Things to Do in Tokyo for Free

Tokyo has a lot to offer and - contrary to what you might think - not all of it will leave your wallet empty. We've found some of the coolest things to do in Tokyo for free - don't miss out.

Tokyo is a great destination to try new things and experience a different culture. It’s generally very well received with all its great food, beautiful temples, interesting traditions and great public transport. Tokyo can, however, be very expensive and make you wish you’d planned ahead a little more. The Japanese are well-versed in finding coupons online, hunting out sales or simply getting advice from forums to find the cheapest places. This is, of course, hard for tourists to do. That’s where we come in with out list of the very best things to do in Tokyo for free. 

Note that transport in Tokyo is sadly not free, but assuming you got the Japan Rail Pass, it’s as good as.

We’re going to cover the whole city here but if you’re planning on sticking to Shinjuku and Shibuya here are two articles that might help you out:

Top 12 Free Things to do in Shinjuku

Top 12 Free Things to do in Shibuya

 

Contents

1. Parks/Gardens

2. Cycling

3. Hiking

4. Outdoor Fitness

5. Parties/Festivals (Matsuri)

6. Sightseeing

7. Viewing Platforms

8. Markets

9. Exhibitions/Museums

10. Temples/Shrines

11. Libraries/Book Shops

12. Get Free Food

1. Parks/Gardens

Photo credit: Shinjiro [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia commons

Photo credit: Shinjiro [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia commons

This is a great option with a group of people, as plenty of parks have open spaces for picnics and other outdoor activities. In spring, people in Tokyo flock to the parks and gardens to see sakura (cherry blossoms) in a tradition called hanami (flower viewing). You should join the fray if you get the chance but don’t forget to bring a bottle of sake, a welcome part of the tradition.

If you’re a sports nut, you may like to try out the jogging or cycling trails available in some of the city’s parks. There are usually plenty of people doing sports activities, especially in Yoyogi Park near Harajuku.

Check out these articles for more info:

A Guide to Tokyo’s Parks and Gardens

Flowers in Japan – 20 Famous Japanese Flowers and Where to See Them

2. Cycling

Provided by Foursquare

Provided by Foursquare

Grabbing your bike and exploring Tokyo is one of the best ways to see the city. Indeed, cycling is the transportation of choice for many Tokyoites, despite the confusing traffic rules, lack of bike lanes and crowded streets. Having said this, riding bikes in Tokyo is pretty straight forward as you’re allowed to ride on the sidewalks (it’s encouraged in fact) and it’s never too dangerous.  

If you can’t get a bicycle from your hotel or Airbnb, you may want to rent one, which is not too expensive (around 1,500 yen/day). The free option is to ride a bike around the Imperial Palace which is free and easy to sign up for even for non-Japanese speakers.

Check this page for more info on free (and paid) bike rentals:

Japan Bicycle Promotion Institute

3. Hiking

Provided by Foursquare

Provided by Foursquare

On the outskirts of the wider Tokyo area, you’ll find Mount Takao (Takao-san), a popular hiking spot which is perfect for beginners and provides great views over Tokyo and the surrounding countryside when the weather is clear. Going up Takao-san won’t take longer than 2 hours, but allow time for activities at the summit and the descent. We recommend you take your time over a whole day, have lunch somewhere along the path or at the top (you might want to bring sandwiches, onigiri, etc.) and perhaps have dinner around the base. 

Check out this article for all the details:

Mount Takao – The Perfect Day Trip From Tokyo

4. Outdoor Fitness

Provided by Foursquare

Provided by Foursquare

If you’re into yoga, pilates, acro yoga, boot camp, jogging, badminton, dancing or just about any other sport you can do outside – you’re in luck. Tokyo has a large community of people using social media to meet up for free events (some are paid, too) outside to enjoy sports together in parks and other communal areas. If you’re not into planning, you can definitely just show up at the parks (Yoyogi is great for this) and join the groups there. There are usually plenty of foreigners around if you don’t speak Japanese so there’s no need to be shy.

Check the events on these sites:

www.tokyogaijins.com/basketball

www.meetup.com/Tokyo

5. Parties/Festivals (Matsuri)

The Tokyo party and event scene is lively and varied. Live houses offer everything from jazz and blues to folk music; clubs are abundant with any sounds you may want; summer music festivals attract thousands and the traditional Japanese Matsuri (summer festivals, sometimes with fireworks) are a uniquely Japanese delight, with people wandering around in traditional yukata whilst enjoying food and drink along riversides and by temples. If you want to be part of the fray, don’t hesitate, there’s something for everyone. Though there is a lot of information online that is only available in Japanese, there are official English guides and we have articles on the topic to point you in the right direction.

