Japan on a Budget - week 2: Kyoto

After last week, it was REALLY nice to spend seven days in one place! Kyoto has been expensive but is a very relaxing city. We have started to think of it as a city full of supermarkets, pretty buildings, temples, and parks. At least, that's all we're really seeing on our tight budget! We knew Japan would be the most expensive of our Asian destinations, so we are trying to stay under $65 per day here, hoping that cheaper places like Vietnam and Indonesia will keep everything in balance. Luckily, we found some beautiful free attractions this week, and we are about a five minute walk from a lovely park with free exercise equipment and a nice running path.

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Our goal: $50 per day total, including transportation, accommodation, visas, and bills back home. For two people.

In every budget update I will add a prorated estimate of our bills back home (loans, phone plan, etc. which may vary slightly by month), to include in our $50/day travel budget. I am not including travel insurance -- this would add about $5.75 per day to our total.
  • Days: 7
  • Location: Kyoto, Japan
  • Weekly spending: $389.34
  • Avg. spending per day: $55.62
  • Avg. spending per day incl. bills back home: $58.82
  • Avg. spending per day overall in Asia: $48.42 
Those gates!

So what are our living expenses in Japan this week? 
  • Conversion rate: 108 Japanese Yen (jpy)=$1.00 USD
  • Accommodation: $271.06
    • This is the most expensing place we have stayed in the last nine months of traveling, in six countries. We were expecting this, but still... our place for 15 nights in Kyoto is our most expensive place in Japan. It's a typical studio, and works well enough :)
    • It's about $39 per night. We struggled to find anything cheaper! If you're traveling alone, dorm rooms are much cheaper, but for two people you might as well get an entire place or hotel room. 
  • Food and drinks: $117.28
    • Here's how we've been living:
    • Breakfast for two: $1.15. We awaken and make boiled egg sandwiches, with coffee and milk. 6 slices of tasty white bread are 79yen, and ten eggs are about 150 yen. We bought a big bag of coffee, filters, and pick up milk every few days.
    • Lunch for two: $7. Usually we head over to a local grocery store or stop into one if we are out and about, and pick up some pre-made meals. They're delicious and you can get fried chicken and rice, sushi, sesame tofu, green salads, seafood salad... so many options around $3/4. We then find a local park and people-watch while we eat.
Kids love these giant slides, they're in almost every park.
    • Dinner for two: $10. We buy big bags of rice for about 900yen for 2kg (about $3.85 a pound for the Americans out there) which is ultra tasty rice! We also keep bean sprouts on hand because they're like 20yen and make everything a little crunchier and healthier. We grab some delicious sushi or sashimi and gyoza from the grocery store, for half price! If you go about an hour before closing, all the day's prepared food is 50% off... so we get amazing fresh fish for like $4 and some gyoza for under $1. Oh, and don't forget Chu-hi (basically alcohol with fruit soda in a can) or sake, which brings us up to the $10 mark for dinner.
  • Transportation: $0
    • We are walking the crap out of Kyoto. Like, ten miles a day on average. So, no transport needed!
Stumbled across this temple in the city, with swans all around

It also had LOTS of Buddha and bird statues.
  • Entertainment/miscellaneous: $1
    • Other than re-upping on our random alcohol throughout the week (accounted for above), I basically just bought 108yen nail polish.
    • Most of our entertainment was from walking around town, going to the Nishikyogoku park right by our house and running around (or doing lots of pull-ups if you're Warren), and TEMPLES. Free ones, that is.
    • We went to the Gion historic neighborhood for geisha spotting, visited the nearby Yasaka shrine and its park around it, walked through Nishiki Market, hiked Fushimi Inari Taisha (which has the famous orange gates), and got a nice sunburn at the Kyoto Imperial Palace.
Posing in peaceful Maruyama Park

She showed me up, by posing MUCH better in Maruyama park.

Entry to historic Fushimi Inari Tasha (we went early and it was still packed).

We found some respite once we started hiking up to the top of the mountain. Lots of people stop halfway up, but the gates keep going!

It's scattered with shrines and statues, like this one-eyed angry man.

...and this gold beauty.

The views halfway up are pretty nice. You can see Osaka in the distance on the left!

Kenninji temple grounds are free.

We got a pretty intense sunburn walking around the Kyoto Imperial Park, en route to the palace grounds.

The Imperial Palace was immaculate, though!

The beautiful Imperial Palace Gardens, which you aren't allowed to walk in :/
Love the architecture

This is where the emperor lived. Check out those Zen lines in the perfectly white rocks! And the team of people tending that mandarin tree!

If you're wondering how they keep the rocks so white in some areas: hand picking out the black ones.

For budget travelers, I think Kyoto is a difficult place to visit. Sure, there are free temples to see, but there are SO many wonderful experiences, like tea ceremonies with a geisha, sake tasting, baseball games, and excellent restaurants, which we are not participating in. I'd love to come back on a more luxurious budget, and check out the cherry blossoms (which we JUST missed). Kyoto seems like a lovely place to live a pleasant family life, so if you'd looking to party or have an adventure, maybe stick to Tokyo!


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