March 17, 2008 5:50 PM   Subscribe

Cheap way to get to Japan?

How can I attend a wedding in Japan without spending a ridiculous amount of money. I am a student in the US and I really want to go. The means by which I get there are REALLY up in the air.

-Spend a week on a fishing boat? Will do
-Curl up for 12 hours in between cargo boxes on a plane? As long as I have oxygen.

And of course any other ideas you have, please any ideas... I would really go to great, cheap, measures in order to get there.
posted by Wanderlust88 to Travel & Transportation around Japan (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Can you tell us what "cheap" is for you, where you're from, and when you're going?
posted by nitsuj at 6:18 PM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: Cheap = less than $500
From = Austin Texas
Going = Kofu, Japan

Sorry I wasn't clearer.
posted by Wanderlust88 at 6:42 PM on March 17, 2008

Well, being flexible with dates can save you a great deal of money. I've flown to Tokyo (from New York, a few years ago) for around $600 by choosing the cheapest flight regardless of the day. On all the other dates the cheapest flights were more than $900. Problem is that if you can find a really cheap flight that causes you to have to stay in Japan for a long time, well, accommodations in Japan ain't cheap either.
posted by lampoil at 6:52 PM on March 17, 2008

When are you traveling? How much time do you have to plan this?

People will talk about becoming an air courier, but that's really no way to get to a specific place at a specific time. Hell, I tend to think the whole thing is a bit of a scam.

Frankly, if you have a few months before you have to buy a ticket, your best option might be to get a part-time job and save up. $500 is simply not a reasonable budget to get from Austin to Kofu and back.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:13 PM on March 17, 2008

Response by poster: The wedding is June 21st.
posted by Wanderlust88 at 7:26 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: You're pushing it at the $500 mark. But wildass guess... look for a Hawaii trip/layover. Last business trip, LA-Hawaii was way cheaper than I imagined, and cheper than flying across the US back home for vacation. Hawaii is almost a part of Japan, favorite holiday "get married", vacation place. You might be able to hook up "cheap" vacation prices to Hawaii and then to Japan. That would be my plan. No guarantee, just hitting a middle-place that is touristy where flight prices are sometimes low to get travelers. YMMV.
posted by zengargoyle at 7:34 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: Looks like you can expect to pay twice your budget on a flight from Austin during the summer. The only thing I can recommend is keeping a close eye on FlyerTalk's Mileage Run Deals forum. It's a community filled with mileage runners -- people trying to fly the furthest for the cheapest price -- who post ultra low fares from around the country. However, these are highly random on where they're flying to and from, so you may or may not have any luck with it.
posted by nitsuj at 7:35 PM on March 17, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I flew round trip for $700 or so (including fuel surcharge, weekend-travel surcharge, etc) through these guys a couple of years ago: Amnet-USA. Don't be alarmed by the lack of English on the site. Call a branch office convenient to you and tell them you need to speak to somebody who can speak English.

This place looks promising, but I've never used them and I don't know anyone who has.

Good luck!

Have fun!
posted by notyou at 9:16 PM on March 17, 2008

Uh...in case you didn't know, wedding guests in Japan are generally expected to give cash gifts of about 30000 yen (~$280). But I'm sure you took that into consideration.
posted by etoyasu at 9:24 PM on March 17, 2008

Etoyasu is correct with their comment, so I have to ask if you're going to the wedding of a Japanese friend, or if you're going to the wedding of a friend who wants to have it in japan. If the prior, you can probably get away with just bringing a toaster and playing the "I'm a stupid gaijin" card. Of course that requires you don't mind looking like a complete fool, deceiving your friend, and probably damaging the relationship at least a little. If the case is the latter, then you might see if you can have the date moved forward or backward a days/weeks to see if there are any significant decreases in price. This is a bit more reasonable if the couple are foreigners since the bulk (I assume) of guests will have to be flying in. Maybe it's all already set in stone though, so you might just have to bite the bullet.
posted by GoingToShopping at 9:53 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: People from foreign countries are not obligated to give money to a Japanese couple, at least at the wedding I was at in southern Japan. A small gift is appreciated, though.

If you have a lot of time, you can fly to another place first... A round trip flight from Hong Kong to Fukouka is about $1700 HKD ($240 ish USD). Narita is about $1900 HKD. Traveling within Japan is expensive, even buses, so focus on getting to Narita.

