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10 things to do on a budget in Tokyo

By John Asano

Tokyo is one of the most exciting places on the planet, but this doesn’t mean a holiday to this amazing destination has to break the bank.

Like most places in the world, a trip to Tokyo can be done either in luxury or on a shoestring budget. I’ve been lucky to have been able to travel around most of Japan in my 10 years of living there and overall I have found Japan to be an incredibly affordable holiday destination.

If you are planning a trip to the land of the rising sun, be sure to check out these things to do in Tokyo, for people traveling on a budget.

Imperial Palace gardens

Located in the heart of Tokyo, the Imperial Palace is a must see tourist attraction, whether you’re traveling on a budget or not. Visit the magnificent gardens surrounding the home of Japan’s emperor and imperial family. It is an easy walk from Tokyo Station and entry is free.


A trip to Harajuku is the experience of a lifetime. This is the home of Japanese street fashion and cosplay and the best spot in Tokyo for people watching. Also located close by is the famous Meiji Shrine.

Visit a Shinto shrine

Most temples and shrines in Tokyo are free to visit. The more famous ones will charge an entrance fee but this is usually as little as 500 yen. Various religious festivals are held throughout the year, with the shrines themselves being a major attraction. Colorful features and intricate detailing can date back hundreds of years to when the shrines were first built.

Buy something from a vending machine

Yes, I know most countries have vending machines, but in Japan they’re at another level. Using a vending machine in Japan is like taking a step into the future with high-tech machines that can recommend drinks for you based on the weather and your age and gender. You can pretty much find them on every street corner in Japan. Tokyo has vending machines that sell just about anything and the prices are very reasonable, sometimes cheaper than a shop.


If you’re going to have one night out in Japan, make sure it’s at a karaoke box. The Japanese love to sing and it’s one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. Your night doesn’t need to be expensive with karaoke boxes offering great deals for small groups that include food and drinks.

Get electric in Akihabara

Better known as electric town, it is the home of technology. Tokyo’s gadget district is frequented by millions of visitors every year. If you’re traveling on a budget, it may be a good idea to leave your wallet at home for this shopping experience, although you can find some pretty good deals there.

Yoyogi Park

If you’re looking for some free entertainment, you can’t go past a Sunday afternoon in Yoyogi Park. Local bands battle it out, dressed in the craziest rock gear you’ve ever seen.

Sumo wrestling

While sumo wrestling bouts can take a chunk out of your spending money, you can see sumo wrestlers in action during training matches, for free. Training venues aren’t generally made public, so talk to your hotel concierge about finding one nearby.

Eat noodles

Throughout Japan you will find a variety of noodle dishes and restaurants. In my experience, the best noodles are found at the small traditional shops that are usually hidden away in alleys or between buildings. A yummy bowl of noodles will cost you around 500 yen.

Island hop

If you want to travel, but know that world trip tickets come with a hefty price tag, try discovering the islands of Japan instead. Flights between islands are very affordable and give you the chance to experience various types of Japanese culture.

The author runs Japan Australia, a blog about Japan containing useful tips and advice about living or traveling to Japan. This blog is dedicated to Japan travel, food, cooking, music, and culture.

© Japan Today

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Reading this article, I'm glad I live in Okinawa.

-5 ( +0 / -5 )

For a first-time visitor, it would be pretty instructive to get an all-day pass and ride the Yamanote line all the way around, in between morning and evening rush hour. Combined with no more than a map and a little bit of written-down guidance, that in itself would be a great start to anyone's visit. And it's cheap!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Get on the shinkansen and come to Kyushu.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Harajuku is the experience of a lifetime. one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. ...karaoke boxes my 10 years of living there

There are depressing lives...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Does "island hopping" count as something to do in Tokyo? I know there are some islands that are administratively part of Tokyo, but it appears the author was struggling to come up with ten things. "Come to Tokyo and eat noodles": it's not really selling the place is it?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Get on the shinkansen and come to Kyushu.

It's expensive. If they walk the way and take the ferry, they'll have done a nice trip.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"Come to Tokyo and eat noodles": it's not really selling the place is it?

And we don't even know what noodles they make, if he found some special ones... in Osaka, we have the infamous Nisshin Ramen and what is to view is how the d*mbo mass tourists rush to eat that directly from the factory...to find out they taste exactly like those from any kombini, but obviously many people had a doubt about that and that was keeping them awake at night. The author could have written : "eat monjayaki and you might decide that's something to experience once in a lifetime, not twice...". Reading his article, we can suspect he is posting from Minnesota or Texas, like that guy that makes all the Lonely Planet books from his trailer.

Tokyo is not that desert. One of my fellow compatriot has been visiting for decades, not just doing laps of Yamanote : http://walkingintokyo.blogspot.jp/

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

Or, you could make arrangements for a personal tour of historic parts of Tokyo, such as with my friend, Mr Oka. Website: http://mroka.homestead.com/

Eat noodles along the way.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@John Becker & lycabrasi

Or get a Japan rail pass and see the rest of Japan!

Has the writer ever been to Tokyo? You can get something from the vending machine at the airport. I would reccomend to stay at a ryokan and to try a capsule hotel.

In one day you can go to yoyogi park, harajuku, Shibuya and than next (day) go to Asakusa temple, go to some live houses in ikebukero or shibuya. and go to Akihabara and Nakano broadway.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's too damn expensive to stay - you might have a nice trip around on the train or a walk in the park or any suburb but this is meant to be a cheap guide? Where do u stay cheaply? Also in the park?

