This is part 2 of a 2-series Country Report on Japan. Here is part 1.
This page of Travel Information on Japan focuses on the financial side of our trip.
We talk about:
- Money Matters
- Our Travel Budget
- Land Cruiser Maintenance
- Fuel and Gas Stations
- Public Transportation
- Other Expenditures
1. Money Matters – General Issues
The Japanese currency is yen (JPY, or ¥). In October 2017 the rate was 132 yen to a euro (in April it was 116).
All 7-Eleven convenience stores have an ATM and, during our 9-month trip from Kyushu to Hokkaido and back, they always worked (Dutch, Rabobank debit card). Ergo: they are reliable. There is no charge, which is a bonus. Note that in the upper corner of Honshu, north of Aomori, and in the southwestern corner of Kochi (on Shikoku) are no 7 Elevens. Other than those two areas, we never had a problem finding one.
Apparently, ATMs in other convenience stores don’t accept foreign credit and debit cards, however, we didn’t check this.
2. Our Travel Budget in Japan
- Total days traveled in Japan: 271
- When: Nov.’16 – Apr.’17 & June – Aug. ’17
- Average distance covered: 43 kms/day.
- Average expenditure: €31 / day (2 persons).
Not included: health insurance, electronics, flights to the Netherlands
Notes on the budget:
- Thanks to the generosity of workshops and mechanics, our costs for the Land Cruiser were kept to a minim despite a load of work done on it. A big thank you to Mr. Nakashima of 4Friendee Workshop, Masa and Taku!
- Food was the big budget category in Japan. For eating, Japan has been by far the most expensive country. For example, a simple Udon noodle soup or soba noodles costs around 700 yen (U $6,50) and leaves you hungry.
- As a result we mostly cooked ourselves, which still added up to the equivalent of some $20 dollars per day for groceries. With Japanese foods such as tofu, seaweed, miso, and lots of vegetables we prepared great salads and soup. Included in this 20 dollars is money for coffee/treats rice balls at convenience stores, or drinks at Starbucks so we could use the WiFi.
- The second biggest budget category was fuel even though we didn’t drive that much. Note that if you want to cover kilometers and take toll roads in Japan, start saving money (see more in Part 1, #6 Roads in Japan)
Ergo: our budget didn’t go through the roof as a result of 3 things:
- Extraordinary hospitality and help, as mentioned above.
- Cooking ourselves
- Not taking toll roads
Read More: 4Friendee Workshop in Japan
To elaborate on each budget category:
3. Documentation (Visa & Temporary Import Document & Car Insurance)
3a. Visa & Extensions
In Hiroshima we got our first visa extension at the Immigration Office (gps: 34.401592, 132.463670). This was not a matter of course; each application is judged individually. We filled in forms given to us at the Immigration office, in which we explained why we wanted/needed the extension. They gave us a 90-day extension for which we paid 4000 yen per person (about US $35).
In Kochi, we tried the second extension. This was denied. It was only then that we learned that officially you can stay for 180 days (6 months) per calendar year. We had already gotten 7 months so that was it.
However, we got one last extension in Miyazaki when we learned that the ferry back to South Korea was out of order and would only operate again days after our visa would expire. A local friend did all the calling for us, and getting papers from the ferry company to prove these were circumstances beyond our control. They gave us a 15-day extension, which was enough but for we did have to pay another 4000 yen.
3b. Temporary Import Document
When you arrive by ferry, you will receive a 1-year Temporary Import Document (TID) on arrival. We ferried from Busan (South Korea) to Fukuoka (island of Kyushu), which you can read about on Japan’s Travel Info Page, part 1.
When you ship your car by container, we have been told, a Carnet de Passage is needed. Overlanders who may have more info on this for you are Henk en Marianne (find them here).
Note that cars registered in Germany, Slovenia, Monaco and Zwitserland cannot drive in Japan (These countries did not sign the Geneva Convention; they signed the Vienna Convention).
