Japan: By the numbers


The first segment of our Big Year is officially over. We are currently sitting at Narita Airport and will soon be boarding a flight to Bangkok, Thailand. Overall, Japan was a huge success. Although weather got in the way during EVERY section of the trip, it was still very enjoyable and we managed to locate most of our target birds. One of the main goals of this trip was to not only find a lot of rare and interesting species of birds, but also to do it cheaply. There’s a huge misconception that traveling has to be expensive. Yes, to do things cheaply you have to get a bit out of your comfort zone, but once you come to grasps with the fact that sleeping in a car isn’t so bad and eating at a grocercy store is a viable option, then you c an find a way to see (or bird) the world on a budget.


Spending the night at Narita Airport



The average cost of a birding tour to Japan is $6,500 per person and lasts roughly 14 days. These trips usually visit the same areas we visited and their trip lists are usually around 160 species. Our trip was 10 days and total cost was $2111. 16% of what is would have cost with a tour group! Our trip total was only 133 species, but with poor weather and a few less days, I think our total is more than respectable.

By the numbers:

  • Total Cost: $2111Food $323
    • Gas $237
    • Rental Cars $476
    • Tolls $182
    • Lodging $227
    • Internal Airfare $609
    • Other $57

As you can see from the breakdown, the biggest expense while traveling throughout Japan is internal flights. Although relatively cheap, these flights really add up! The most expensive part of the trip was Hokkaido ($1033) mostly due to an expensive flight and using a hotel for three nights (the owl lodge was $160!). Gas prices were reasonably cheap and our small rental cars got great mileage which really helped out. Toll roads in Japan can get very pricey and at times can be almost unavoidable. We tried to avoid them as much as possible, but still ended up spending almost $200 in tolls! This easily could have been $400-$500 if we hadn’t taken the longer routes in most spots.Food wise, we mostly relied on local convenience stores for breakfast and lunch (FamilyMart and Lawsons) and for dinner ate at a cheap sushi chain (Hamazushi) and local super store (Aeon).