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

You can stay at a capsule hotel or a backpackers hostels from 3.000Yen upwards.

Visit Inokashira-koen and the surrounding area, very cheap food and interesting historical Locations.

The Japan rail-pass can only be bought outside of Japan by non-residents, rest are weekend passes mostly for elderly.

Karaoke is basically the same as overseas and some places can be pricey(charge per song)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Go to one of the 105 yen kaiten sushi restaurants for a great meal at a reasonable price.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Imperial Palace gardens Did that the first time I went to Japan...

Harajuku Nope... haven't been there in all the times I've been to Japan... and don't intend to.

Visit a Shinto shrine Always visit these... sometimes go with my ex

Buy something from a vending machine Do that whenever I go anywhere.

Karaoke Been to one with the small rooms... didn't sing much though, heh heh

Get electric in Akihabara Since I build models this is always on my list of places to visit... plus my hotel is about 20 minutes walk away. lol

Yoyogi Park Must do that this year.

Sumo wrestling Saw a Sumo on a bike once near the Edo museum... watched it on TV, but can't really get into it.

Eat noodles I do that all the time in Japan... noodles and rice dishes... yum.

Island hop Maybe when I win the lottery, lol

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I usually meet foreign tourists doing what I do a lot: walking. If you're in good walking condition and have on good, comfortable walking shoes, why not walk from place to place. I have walked from Asakusa to Ueno to the Ginza to the Imperial Palace and on around to Yotsuya in an afternoon. There's a lot to see along this route. And it doesn't cost much. If you are lucky, you will come across a 100-yen soft drink machine and get a cheap drink ... sometimes cheaper than at a convenience store or regular grocery store.

Another good walking course in Tokyo is at Odaiba. If you are a mall enthusiast, then this place is for you. Lots of malls here ... and a nice waterfront ... to explore.

Tokyo can be cheap ... but do carry along a little extra yen ... just in case ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Dennis Bauer: the article is about Tokyo, on a budget. (I agree that the Rail Pass is the best thing ever, and have used it. But it's not relevant to this article.)

Of course walking around Tokyo is a fantastic and cheap way to enjoy the city. I didn't expect that anyone would come to Tokyo just to take the subway everywhere, though that isn't a bad option. One of my favorite walks was around Yanaka and Ueno. Great shitamachi areas! I got lost and had only the most rudimentary map. I stopped into a corner store and showed the old lady behind the counter my map and pantomimed that I needed to know where I was. She pointed to a place on the map and said, "Dis spotto!" The best I could come up with was a heartfelt "domo arigato," but I wanted to give her a hug. These chance encounters and the nice people you meet are the best inexpensive experience you can have in Tokyo.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you are on a budget Im sure you will not be in a hotel with a sumo stable around the corner,let alone having a concierge who can understand you.The writer then loses the plot and suggest Island hopping which is probably much cheaper on a ferry.Not sure which islands he is thinking about? Perhaps he just heard all these things in a bar back in Australia? Vending machines are everywhere in Japan and not just Tokyo.Most of the suggestions can be done in half a day and then what?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I cry when I think Syundzyuki ...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you’re going to have one night out in Japan, make sure it’s at a karaoke box. The Japanese love to sing and it’s one of the best experiences you’ll ever have. Your night doesn’t need to be expensive with karaoke boxes offering great deals for small groups that include food and drinks.

Sitting in a box is rubbish unless you are in a group.

Better cheap night would be cheap drinks at a bar full of yuong locals. roppongi, Shinjuku or Shibuya all have tons. Also try sitting in a big Tsutaya for a bit of people watching and reading J mags. Take the water taxi from Shinagawa and do the circular route to Odaiba and then up to Ikebukero. Nice way to see Tokyo from water and also good variery of different areas and experiences. Free concert in Hibiya park. In summer, rather than island hop, take the train to the beach - plenty an hour away that are good for sitting and swimming and looking.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If you really want to see Japan, get out of Tokyo, and visit rural areas--especially those located near the Inland Sea. See Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Take little ferries to the hundreds of western islands. And above all, don't spend more money in Tokyo!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tokyo Metro Govt Building, free observation deck! How can this not make the list?

Another one that is worth a visit is the Open Air Architectural Museum (Tatemono En), located on Koganei Park. Only 400yen admission, and well worth the visit if you want to see some old Edo period buildings in a nice setting. Three stops past Mitaka and Ghibli museum on the Chuo line and a short bus ride, if you're not totally shoestringing it. This (Tatemono En) is one of the most underrated attractions in Tokyo IMO, maybe because it's not high tech or future oriented.

Tokyo has a ton of things to do on a budget, it's the accomodations that will cost you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

That's a pretty rubbish list of things to do. Commenters have already given some good suggestions, to which I will add:

Much better gardens are Shinjuku Gyoen and/or Hamarikyu-en. Get the water bus from the latter up to Senso-ji, with the fun rows of shops. A glass of beer (or cup of tea) at the top of the Asahi "golden turd" building is a good wind-down around sunset.

Those are some of the places I take visitors (not that I'm really a Tokyo person).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I would say: Stop for a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and then reopen them, look around you and tell to yourself that you are the luckiest person in the world. (^_^) Tokyo I love youuuuu!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Traveling inside of Japan is more expensive than traveling to other countries, although really nice it is not a budget thing to do.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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