Welcome to part 2 of my complete guide to Tokyo, as in any giant mega city, it’s easy to go over budget if you follow the standard ‘top things to do’ lists, but don’t despair, I’ve created a list of all the free (or very cheap) things to do in Tokyo. You’re currently reading ‘part 2’ click the link below to read ‘part 1’:
Part 2: Things to do on a backpacker’s budget.
Getting a good view for free:
People will pay a fortune for a good view, we’ve certainly paid ridiculous prices for a trip up a high building in New York or London for example, but there are some amazing free views in Tokyo, and there’s generally no queue either.
The government building is right in the heart of the skyscraper district, and it’s one of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. It’s completely free to go to the top and the views are even better at night when all the other buildings have their lights on. There are free tours available, but they require prior booking.
Opening Hours: 09:30 – 23:00
The Asakusa culture information centre is only around 10 floors high but it’s still one of the tallest in the Asakusa area. The view over the top of the Senso-ji temple is beautiful and there is a café on the top floor too, the perfect place for watching the world go by.
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 20:00
The waterfront of the Sumida River is a glittering jewel at night, during the day the park is the perfect place for a romantic stroll, there are also boat trips along the river, but we didn’t check out the prices.
Opening Hours: 24 Hours (but the lights in the buildings generally go off before 10pm)
The rainbow bridge offers a unique view of Tokyo bay, head to either of the pillars and take the elevator to the pedestrian walk way. The area looks derelict but keep going and you’ll get there. It’s really windy at the top so make sure your wrapped up if it’s a cold day. (if you have more money and less time you can take a train over the top, but it’s not included in the JR pass.) The bridge is lit up beautifully at night.
Opening Hours: 09:00 – 21:00 for the pedestrian walkway
Take in the local culture:
There is nothing better than people watching, the ultimate of all the free things to do in any city, I could walk around anywhere for hours on end and never get bored, here’s our favourite places in Tokyo for people watching:
Shinbuya Crossing is probably the most famous crossing in the world, with over 1,000,000 people crossing every day. Watching people cross the road couldn’t be any more fun that in Shinbuya.
The area surrounding Shinjiku station is a popular nightlife spot, the whole area is lit with neon signs and there are some interesting alleyways where you can grab something fairly cheap to eat while letting your hair down with the locals.
Visit a temple:
Japan is rich in culture, religion and history, Tokyo is no different, it would be almost impossible to visit without going to at least one of the many temples the city has to offer, these are just a few of my favourites:
Senso-Ji is by far the best known and the busiest temple in Tokyo, its much less crowded at night though the doors are closed, and you can only admire the temple from outside. The temple is magnificent in the dark and the lights stay on until around 11pm. You can have your for fortune read for ¥100 at one off the buildings in front of the main temple, we got a great fortune so really enjoyed it.
Zojo-ji is unique because of the children’s shrine next door. Locals will pay a donation to tribute one of the baby statues to their children or grandchildren in the belief that it will bring their child good luck during their life, or for children who have already passed away, a safe journey to the afterlife. It’s easy to get there, just head towards the Tokyo tower.
Meiji-Jingu probably has the most beautiful setting off all the temples in Tokyo, right in the heart of Yoygi park, the temple offers absolute tranquillity and its popular with foreign visitors.
Unique things that I couldn’t categorise:
If you do find yourself in or around the government building, there’s a free exhibition on the 2nd floor all about the history of the Olympics and Tokyo’s plans to host the 2020 Olympics. The exhibition is small but worth a look if your already in the area.
You’ll no doubt find yourself at Tokyo Station, if you have half an hour or so to spare make sure you check out the free underground gallery there. The exhibition changes fairly regularly and we were both really impressed with the ‘train stations around the world’ exhibition that was there in June.
Who would have thought you could go to the beach in Tokyo. Tokyo bay is home to a pristine man-made beach, you can’t swim in the water because it’s not safe but it’s a really good place to enjoy the sun and get away from the busy city life.
There are absolutely tones of other things you can do for free in Tokyo, you don’t need to spend a fortune, in fact big cities are where you’ll usually find the most things to keep you busy for free.
I hope you found this useful. Let me know if there’s anything else you would add to this list.