Things in Japan can be really cheap but they can also be really expensive. There’s something for everyone’s budget I guess. Being a student means I have to put a lot more thought into where I spend money, especially when I have literally no budget for going out.
Of course it always costs less to stay in, but that can get old pretty quickly. Plus it’s important to get out and be social. I think if we spend 1/3 of our lives sleeping, we should spend at least that much time socializing.
Owning a bicycle and not being afraid to ride it in a variety of conditions is important. Free transportation is the first key to success when it comes to going out in Kyoto on the cheap.
Bicycle to and from your evening excursion Pros: It’s free,you don’t have to worry about missing the last bus home and you don’t have to shell out for a cab Cons: Bicycle parking can be rare downtown Kyoto and if you park illegally it is highly possible your bike will be impounded. Also, if you drink too much you will either injure yourself severely, have to walk that bike home, or leave it downtown and get it the next day when you don’t want to get out of bed.
Eat a deep fried snack at the izakaya There are many cheap and cheerful places to enjoy drinks and food but a couple of my favorites for a spontaneous (AND CHEAP) night out are Torikizoku and じぽんぐ (Jipongu).
Torikizoku has a couple locations in Kyoto, including Kitano Hakubaicho & Kawaramachi so depending on how far you want to get from home you can take your pick. I like Torikizoku because everything on the menu is 280 yen ($3.11) including large jugs of beer, a plate of fries or a couple skewers of delicious meat + onion…you can’t go wrong. The ambience is also good even though its a cheap chain it still has a bit of a rustic pub feel with the wooden interior.
Jipongu is great for meeting up with large groups but can be busy around 9-11pm on Friday or Saturday night. A pint of beer is only 200 yen ($2.22), which is usually all I order here but you can get small plates for under 500 yen ($5.54). The atmosphere is nice and actually seems a little upscale considering your only paying a couple bucks for beer.
Usually I’ve had my fill of beer by now and its time to engage in some other activity beyond sitting and drinking.
Dance at Butterfly & get a free drink If you go to Butterfly on a Friday or Saturday night before 10pm there is no cover for women and only 500 yen ($5.54) cover for men, both get a complimentary drink. The music is generally top 40 club and rap anthems so after about an hour it starts to get repetitive but until then it is a total riot. If you go after 10pm the price for entry increases and it doesn’t seem desirable to me at all.
Find a hole in the wall There are many small bars on the 3rd and 4th floor of random buildings and they are usually always interesting for at least one drink. Usually drinks at these types of places are about 600 yen ($6.65) so I like to order a Long Island Tea which is generally just 4 ounces of alcohol, you will only need to order one: money well spent! A couple smaller bars I like in Kyoto: ING , AF JAM (still searching!) and some busier drinking spots: HUB, RUB A DUB, A-Bar
Sing your heart out If you didn’t bike downtown, and you missed the last bus, you have the choice to pay for a cab or stay out all night until the first trains start in the morning around 6am. The best thing to do at this point is to go home (if you have that kind of self-will at this drunken moment) but if you’re still in the mood to party- head to Karaoke. It’s open all night, so you and your friends can get a private booth, take turns singing and curling up to catch some zzz’s on the comfortable couches. I like to bring in a snack and a drink from the nearest convenience store (this is something you should enjoy without the karaoke staff knowing). Generally you will pay around 1000 yen ($11.08) to hang out at Karaoke for the rest of the night and the morning train will only be around 200 yen ($2.22) to get home.
Something I always forget to do when I get home: SHOWER and WASH MY CLOTHES! Smoking is allowed at most establishments in Kyoto and you are going to smell like an ashtray when you get home. Having a shower and throwing your clothes in the wash is a must. There is nothing worse than waking up hungover and having everything smell like cigarette smoke. Barf.
There are lots of 食べ放題Tabehoudai/飲み放題Nomihoudai’s (all you can eat/drink for around 2500 yen/$27.70) which are great for large 飲み会nomikai (drinking parties) but I am more interested in the hole in the wall type places at this point. Apparently Osaka has a lot more nightlife but I have yet to travel that far for bar hopping!
I am still searching for good, cheap places to go to in Kyoto, so if you have any recommendations or you want to come find some fun spots with me feel free to join in! かんぱい！kanpai!