One of the great things about Japan is that there are so many cheap ways to have a really great time! Tokyo has a bad reputation for being a very expensive city, but it actually has more free things to do than any other city in Japan. Hopefully, the following information will help you find some of these cheap options. Here we go:
First the absolutely free things:
First, travel on the Yamanote line to Harajuku station and get ready to experience the old and the new. Harajuku is the area around Harajuku station, which encompasses many shops, restaurants, and sight-seeing areas.
My suggestion is that you first head to Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street), as it is directly in front of the station, and the most famous area in Harajuku. Here, you can just walk around and experience all of the crazy, fun, and cutting-edge fashion from some very creative people.
There are usually many cosplayers, fashionistas, and trendsetters–in fact, some of the great fashion companies of the world are known to find new ideas from the fashion in Harajuku. Take plenty of pictures, but be sure to be polite and ask first.
You can also find many different shops, selling trendy items, clothes, and of course snacks! One of the most popular things to buy and eat here are the famous crepes, and there is a crepe shop on almost every corner of this area!
You can spend plenty of time people watching in this area, but don’t forget that there are more free things to do.
After seeing Takeshita Dori, head back to Harajuku Station, but this time head south. About 100 yards away, you will be at Yoyogi Park (Yoyogi Koen).
Yoyogi Park is one of the largest parks in Tokyo, and measures about 134 acres. This park is great for picnics, hiking, biking, and just taking a walk around the beautiful forest. During Sakura (cherry blossom) season, it is also a great spot to view some of the cherry blossoms. And during the fall, the trees turn beautiful shades of orange, yellow, and brown.
You can always find something happening at Yoyogi Park, as many events occur in the event space and facilities located on one side of Yoyogi Park. But one of the greatest things about Yoyogi Park, is that it has become a meeting place for all sorts of people, performers, and activities during the weekends. In fact, some of Yoyogi Park’s famous “Rockabilly” performers even made it into a music video:
I hope you have a chance to see them for yourself, or some of the other great performers of Yoyogi. And it’s all FREE!
As you walk through Yoyogi Park you will see giant wooden torii, which are the entrances to the Meiji-Jingu shrine grounds. As you walk underneath these giants wooden torii, you can begin to experience the calmness and tranquility of Meiji-Jingu.
As you walk down the large path past the torii, you come across many sake barrels and beautiful lamps that lead you to the main shrine grounds. You will eventually arrive at Meiji-Jingu, the most famous Shinto Shrine in Japan. Here is a two-minute walk through of Meiji-Jingu, so you can experience it for yourself:
If you are lucky, you will see a wedding procession in action, since this is the premier place to have traditional Shinto weddings.
Throughout the year, millions of people visit Meiji-Jingu, with almost 3 million during the New Year events. So be sure to get there a bit early to avoid some of the crowds.
Everyone that visits Japan is familiar with Akihabara or “Akiba,” as it is a world famous area in Tokyo. You don’t need any money to walk-around this mecca of anime, electronics, and maid cafes, so put away the wallet and get your camera ready.
There are usually free shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings in Akiba, and all you need to do is follow the crowds to these events. Also, some of the surrounding garages are daily hosts to people with Itashas—cars that are painted and covered with anime characters.
And, a trip to Akihabara wouldn’t be complete without the maid cafes. There is a maid cafe on literally every corner, with plenty of cute maids trying to lure you in. I encourage people to try a maid cafe once, but don’t spend all of your money here!
The easiest way to get to Akiba is via the Yamanote Line and stopping at Akihabara Station. Just walk outside of the station, and get ready to experience more anime, manga, and electronics than ever before.
Next, get back on that Yamanote Line, but this time make a stop at Ueno Station. Head across the street at this station, and you will be in Ueno Park.
This park has several museums and the popular Ueno Zoo. Normally, a ticket to the zoo costs only $6, which is a really great price. They’ve got lions and tigers and bears, and Japanese Monkeys!
But if you want a really great deal for all of the museums and zoo in Ueno Park, then get the “Grutto Pass”.
The “Grutto Pass” lets you get into 80 museums art galleries, and zoos in Tokyo at discounted prices, and in some cases free! The Grutto Pass only costs 2500 yen or $18.23 US Dollars, and is valid for two months from the first day you use it.
At Ueno Park, the Grutto Pass gets you into the following locations for free:
- Ueno Zoo
- Shimamachi Museum
- Asakura Sculpture Museum
- Calligraphy Museum
- Hitoha Memorial/Ichiyo Memorial Museum
- Amuse Museum
And, you get into the following museums at a discount:
- Ueno Royal Museum
- National Museum of Western Art
- Tokyo National Museum
- Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum
- Tokyo University of the Arts Museum
- Sido Art Museum
You can buy the Grutto Pass at anyone of the 80 museums that are a part of the pass, as well as the Tokyo Tourist Information Center. You can also buy it online here: Grutto Pass But be aware that the website is in Japanese!
Ueno Park is also famous for its Hanami (cherry blossom viewing), as it has over 1,000 Cherry Blossom trees! So if you are in Tokyo during late-March or early-April, then be sure to take some time to experience this.
Also, if you arrive at Ueno Park early in the morning, you can join the group of people performing their daily exercises. It is actually really fun!