I think you're going to have to save more money up; $400+ should be your budget within Japan itself for a week for sleeping in a hotel and eating.

For super cheap, and to open up your options for the the main expense here (getting across the Pacific), there are ways... Hong Kong is one place, Korea is another -- if you can get to Seoul cheap, you can take a $50 USD bus to Busan and then take a $40 ferry to Fukuoka and then... hitch-hike to Narita? (you still have to pay the driver). I saw a lot of young (Japanese) people who would camp out near train stations with just a blanket... so being homeless isn't a huge deal there. I would think you'd have to be street smart about it, and go to a place out of the way where you're not in site of the tax paying portion of society. Cheap food isn't much of an issue, as the rice balls at the seven eleven are 1) awesome, 2) $1.00 US, and 3) microwaved by the clerks if you can say the word "hot-o" while holding the rice ball.

For saving face's sake, you have to have a hotel on the dates surrounding the wedding. There might be drinks at a bar afterwards where everyone pays and the drinks are free for a certain amount of time... this may cost you $40-$50 USD? Again, it depends on the wedding and who is going and how rich the family is.

There might even have cheap ways to get to San Fran / LA, where tickets across the Pacific are much cheaper. A craigslist driver's share?
posted by sleslie at 10:05 PM on March 17, 2008

And, if you want to make some extra cash to help you afford the ticket, sell some junk on half.com. It's easy and you make some decent money.
posted by santojulieta at 10:13 PM on March 17, 2008

Best answer: Late to this thread, and not really answering the OP's question, but re: the cash gift for Japanese weddings.

It's true that it's necessary in most cases, and the price etoyasu quoted sounds about right, too. BUT. You're a student. You're flying (boating? swimming?) in from the States on a $500 budget just for this wedding. I'm pretty certain nobody will care one whit if you don't bring anything. If your acquaintance (the person holding the wedding) and his/her relatives are decent people (and I'm sure they must be, since you're so willing to attend the wedding), they will understand and be glad that you made it and your relationship with them will not suffer even if you don't bring them money. Don't worry about it.

You're in luck in the sense that once you find a way to get here, Kofu isn't incredibly far away from Narita Airport. About 3 1/2 hours by train if you're lucky (Keisei Skyliner to Nippori, JR Yamanote Line to Shinjuku, JR limited express Azusa to Kofu. Or JR Narita Express to Tokyo, JR Chuo Line to Takao, JR Chuo Honsen Line to Kofu, to list some examples of possible train routes). Although I haven't really checked, I'm pretty sure there's also a cheaper bus route out from Shinjuku Station in that direction (Yamanashi Prefecture, where Kofu is located) that you could look into if you really want to save money. Oh, and don't expect to be able to hitchhike here. I won't say it's impossible, but it's probably not worth the hassle.
posted by misozaki at 11:19 PM on March 17, 2008

IACE has regular and cheap last-minute deals. They are in the same category as the aforementioned AMNET. http://www.iace-usa.com/ . Flew round trip on Korean Air (great experience) for 720 including fuel and taxes, and probably could have knocked at least 100 bucks off of that if the SO hadn't been against the idea of waiting until a few weeks before vacation to buy tickets.
posted by thedaniel at 3:49 AM on March 18, 2008

Since you did mention the idea of getting there by sea you might want to look at the Internet Guide to Freighter Travel. In theory you could get there by catching a ship from the Texas coast through the Panama canal and on to Japan. However it would take about 15-30 days each way and would cost in the region of $100 per day and would be unreliable in terms of allowing you to plan when you would arrive or depart. So, briefly, that is not the way to go for you despite the adventure value.
posted by rongorongo at 5:01 AM on March 18, 2008

Northwest has flights from Seattle to Tokyo right NOW for 725 dollars, which is the cheapest I've seen. I bought my ticket for $925 and wish I had waited, but that's water under the bridge. IACE, Ammet, and a site called GatewayLAX are all good choices for cheap tickets. I HAVE seen tickets as cheap as 479 from Seattle, but you'd have to get there first. And those were in January. I haven't had particularly good luck with Kayak or FareCompare for Asia flights, so take that into consideration.
posted by aarwenn at 10:15 AM on March 26, 2008

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