!
Socks are everywhere in Japan and you can find cute pairs for under a dollar.
In fact, if you want to keep your packing down, the socks are so cheap you can simply buy them out in Japan.
Japanese socks come in a range of designs including popular toe socks and split-toe sock designs that will look great with flip-flops.
Japanese sock manufacturer Tabio even makes tiny socks that are just for the big toe!
7. Something from GU Cost: $10+
One of my top tips for travel is packing ultra-light and using your regular clothing budget to buy new and unique clothing for everyday wear while you’re overseas.
Japan is one of the best places to do this because most Japanese brands are going to be way cheaper in Japan.
A great store for basics is the Japanese discount clothing retailer GU, which also owns UNIQLO!
If you want clothes head there first to buy classic clothing that has that distinctive Japanese cut and aesthetic for around $10 per item.
Right now, GU’s only international store is in NYC, so you’ll definitely be ahead of trends when you head home.
8. Canned coffee/tea Cost: $1
If you’re the type of person that looks for Starbucks when you travel internationally, your cash won’t last very long.
Travel money hacks are all about stripping your spending down to the essentials so you can spend on the things that matter. Case in point: coffee.
I love spending hours and $$$ in coffee shops with friends, but in Japan, that could bankrupt me.
If I really need a caffeine fix, you’ll find me hitting a convenience store or vending machine and downing canned coffee or tea for JPY 100.
It’s no pumpkin latte, but it is under a dollar!
9. Onigiri Cost: $1.50
Don’t call home! Give mom and dad a break and stretch those last few dollars in your account by subsisting on onigiri.
It will keep you alive. You’ll find these delicious rice balls, wrapped in seaweed everywhere and they come in more flavors than Baskin Robbins.
Onigiri are also incredibly cheap, usually costing no more than JPY 200.
10. Calendars Cost: FREE!!!
You can get a cheaper Japanese souvenir than a free one!
Like pocket tissues, calendars are a complimentary or promotional gift that businesses hand out.
They come in some amazing designs and are often of good enough quality to survive your journey home.
11. DAISO 100 YEN stores Cost: $0.75
DAISO is the home of cheap things in Japan.
This popular store is the equivalent of a dollar store, with absolutely everything costing JPY 100 or less.
With over 100,000 product lines, you’re bound to find something you like!
If you’re broke in Japan you can browse the isles of DAISO with confidence and find some surprisingly cute and cool finds as this funny video shows:
There are so many interesting and cheap items you can find in Japan.
Japanese people appreciate quality at any price, so you will find that even the cheapest items are well-made and will last a long time. Remember the cheap food hacks for Japan and save cash for your souvenirs.
安全な旅行 (safe travels)