There are plenty of websites providing tips on saving money for tourists in Japan. One example is the purchase of railway tickets applicable only to foreign tourists where the locals might not be aware of. Meanwhile, there are advices known among the Japanese, but not available in the blogs in foreign languages. Do you ever notice that when you drive from one prefecture to another, there is a big difference in the gas price?
Causes of differences in gas prices
Key factors: location of gas station, number of gas stations distributed within a region, gas transportation cost and so forth.
Location of gas station
A good location comes with an expensive rental. In busy city area, the operating cost is unavoidably high. How big could the gap be? For comparison purpose, the cost of one square meter of land at Ginza, Tokyo is equivalent to a big farm in Hokkaido.
Number of gas stations distributed within a region
In a populated area, more vehicles are expected and the same goes to the gas stations. This indirectly creates some competition – a commonly known economic principle of capitalism.
Gas transportation cost
The transportation distance between the refinery and the destination has an impact. There are 22 refineries within Japan located along the populated coastal line. This in turn makes the transportation of gas to inland higher.
Where to locate gas with low prices?
When assessing the average gas price within Japan, under the influence of the three aforementioned fundamental factors, certain prefectures or areas (depending on the administrative division of Japanese government) show a relatively low price as compared to others.
According to the statistics (Japanese only) from the Agency of Natural Resources and Energy of Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, from 2012 until October 2017, the lowest average (based on per litre price) are as follows:
1. Saitama Prefecture (JPY138.7)
2. Chiba Prefecture (JPY139.4)
3. Okayama Prefecture (JPY139.8)
4. Ibaraki Prefecture (JPY140.2)
5. Miyagi Prefecture (JPY140.9)
On the other hand, the highest average are:
47. Nagasaki Prefecture (JPY150.5)
46. Kagoshima Prefecture (JPY150.3)
45. Saga Prefecture (JPY146.8)
45. Oita Prefecture (JPY146.8)
43. Nagano Prefecture (JPY145.9)
Where the national average for this period is JPY143.1.
Among the lowest five prefectures, three are in Kanto Region (Saitama, Chiba and Ibaraki), where four out of the top five prefectures are in Kyushu Region (Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Saga and Oita). This scenario does not signify the price in Kanto Region is expected to be low. In Tokyo, for this same period, it costs as high as JPY145.0. Similarly, in Kyushu Region where there are several prefectures with high averages, the lowest of JPY142.8 can be found at Miyazaki Prefecture.
Take the example of Tokyo and Saitama adjacent to one another, the difference is JPY6.3 per litre. If you were to fill up a tank of 40 litres, the differences add up to approximately JPY250. The cumulative differences of four visits will be as much as JPY1,000 which is good enough for two sets of gyudon (beef bowl) at Yoshinoya restaurant.
There are also examples of prefectures which are not far apart, but have large difference in prices. Such as, between Aichi (JPY141.7) and Gifu (JPY145.5); between Osaka (JPY141.3) and Kyoto (JPY145.1); between Tokushima (JPY141.3) and Kochi (JPY145.3) etc.
Avoid fuelling on highway
Generally, the price at the rest area along the highway is comparatively high. For long journey on the highway, it is best to fill up your tank in advance.