Japan Inflation 2023

2023 Japan's Harsh Inflation

Travelers Face Massive Price Hikes

⏱ 5 minutes

Japan is usually a country of unwavering prices: some products have literally cost the same for decades! The only price hikes to make the headlines were due to the VAT increases, that occurred in 2 steps (from 5 to 8 % in 2014, then up to 10 % in 2019).

Ever since the Covid 🦠 crisis and the subsequent increase of raw material costs, companies in Japan have conserved their old prices but reduced the quantities: that’s what happened to the sacrosanct Kit-Kat chocolate bars which were surreptitiously produced shorter.

This unmoved stable price economy that was so comfortable for consumers finally came to an end with the recent come-back of a high inflation due to the reverberated geopolitical tensions. In 2022, more than 35,000 food products have seen their prices rise, and this number will likely keep climbing in 2023.

Travelers to Japan are also impacted by these raises, starting by the doubling of flight ✈️ prices, that we discussed in a specific article as soon as Japan’s borders reopened in October 2022:

Now, the phenomenon reached such an extent that a dedicated review is necessary on Kanpai-Japan.

🚄 Japan Rail Pass: +70% in October 2023

This is THE bad news of the post-Covid tourism resumption. In April, the JR Group suddenly announced a major price rise to be implemented in October on its flagship product for foreign tourists. Even though its price never changed (except for the VAT) since its creation 36 years ago, the Japan Rail Pass is set for a sharp increase this fall 🍁.

While it used to be ridiculously economical for travelers, it will certainly lose part of its appeal. For example, up until September 2023 included, the 1-week JR Pass cost the same price as a Tokyo <> Kyoto round trip fare. Plus it provided 7 days of free transportation on the Japan Railways national network!

Regardless, the JR Pass will continue to be convenient despite its price hike, on the condition of precisely estimating its profitability and / or take longer trips across regions to make it worthwhile.

If you calculate that the JR Pass will not beneficial enough for your trip, you’ll have to switch to the obvious solution from October 1st : purchasing individual train 🚅 tickets, which is unfortunately not possible before arriving in Japan.

🎡 Theme parks: a twofold increase

Tokyo Disney Resort

Admission fees in Disney parks in Tokyo have risen about 10 times since their opening in 2001, but a new 15 % increase will be implemented from October 1st, 2023.

Universal Studios Osaka

Contrary to Disney, USJ doesn’t have set prices, they usually vary according to the season, so the price increase is more difficult to estimate. The park, where the first Super Nintendo World area opened during the Covid pandemic, has yielded a new record in the highest price gap by adding a 9th selection to its admissions menu!

An Express Pass ticket can amount up to $150, in addition to the admission ticket...

🎎 Matsuri: premium seats for the (very) rich festival goers

Even the most traditional places (that could be considered remote to money-making issues) jump on the opportunity of tourism resumption to rake in more, sometimes excessively, their admission fees. It is the case for 3 of the most renowned Japanese festivals:

Awa Odori (Tokushima, Shikoku)

In 2022, the most expensive seats to attend this huge summer dance festival were sold about ¥5,000 (~US$33.16). For 2023’s edition, the new premium seats are sold at... ¥200.000(~US$1,327)!

While the service includes a frontal view of the dance performances, from 4-seats sofas, local grilled meat and sake 🍶, and even chatting with performers thanks to a Japanese-English interpreter, the price has increased 40 fold.

Each procession has 20 seats available, to be booked on line, and many seats were nabbed after a few hours in.

Gion Matsuri (Kyoto)

Premium tickets for Gion Matsuri, one of the greatest festivals in Japan in mid-July, reached even more expensive prices : ¥400.000 (~US$2,653) per seat! They used to be sold at ¥20,000 (~US$132.65) only.

84 seats protected from the sunlight, mainly aimed at foreign tourists, are strategically placed at an intersection in the heart of downtown Kyoto. The happy few enjoy English or Chinese language audio-guides, with drinks and local food.

80% of available tickets have been sold in 2023, for a nearly ¥27M (~US$178,286) revenue.

Nebuta Matsuri (Aomori)

This festival in the north of Honshu reached an all-time high with VIP tickets priced… ¥1 million (~US$6,633), including a private concierge and commentary by Nebuta masters. Guests are also served local dishes, sake, and champagne.

For the record, Aomori officials announced that the money collected will be used as a support fund for the festival’s culture.
In addition, 4 person box seats are offered at ¥200,000 (~US$1,327) and 2 person box seat at ¥50,000 (~US$331.60).

Fireworks

In the same idea, iconic Japanese hanabi have started to follow suite in the paying seat system trend.

Fittingly, seats were sold from ¥4,500 to ¥60,000 (~US$29.85 to ~US$398.00) for the Lake Biwa Great Fireworks 🎆 Festival.
A large 4 meters high and 2 kilometers long fence was even installed to prevent free spectators.

🇯🇵 Other increases

Many other places in Japan have also low-key raised their prices since the reopening of their borders in October 2022: temples, museums, gardens, etc. Keep in mind that prices also increasingly vary according to seasons, bank holidays… some venues, such as teamLab, even have a specific summer rate.

Naturally, destinations explored in our great Sightseeing Guide are updated accordingly.

Prices have soared for other Japanese products recently, especially in the souvenir field. The first to come to mind are retro video games, and Pokémon trading cards for which demand and therefore prices have become astonomical and outrageous.

As for the accommodation industry, prices are still comparatively fair. Lodging availability was indeed boosted due to the many hotels whose construction was achieved during the pandemic, and therefore opened recently. The yield management compensates the somewhat lack of Chinese tourists: the large hotel 🏨 chains are painstakingly booking their rooms, so they can’t raise their prices excessively.

Fortunately, most of these price increases are softened by the extremely weak Yen, thanks to the Bank of Japan’s lenient policy that is beneficial to tourists. International travelers did not have such purchasing power in Yen since 2008.

But how long will it last?

We still highly recommend traveling in Japan off season to make the travel costs (sometimes dramatically) lower.

Updated on September 08, 2023 - La dure inflation au Japon en 2023