Check out our articles:

Japanese Summer Festival Guide 2016

Japanese Firework Festivals 2016 – Your Survival Guide to Hanabi

This is the official Tokyo Guide Website:

Official Tokyo Travel Guide – Tokyo Go

6. Sightseeing

Photo credit: bryan... via flickr cc

Photo credit: bryan… via flickr cc

Not much to say about sightseeing because Tokyo itself is a sight to see. Be it the streets, the people, the architecture or the atmosphere; you’ll want to see it all. Use our useful guides on some of the hotspots for sightseeing and don’t miss out on the main attractions like towers, temples, shopping districts, underground culture and much much more.

Check out these articles:

Omotesando – Top 14 Places to Visit

Shibuya Crossing – Top 10 Things to Do

Shimokitazawa – A Guide to the Hippest Part of Tokyo

Harajuku: 40 things to do besides shopping in Japan

Takeshita Street – Top 20 Places to Visit

Kabukichō – Tokyo’s Red Light District

The 10 Best Japanese Arcades in Tokyo

7. Viewing Platforms

Photo credit: Peyton Chung via flickr cc

Photo credit: Peyton Chung via flickr cc

As a city full of skyscrapers, Tokyo’s got some pretty spectacular views. There are, of course, the paid platforms like Tokyo Tower and the Skytree, but we’ve found the free options for you as well. If you’re down for some great views of the city, check out our article on Tokyo’s viewing platforms and take your pick. It’s best to go when the weather’s clear and bring your fanciest camera, ’cause you’ll want to hold on to that moment!

Check out this article on the topic:

15 Fantastic Tokyo City Views

8. Markets

Provided by Foursquare

Provided by Foursquare

There are some pretty awesome markets around Tokyo that sell everything from fresh produce to used clothes. And you don’t even need to buy anything to soak up the atmosphere and try the samples often given away by the sellers. But if you do to buy something the prices will be reasonable. Markets are also a great place to connect with local people and make some friends. 

Check out these markets:

Tokyo City Flea Market

Earth Day Market Yoyogi Park

Farmer’s Market @UNU

9. Exhibitions/Museums

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Some culture, please. Well, we’re happy to comply. There are plenty of museums in Tokyo – most are, however, paid. The entry fees are usually quite reasonable, but if you’re out for the freebies, we have them for you. They might not be the classics, but they each have pretty cool insights to offer. They are also great for families, so bring the whole bunch to enjoy some of these fun museums and exhibitions all around Tokyo.

Check these places around Tokyo:

Currency Museum

Chofu Aerospace Center

Suginami Animation Museum

Sumo Museum

Tokyo Fire Museum (official site in Japanese only, check this article‘s #8 for more info)

10. Temples/Shrines

IMG_5930

You’re bound to be aware that there are some pretty wonderful temples and shrines to check out in and around Tokyo. Buddhism and Shinto are spread across all of Japan and Tokyo, with its great density of people, has some of the best. Visiting shrines and temples is a big part of Japanese culture even for the non-religious, who are rewarded with beautiful architecture and a unique atmosphere. These sites are also a good way to learn about modern Japan and its balance of old and ultra-modern.  

Check this article for more info:

Tokyo Temples and Shrines – A Guide to Finding Peace Among the Chaos

11. Libraries/Bookshops 

Provided by Foursquare

Provided by Foursquare

If you’d rather take a time-out and relax somewhere quiet, maybe grab a coffee, we recommend one of the many bookstores across Tokyo. There are many different kinds and we’ve listed a few that are sure to entertain you. If you’re a fan of Manga and ready to spend around four or five dollars, try Book Off. Although the English selection might be limited, what better souvenir than an original Manga in Japanese for almost nothing. If you want a laid back atmosphere and some beautiful architecture to lull you into tranquility, visit Daikanyama (a trendy quarter not far from Shibuya) for some stylish book time.

Check out these book shops:

Book Off (second hand book store)

Kinokuniya

Tsutaya Daikanyama

12. Free Food

IMG_0088

If you don’t want to spend any money, but do want to check out some amazing Japanese food, we know the perfect place for you: Tokyo’s department stores. Japan’s department stores are famous for their “depachika” (デパ地下 Jap. the basement floors of the department stores) which lavishishly display foods from all over the world, including the different regions of Japan. Best of all, there are always tons of free samples. Just walking around one of these massive underground floors gathering bites will equal a full meal for sure. It’s not very elegant, but it’s great to help you figure out what you like (and want to bring back as a souvenir, perhaps?).

Check out these department stores:

Takashimaya

Marui (OIOI)

Isetan

Mitsukoshi

Things to Do in Tokyo

Tokyo Sightseeing

Samantha Khairallah

Samantha Khairallah

Originally from Switzerland, currently studying in Tokyo. With a wide array of interests, including travel, I'm passionate about what I write here at Compathy Magazine.



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# Things to Do in Tokyo # Things to Do in Japan

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