Like many major cities Tokyo isn’t on many budget backpackers radars – at least not for any prolonged stay – because of the high cost. This is a shame because Tokyo truly is a mind blowing, surreal experience and one that every traveller should experience at least once! But Tokyo really can be a surprisingly budget friendly destination too. A lot of your budget will have to go on accommodation and transport of course, so how do you explore this glittering metropolis and keep the costs down? It’s really not as difficult as you may think!
5. Visit Harajuku.
Technically not a destination in and of itself unless you want to shop among the high end boutique shops, Harajuku has become famous in Japan as an area that is filled every Sunday with free entertainment, free bands and Japanese teenagers dressed in a variety of weird and wonderful cosplay costumes and outlandish fashions. It is worth coming here just for the sheer awe factor of wandering around and people watching, it is like nothing else on earth!
4. Get your inner geek on and pretend you are a kid again!
Visit Ginza or Odaiba to get a little glimpse into the future as Sony, Panasonic and Toyota display all their latest gadgets and concept technology. 75 inch ultra high def 3D TV screens and robots are the name of the game here! It is a geeks paradise here and you can easily spend a free afternoon playing the latest games or being marvelled by the latest tech.
You know you want to! Don’t deny it!
If technology isn’t your thing head to the Tokyo Anime Centre to get a glimpse into Japanese anime and manga culture, full of free displays and exhibitions to explore and the slightly more than creepy maid cafes.
3. Attend a festival.
One thing that Japan is supremely proud of is her ancient traditions, and it seems like there is a festival to honour each and every one every other day in Tokyo! So it doesn’t matter when you visit, you are bound to catch at least one, and it is more than worth the effort to see the people of Tokyo dress in colourful customary costumes and partake in ancient traditions.
2. Get a bird’s eye view of the city.
To get a perfect view of the famous Tokyo skyline, full of neon lights and gleaming glass and chrome head straight for the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, the tallest building in Shinjuku and catch the lift up to the observation deck. The views are breathtaking.
1. Go temple and shrine hopping.
If you think of Japan, one of the prime images in your head – despite the futuristic behemoth that is Tokyo – will be of ancient castles, temples and shrines. These images are timelessly linked with the soul of Japan no matter how much the country modernises, and one of the best things to do in Tokyo is to visit some of these ancient monuments to Japanese culture. The fact that they are free is icing on the cake.
The Meiji shrine is one of the most impressive Shinto religious sites in all of Japan, dedicated to the deified spirits of the Emperor Meiji and his consort, Empress Shoken. Despite being located in a huge forested park which make it perfect for coupling with a pleasant walk, it is also very easy to access from the Harajuku station. This shrine is quintessentially Japanese and is a must visit for anyone coming to the city.
In the same respect, the Sensoji temple is one of the most aesthetically stunning and popular Buddhist temples in Tokyo, and its entrance, the famous thunder gate known as Kaminarimon is the symbol for Tokyo itself! If you want a glimpse of the traditional Japanese architecture within the glass and chrome modern metropolis and imagine you have been transported back to the time of the Samurai, then you can’t go wrong here!
The area of Yanasen is famous for being full of temples, shrines, traditional buildings and bathouses, and gives an interesting glimpse into what Tokyo used to look like before all the chrome and neon.
As expected though, it is the Imperial palace that is the jewel in the crown. Home to the current emperor and still used today, this seriously impressive and imposing building is not open to the public outside of extremely special occasions; but it costs nothing to wander through the picturesque gardens and marvel at this grand structure.
I hope you are enjoying this ‘free things to do in …’ series and find it useful, if you have any specific requests then please let me know in the comments section below. If I have been there then I’ll add it to the list!