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The poor man’s plan for Japan

A mere $799 buys airfare and five nights at a deluxe hotel in perhaps the most expensive city on the planet, Tokyo
/ Source: Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel

Considering its carefully trimmed gardens, its clean, crime-free cities, a strict rigidity of customs and ceremonies, and even the remarkably symmetrical Mt. Fuji, neatness and order seem to rule in Japan. All this order comes at a price, apparently. Japan, plainly spoken, is easily one of the most expensive countries in the world.

HOTELS, IT SHOULD come as no surprise, are on the expensive side in Japan. In mid-January for example — which, like most of winter, is a down period for travel in Japan — the Tokyo Hilton is offering double rooms starting at 32,500 yen, according to its corporate Web site, That’s about $295 to you and me.

But it’s not necessary to pay such steep prices. Escapes Unlimited (800/243-7227,, a veteran discount tour operator to Asia and elsewhere in the world, has put together an air-hotel package that makes paying such astronomical rates look ridiculous. The package includes Singapore Airlines flights to Tokyo from Los Angeles (departures from other cities are possible for a bit more), round-trip transfers from the airport, five nights’ lodging, and a half-day tour of the city. Prices start at $799 per person, based on double occupancy, with departures in January, February, and March. From now to Dec 5, rates begin at $829, and from Dec 6 to 31, the same package is $949. Rates listed are for midweek departures; you’ll have to pay $25 extra each way for flights on the weekends.

InsertArt(2035079)And get this — lodging for said package is at the same deluxe Hilton property mentioned above (you know, the one that supposedly goes for almost $300 a night). The 806-room Tokyo Hilton is located just west of the city center in the hip and exciting Shinjuku neighborhood, a part of town that swims with life: neon, noodle bars, skyscrapers, shopping galore, endless crowds of people.

Again, to book or find out more info, contact Escapes Unlimited at 800/243-7227 or


The $799 offer is one of the best we’ve seen for Japan, but that doesn’t mean it is the only option worth a look. (, 425/487-9632; $20 fee for phone bookings), the one-time Europe-only specialist that’s drifted its low-budget dealings to other parts of the globe, serves up an even less expensive price to Tokyo — although you don’t get quite as much with its package.

From Nov 1 to Dec 27 and Jan 4 to Mar 27, a rate of $649 buys three nights at a decent hotel in Tokyo and airfare from a number of U.S. cities (New York, L.A., San Francisco, Seattle, Burbank, Honolulu, Oakland, San Jose, and Orange County). Dozens of other gateways are possible for $125 to $250 more. The hotel will likely be the Sunshine City Prince Hotel, and chances are there’ll be availability. It does have more than 1,100 rooms after all. The hotel is part of a huge, 60-story complex that includes a mall, aquarium, and a theater.

Some tourists love Tokyo’s bustling scene; for others, it’s just too hectic. A popular alternative is Kyoto, a peaceful, historic city with hundreds of gardens and temples — the somewhat cliched Japan that most romantics envision. Cliche or not, it’s a gorgeous, historically rich city. A similar three-night package to Kyoto is priced from $699 for the winter season (Nov 1 to Dec 27, and Jan 4 to Mar 27). For more details, go to or call 425/487-9632 (again, there’s a $20 fee for bookings over the phone).

{Editor’s Note: Have you ever vacationed in Japan? Do you have an instructive anecdote, tip or horror story to share? We’d love to hear it and possibly reprint it in our letters to the editor column. Simply click here to send a letter to our editors.}

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