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A Weak Yen Is Making Japan Vacations Cheaper Than They’ve Been in 30 Years

The U.S. dollar soared this week to its highest rate against Japan‘s yen since 1990. 

As of Friday, 1 dollar equates to around 157 yen, according to Reuters—the dollar’s strongest performance against the Japanese currency in 34 years. 

By way of comparison, The Motley Fool points out that a dollar was worth about 119 yen in April 2019, a difference of more than 35%. That means U.S. travelers can get 35% more bang for their buck when it comes to paying for stuff like food, accommodations, and activities compared to 5 years ago. 

The yen has been declining against the dollar for months. The reason, reports Bloomberg, has to do with the decision of Japan’s central bank to keep interest rates extremely low while the Federal Reserve has pushed U.S. interest rates in the other direction. “That policy difference is driving the yen’s weakness and making dollar-denominated assets more attractive for investors,” per Bloomberg. 

The strong dollar, in turn, makes Japan more attractive for U.S. travelers—probably a major reason why booking data released by American Express Travel late last year showed a surge of interest in Japan, particularly among millennials and Gen Zers. Travel bookings to Japan jumped a whopping 1,300% among those groups since before the pandemic, American Express found. 

That has resulted in reports of overcrowding and bad tourist behavior in some of the island nation’s most popular spots.

Last month, government officials who manage access to Mount Fuji announced plans to combat overtourism by introducing an entry fee of 2,000 yen ($13) as well as daily limits on the number of people permitted to climb the iconic peak. 

Similarly, residents of the historic geisha district of Gion in Kyoto have called on city leaders to crack down on tourists trespassing on private property. 

So if you’re keen to join the wave of travelers headed to Japan, for heaven’s sake, have some manners. 

Keep in mind, too, that although the dollar stretches further in Japan these days, the country remains a notoriously pricey destination and you’ll still want to keep an eye on your budget. 

Measures that can help include carefully pricing out rail passes for travel between cities (an overnight bus ride via luxury coach can be a far cheaper alternative to a bullet train), relying on some of the world’s best public transit systems to get around cities like Tokyo, and opting for unique accommodations such as a low-cost capsule hotel, at least for a night or two. Pro tip: Booking activities, accommodations, and transportation directly with the Japanese business or organization’s website will often save you money compared to using a third-party site. 

To cut culinary costs without sacrificing gastronomic standards, check out the incredible array of tasty offerings at 100-yen shops, convenience stores, shopping malls, train stations, and vending machines. You won’t be disappointed.