Third Party insurance
You can get a third-party insurance on arrival. However, it’s more expensive than this one, which we organized through email:
Mr. Saori Otake
tel: 055-225-5335 / fax: 055 225 5336
We paid 17,686 JPY for a one-year third-party car insurance (locally called jibaiseki). Payment with a credit card. Mr. Saori had sent the paperwork to the nearest post office and on arrival at the port of Fukuoka Coen walked there (10 minutes) to pick up the policy, and a sticker to the put on license plate at the rear of the car, proving we had a Japanese car insurance.
4. The Land Cruiser & Land Cruiser Community
1. Mr. Nakashima, owner of Friendee Auto
He has his workshop north of Kagoshima (Kyushu Island)
Mr. Nakashima does not speak English.
2. Masanori Hikiba, better known as Masa, owner of Coco Cruiser
He has his place in Minamiaso, south of Aso (Kyushu)
tel: +81-90-988 or 638
Masa speaks English, as do his wife Yasuko and son Masaya.
Read More: The Land Cruiser Festa in Japan
What work was done on the Land Cruiser
- All maintenance done at Friendee Auto by Mr. Nakashima and his team is too much to write about here, but this summery will give you an idea about the scope of it:
- Replaced rear tranny output bearing
- New rear-door weather seals
- New master brake cylinder
- New water pump
- New brake pads all around
- New rear brake pistons
- New headlights
- New water and radiator hoses
- New brake lines
- New heater valve
- Overhaul brake calipers [sandblasting]
- New radiator
- New V belts
- New thermostat
- New tie-rod ends [courtesy of Masa and 555]
- New steering rods
- New overdrive output bearing
- New handbrake line
- Overhaul front and rear axle
- New fluids all around
- Master vac replaced
- New load proportioning valve
- Replaced rear drums
2. Masanori got us second hand, studless tires for the winter.
Read More: Wildlife on Hokkaido in Winter
3. The clutch broke when on our way to the snowy winter of Japan. Taku drove 180 kilometers (one way) to help us. After he got the Land Cruiser moving again, he offered a full diagnosis at his workshop. Here the men found the cause to be a broken spring on the pressure plate. Taku offered us his second-hand Dyna clutch.
The Land Cruiser Community
Since the Land Cruiser returned to its country of birth, it (and thus we) got a lot of attention, particularly from the Land Cruiser community throughout Japan. They organize a number of events throughout the year on Kyushu and Honshu, and we were able to visit the factory where our Land Cruiser was built in 1984.
Read More: The Land Cruiser 40 Meeting East
5. Gas Stations & Diesel
Prices vary enormously: 92 to 140 yen for a liter of diesel. There is no logic in cities or rural areas being cheaper or more expensive, nor is one island more expensive or cheaper. It simply depends on the individual gas station. Having said that, Eneos gas stations were expensive. We generally found Esso to be the cheapest, but there are not many of them.
While you can use the bathroom at the gas station, there are no other facilities such as the sale of foods and drinks.
For bathrooms: throughout Japan you’ll find many public toilets, in and outside cities. They are clean, have toilet paper and running water. Another option is convenience stores, which all have public bathrooms.
The latter are also perfect places for a quick snack or a cup of coffee. I wrote more about convenience stores here.
6. Public Transportation
We have used ferries (which are expensive) as described in Japan’s Travel Info page, part 1. Other than that we used a few rail/metro systems in cities such as Fukuoka and Kyoto. There are always people around you willing to help to buy a ticket and such.
7. Tickets Sightseeing
Sightseeing in Japan can add up to your budget. UNESCO sites, museums, temples in tourist places such as Kyoto and Nikko all have fees that are generally starting at 500 yen and go up from there.
But since outside those areas there are enough places to see free of charge, we feel we got to see enough historical, religious and otherwise cultural sites to get a good impression of the country.
Read More: Wildlife in Winter, on Hokkaido
We camped a lot, spending many nights at michi no ekis but hope to do more rough camping this summer.
Read More: Accommodation & Camping in Japan
9. Other Expenditures
Not clearly defined. Anything of size/price worth writing down, which could be books, clothes, repair/replacement of stuff (not car related), etc. It is mostly groceries. As you can see that has been by far the largest portion of our travel budget pie in Japan.
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