Next, travel to Asakusa to see the famous Kaminarimon and Senso-ji, as well as check-out all of the cheap food stalls in the area. Here is a two-minute walk-through of Senso-ji, so you can experience this great area:
Don’t forget to play a game of luck for 100 yen at Senso-ji, and buy a chocolate-covered banana or“choco-banana” for only 200 yen.
Pro-tip—there are many stores all around Senso-ji that offer free food samples of their sweets and snacks. Walk-in and they will gladly let you taste their goods—I think they really enjoy seeing foreigners make funny faces as they try all the weird snacks, haha.
The best way to get to this area is via the Ginza Subway Line and stopping at Asakusa Station.
Shibuya is another well-known area of Tokyo, as many people consider it one of the great shopping and entertainment areas in the city. Much of Tokyo’s youth come to Shibuya to shop at one of the many fashion stores, and you will regularly see new fashion trends popping-up here. So keep a good lookout!
The areas around Shibuya Station are almost always packed with people, as Shibuya Station is one of the busiest stations in Japan. With about 379,000 people going through this station each day, it is a great people-watching location.
So where are all of these people going? Well, a lot of them are enjoying some of the FREE things in the area, like Shibuya Crossing.
Shibuya Crossing is located right in front of Shibuya Station, and you really can’t miss it. Just follow the about One Million people that cross it each day!
Another must-do at Shibuya is visiting the Hachiko Statute, right outside of Shibuya Station.
Hachiko was an amazingly faithful dog, who would go meet his owner (Hidesaburo Ueno) each day at Shibuya Station. One day, Hidesaburo did not return to the station, as he died before returning to the station. Hachiko waited for him each day at the station for 9 years, 9 months, and 15 days! His faithfulness became a national symbol of loyalty, and the statute was erected in his honor.
One of the best places to enjoy Shibuya is in the Starbucks of the Tsutuya building, where you get an amazing view of the Shibuya Crossing and Hachiko Statute area. Just buy a small coffee and enjoy the experience of being in Tokyo. Also, once you are done watching, just walk outside of the Tsutuya building and enjoy some of the great street performers that are usually outside–I recommend the Shibuya rappers.
So how do you get to Shibuya? Just hop-on the Yamanote Line and stop at Shibuya Station–it is really easy!
TOYOSU FISH MARKET
Toyosu Fish Market opened in 2018 and replaced the world-famous Tsukiji fish market. It remains on everyone’s list of “must-dos” in Tokyo, Japan. Toyosu Fish Market is the world’s biggest wholesale fish and seafood market, and also has a large wholesale area for fruits and vegetables too.
Here is a two minute travel video to the former Tsukiji Market Tuna Auction:
The main attraction at Toyosu is the Tuna Auction! This is what people around the world travel to Toyosu Market to see, and it is definitely worth the long wait. And it’s FREE!
There are two auctions tours each day, one starts around 5:25AM, and the other starts at about 5:50AM. However, only 120 people get to attend the auction each day (60 people for each time), and spots are first come, first served. And with so many people wanting to take part in this tour, this means that you have to arrive early! Very early.
Many people arrive to Toyosu Fish Market as early as 3:30AM to 4:00AM, and grab one of the coveted green or blue vests—which mean you get to go inside.
After the Toyosu Tuna Auction tour ends, I recommend finding one of the many sushi restaurants in the outer market, and grabbing a bite to eat for an amazingly reasonable price.
I ate all of this sushi, and a lot more, for about $15 US Dollars. Trust me; it is an amazing savings that you can only find at this market.
The market is currently located in the Odaiba District. From any of the stations on the JR Yamanote Line – such as Tokyo Station – head to Shimbashi Station. From there, take the elevated train Yurikamome to Shijo-mae Station.
Odaiba is another great shopping and entertainment center, which is located on an island in Tokyo Bay. There are plenty of places for you to spend your hard-earned money, but you should try some of the FREE things first.
Like checking out the Unicorn Gundam statute. If you get there at the right time, you will see it transform into the Destroy mode.
Fuji TV Station is also located on Odaiba, just look for the giant silver building with the silver sphere. Many of the great Fuji TV shows are filmed here, so you might have the chance to bump into some of your favorite Japanese “Talento”.
If you aren’t lucky enough to see someone famous, you cans till take part in the FREE Fuji TV station tours. It gives you a bit of the behind the scene looks at how things are done at Fuji TV. And don’t forget to take part in the tour “stamp rally,” because you can get a free prize for collecting stamps along the way.
Palette Town is another FREE location in Odaiba, which houses many different shops and restaurants. You can buy things if you like, but the really cool (and free) part of the shopping area is that it is designed like a 17th Century European village! At the center of the shopping area is a very beautiful fountain, which you should experience for yourself.
And before heading out of Odaiba, make sure to stop at the Toyota Mega Web.
Toyota Mega Web is basically a giant Toyota showcase, where you can see a lot of their cars–both old and new. And it is all FREE.
You can checkout all of the concepts they have for future designs, play in car simulators, and even test drive some of their cars! If you have a Japanese license.
SO MUCH MORE
Of course, there are so many more FREE things to do in Tokyo, but it would take me too long to talk about everything else here. So that means you will just need to come back and learn about more of the cool things to do in Tokyo, and all over Japan.
So I will see you next time!