Heading to Tokyo on a budget? We share the best free things to do in Tokyo, so you can experience the city whilst saving some money. Plus, we share some extra ways that you can save money in Japan.
Things to know before you go to Tokyo
Tips for saving money in Tokyo
Japan is a fascinating place to travel but it is one of the most expensive countries to visit in Asia. However, you can save money in Tokyo using these tips.
- Stay in a capsule – Tokyo has capsule hotels in many of the neighbourhoods. These are a lot cheaper than private rooms and perfect for solo travellers.
- Travel in the winter – As with many other destinations, travelling in the off-season will save you some money but not as much as you may think. The bigger hotels don’t tend to lower prices but look for local guesthouses and smaller hotels to get some good deals.
- Enjoy the free attractions – There are lots of free things to do in Tokyo so take advantage of these. For example, Tokyo has amazing observation decks but they are expensive to visit. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building offers free admission to their observatory deck and offers incredible views of the city and beyond.
- Use the Metro – Remember to stick to public transport, taxis in Japan are very expensive but the Tokyo Metro is easy to navigate, cheap and there are stops near all the popular attractions.
- Overnight buses or trains – If you are leaving Tokyo and visiting other destinations in Japan, consider the overnight buses or trains available. You will save money on accommodation and the trains have excellent facilities including showers, dining lounges and a dedicated sleeping space.
- Pre-book admission tickets – When heading to the paid attractions in Tokyo, book tickets online, especially for sights such as Tokyo SkyTree or Disneyland.
Best time to visit Tokyo
The best time to visit Tokyo is March, April, October and November. There is less rain but warm weather, so you can visit the many outdoor sights and neighbourhoods.
The spring is the perfect time to visit because of the cherry blossoms, especially if you are visiting as a couple.
Summer is warm but also experiences heavy rains, whilst the winter is incredibly cold.
However, January and February see very few tourists so it is possible to save some money but it doesn’t make a big difference.
Best free things to do in Tokyo
1. Imperial Palace
The Tokyo Imperial Palace run free tours for up to 500 guests a day. We recommend you arrive early to avoid disappointment and explore the gorgeous balance that was once the main residence of the Emperor of Japan. The palace is surrounded by a park to enjoy too.
Getting there: The Imperial Palace is a 10 minute walk from Otemachi Subway Station and around a 15 minute walk from Tokyo Station.
This is arguably Tokyo’s most famous buddhist temple, based in Asakusa. The pathway towards the temple is lined with unique and colourful stalls selling souvenirs, snacks and decorations, so this alone is worth visiting for the fun market.
The iconic temple is the oldest in Tokyo and contains a sacred statue of Kannon; the goddess of mercy. The temple is also surrounded by gates and pagodas, so the whole area is a must visit during your stay, and makes for the perfect free day in Tokyo.
Getting there: Take the Ginza, Asakusa or Tobu line to Asakusa Station, the temple is located around a 5 minute walk away.
3. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory
Head 202 meters up to enjoy amazing views of downtown Tokyo. This government building has a north and south observatory but both are free to enter.
Plus, directly opposite the government building is the Shinjuku Central Park. This is a green space full of pathways, play areas and a water feature that makes fora relaxing morning walk in the city.
Getting there: Catch the Tocho-mae Station to Oedo Subway Line which is actually located in the basement of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Alternatively, you can catch the subway to Shinjuku Station, take the west exit and the building is a ten minute walk from there.
4. The fish auction in Tokyo
Growing in popularity, many tourists may want to visit the fish auction in Tokyo. There are a few options for you but all are free. Toyosu is the home to the famous auctions and markets but arrive early to watch the market in action (aim to arrive for 6am).
However, Tsukiji was the original home of the auction before is moved to Toyosu but you can still visit Tsukiji for plenty of restaurants and the traditional fish market. In fact, if you don’t intend on getting up super early, then head to Tsukiji; the market is more authentic.
Getting to Toyosu: You can catch the subway to Shijo-mae Station in the center of the market but, if you intend on arriving early, you may be better off getting a taxi.
Getting to Tsukiji: Catch the Toei-Oedo line to Tsukiji-Shijo Station or take the Tokyo Metro Hibiya Line to Tsukiji Station.
This shopping district is a fantastic neighbourhood to explore whilst you are in Tokyo. This is a bustling area, home to colourful stalls, unique boutiques, contemporary architecture and artistic galleries. Of course window shopping is always free but just exploring this neighbourhood is a great way to get an idea of the quirky fashion that Japan has to offer. Visit on a Sunday to see local teens in their best outfits, strutting their stuff around this district.
Getting there: Catch the Yamanote line to Harajuku. As you exit the station, you will see both the entrance to Meiji Kingu and, across the main street, you will see the entrance to the bustling shopping area.
