Things to Do in Tokyo on a Budget – 11 Inexpensive Ways to Explore Tokyo
There are many things to do in Tokyo even when you are on a budget. Read on to find out 11 cheap ways to explore Tokyo.
Considered one of the top ten most expensive cities in the world, Tokyo is undeniably pricey. One careless moment of extravagance can painfully blow a limited budget. We’re here to prevent that from happening.
11 cheap and fun activities for travelers:
1. Explore the City
Tokyo includes a bewildering amount of must-go places where spending money is purely optional.
Not far from Shibuya, discover Omotesando and Harajuku. There you can stroll the Omotesando Hills and the crowded Takeshita street, spot outlandish fashion trends, or take some lovely photos at Line Friends Store and Moshi Moshi Box.
5 minutes from Harajuku is Shinjuku – one of the busiest areas in Tokyo. Head towards the notorious Kabukichō and glimpse the seedy side of this sleepless city. Aside from the love hotels and hostess bars, find the wacky Robot Restaurant. Although pretty pricey, the surreal neon weirdness of this place will live long in the memory.
To find an alternative side to Tokyo, set out for Shimokitazawa. The areas laid back vibe, narrow streets and abundance of record and vintage stores makes this a great area to stroll around away from the crowds of nearby Shibuya and Shinjuku.
A bit further to the east is Roppongi – another infamous area, particularly popular with the city’s expat community. Wandering in Roppongi, you can take in the thrilling Tokyo nightlife, take a picture with Louise Bourgeois’s gigantic spider-like sculpture or check out the iconic Tokyo tower.
For fish lovers, Tsukiji, the biggest fish market in the world, is the place to go. A browse around the market and the tuna auction come totally free – although you may have to get up pretty early to catch the best of it.
Another area worth visiting is Odaiba – an artificial island in the south of the city. With an excellent seaside park, a beach, numerous shopping malls and landmarks such as the Rainbow bridge and the Gundam statue, Odaiba will not disappoint.
Kichioji, in the west of the city, is also high recommended for an inexpensive, off-the-tourist-trail day out. Allegedly the most desirable neighborhood in Tokyo, Kichioji has an edgy, local atmosphere with excellent budget sightseeing spots such as Inokashira Park Zoo and the Ghibli Museum.
Tokyo is all yours to explore, and it won’t cost you a single yen, if you’re smart.
2. Admire Tokyo from Above
Tokyo boasts magnificent views over its vast area. Besides the regular observation decks (which can be pricey), many skyscrapers and rooftop bars offer free access or are highly inexpensive. These include: Tokyo World Trade Center, Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Bunkyou Civic Center, Caretta Shiodome, Ebisu Garden Place Tower, Shinjuku NS Building, Fuji Television Headquarters, Carrot Tower, Tower Hall Funabori, Shinjuku Granbell Hotel Rooftop Bar G and New Otani Hotel Bar.
Breathtaking and money-saving, all at once.
3. Temples and Shrines
Tokyo’s fast pace can sometimes get a little overwhelming. At this point, it’s time to find some inner peace. But where? No worries! There are many temples and shrines in Tokyo where you can ease your soul, restore your calm enjoy some natural beauty. Among these are Tomioka Hachiman Shrine – the birthplace of sumo wrestling, Yushima Tenjin shrine – the shrine to pray for academic success, and Meiji-jingu shrine – a beautiful shrine in the middle of a sizeable forest.
The list goes on.
4. Parks and Gardens
Besides temples and shrines, parks and gardens are another economical way to elude Tokyo’s crowds. Full of open spaces, trees and flowers; parks and gardens can be enjoyed at any time of the year. In the spring, Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Park or Ueno Park are ideal spots for a picnic under the blooming cherry blossoms. In the summer, activities like running, cycling, jogging and frisbee are a cheap way to enjoy yourself. And as the weather turn cold, don’t be put off, the beauty and serenity of these islands of calm is only enhanced.
Throughout the year, Japan (especially Tokyo) has an impressive number of festivals which are both fun and completely free to join. These include the cherry blossom festivals, Sanja matsuri in the spring; remarkable summer festivals and firework festivals like Asakusa Samba Carnival, Sumida river firework festival; autumn festivals such as Kichijoji festival; winter festivals and winter illuminations. To experience these slices of uniquely Japanese culture, check the Official Tokyo Travel Guide website for the most up-to-date Tokyo events information.
Should you be eager to deepen your knowledge whilst not digging deep into your wallet, museums are your best bet. Tokyo offers an incredible variety of museums, from the esoteric – like the Tokyo Currency Museum and the Tokyo Fire Museum – to the scientific – like the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation – to the uniquely Japanese – like the Sumo Museum or the Taro Okamoto Museum. Get educated on the cheap.
7. Shop Smarter!
The vast numbers of shopping areas and shopping centers in Tokyo aren’t necessarily off-limits to the budget traveler. In fact, the unique and glamorous designs of many of the city’s shopping centers turns window shopping into a wholly pleasant activity. Find the best with our guide to Tokyo’s top 10 shopping districts or to pay a visit to Venus Fort, for a taste of Medieval Europe whilst you browse.
Flea markets and local markets are also a smart choice. Options such as Tokyo city flea market, Earth Day market, and the UNU farmer’s market enable you to purchase low-priced, high-quality local products whilst immersing yourself in local life.
For bookworms, bookstores in Tokyo are worth visiting. In addition to the spacious Kinokuniya and the cheap second-hand Book Off, Tokyo has several Tsutaya branches with well-thought out designs such as Futako Tamagawa Tsutaya Electrics and Tsutaya Daikanyama.
Last but not least, a visit to a 100 yen shop should definitely be on your go-to list. Here, find cheap souvenirs for yourself and your friends.
8. Admire Some Architecture
Tokyo’s architecture comes in many forms, creating a cityscape akin to no other. Buildings from world-class architects in innumerable styles blend with the more quotidian (yet still impressive) for a balance that is a joy to take in. Notable structures include the Metabolist Nakagin Capsule Tower, TOD’s Omotesando, Shizuoka Press and Media Building, Mikimoto Ginza 2 Building and Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower.
High elevation and mountainous terrain make for a good deal of nice natural trails in Japan, particularly around Tokyo. Located just 50 minutes from the capital, Mount Takao is a favored destination for many hikers. With six different routes of varied difficulty level and an alluring view from the summit, Mount Takao is no doubt worth one whole day on your cheapo itinerary.
10. Game Centers
It’s 2016 but arcade games are surprisingly still wildly popular in Japan. Tokyo is the promised land for Japanese arcades; head to an arcade center jammed with people, observe zombie-like players in intense concentration and let yourself sink into the electronic sounds and music. Whilst you’re there, remember to take some sticker pictures with Japanese photo booths (Purikura). This unique experience costs as little as 400 yen.
11. Japanese Hot Springs (Onsen)
The last recommendation on our list is to soak yourself in a Japanese hot spring. This is not only an outstanding cultural experience but also a superb way to relax. Most importantly, you have to pay no more than 500 yen at facilities such as Seotonoyu, Jakotsuyu, Musashi-Koyama onsen shimizu yu, Take no yu or Pokapoka land takaban no yu – all of which are in Tokyo. Read our article for more information!