6. Shibuya Crossing
This is perhaps the most famous scene of Tokyo that really highlights how busy and bustling the city is. Ever few minutes, when the traffic lights change, a mass of people walk across the road in every direction.
It is a unique crossing in the city and we recommend cross but also heading up to Mag’s Park on the roof of the Shibuya 109-2 department store for a great view point, as well as the nearby Starbucks.
Getting there: This crossing is located directly outside Shibuya Station’s Hachiko exit, so take the JR Yamanote Line to get to Shibuya Station.
7. Advertising Museum Tokyo
This is perhaps one fo the most interesting free museums in Toyo; the Advertising Museum of Tokyo. The museum displays an array of old ads used in the city, giving you a glimpse into the history of commerce and marking in Japan over the last century.
Note that this museum is open from Tuesday to Saturday only.
Getting there: Catch the JR or Metro to Shimbashi Station or take the Toei Oedo Line to Shiodome station. Both of which are just a few minutes walk from the museum.
Walk through the forest that leads to this hidden shrine, walking pass displays such as the ‘saki barrels’ and plenty of eating spots and souvenir shops. The shrine is dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken. Take a walk through the gardens and admire the shrine for free.
Getting there: Catch the Yamanote line to Harajuku. As you exit the station, you will see both the entrance to Meiji Kingu.
This area in Tokyo Bay is an unusual side to the city. This is linked to the city via the Rainbow Bridge, which you can walk over but note it is 2618 feet long. Once in Odaiba, you can enjoy the artificial beach, Statue of Liberty replica and Gundam statue.
There is also plenty of stores, museums, restaurants, parks and even an amusement park, so you can make a day out of it.
Getting there: Catch the Yurikamome or Rinkai lines to Odaiba-Kaihinkoen Station or the water bus from Hinode Pier. It is slightly further away from the city centre, so plan a visit to the nearby attractions; we recommend the teamLab Borderless gallery.
10. Sumo Practice
Sumo wrestling is a big deal in Japan and, if you can catch a tournament, we recommend you do so. However, if you are visiting outside of any tournaments or travelling on a budget, you can still watch practises. Many Sumo Stables such as the Arashio Stable, offer mourning practice for tourists to watch through the windows on the street. Search for options near your hotel and start your day off with a little window watching!
11. Suntory Musashino Free Brewery Tour
Suntory is a popular beer brand in Japan, and luckily for visitors, the brewery is based in Tokyo. The brewery offers free tours with a 40 minute tour of the factory and then a 30 minute beer tasting section. Staff speak Japanese but there is English audio guides available as well.
Getting there: Catch a train to Bubaigawara Station then the free Shute bus to the factory outside the station.
Head to the Akihabara district for technology, gaming and Manga. There are plenty of electronics and technology stores in the area but also retro gaming stores and manga-related stores. This is one of the best places to pick up Japanese souvenirs and gifts, including anime figures, Pokemon card and Japanese-only released games.
Getting there: Akihabara Station is easy to reach via the JR Yamanote Line, Keihin-Tohoku Line, Sobu Line and Tokyo Metro’s Hibiya Line.
13. The Public Parks
There are plenty of parks in Tokyo to enjoy for free and unwind from the busy districts of Tokyo. Ueno Park, Yoyogi Park and Inokashira park are great options in the city centre.
14. Ginza district
Ginza is known for its high-class shopping and glitzy stores. The area is also full of free galleries to explore; make sure to visit Gallery Shukado for traditional Japanese art.
Getting there: Ginza Station is in the centre of the district and can be reached via the Ginza Line, Marunouchi Line and Hibiya Line.
15. Washi making
Ever wanted to fold paper into fun animal shapes? Head to the Origami Kaikan to watch the artists create unique paper foldings or browse the gallery.
You can pay for classes here (costing between ¥1000 to ¥3000) but watching and browsing is free.
Getting there: Catch the subway line to Suehirocho Station, Origami Kaikan is around a 10 minute walk from the station.
What to pack for Tokyo
- We LOVE this camera for our travel photography.
- For a cheap, easy and compact camera, we use this to vlog and take photographs.
- We use this travel drone (but make sure to check drone laws in your chosen destination first).
- This is our favourite travel Insurance because it covers so many activities and travel situations that could arise on longer trips but also offers year coverage.
What to pack
- No matter where we travel to, I always take these trusty hand sanitizer’s and a mini first aid kit.
- We love these toiletry bags (especially great for smaller bathrooms) and choose a laptop bag like this as our hand luggage.
- We keep our devices charged on long travel days with these lightweight battery packs and bring these worldwide travel adaptors on all our trips.
- I still struggle not to overpack so stick to using an expandable suitcase like these, over backpack and always take my trusty luggage scales to avoid being charged at the airport.