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Fly to New York, Bangkok, Cairo, Paris and, sure you’ll see some amazing sights and see some awesome cultures, but deep down you know you’re in the conveyor belt of travelers, fly to Tokyo and you’ll feel like you’re really traveling! This is one crazy city, and one that can be quite difficult to get around – arrive in Narita airport and you’ll be greeted by this:

cheap things to do in tokyo
Great, thanks Japan.

Expect this to be a sign of things to come! The confusion that us Westerners undergo in Tokyo is a real highlight of the experience. I know you want to backpack in Tokyo for cheap so I’ve stepped in and tried to help so throw yourself in the deep-end and enjoy these top 10 things to see in Tokyo:

1) Stay in a capsule hotel – no more expensive than any youth hostel so certainly worth the experience. Be prepared for feeling like you’re in a morgue and mass communal naked bathing in the morning, I personally see the latter as a perk. One night will be more than enough. Accommodation can get pricey too and you need to book in advance (not like the rest of Asia), to book a  hostel in Tokyo can cost in excess of $20 as do the capsule hotels, which is why it’s imperative to keep your food and activity costs down

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

cheap accommodation in japan

 

 

2) Tsukiji Fish Market – It’s free but get there early, preferably before sunrise so you can witness the organized chaos in full flow! Make your way to the ‘Visitors’ Passageway’ and you can check out the fish auction which kicks off around 6.30am. You can sample the famous blowfish fugu here, where if it’s not cut properly you quite simply die. You won’t want to take taxis anywhere in Japan so jump on the subway and take the Hibiya line of the Tokyo Metro to Tsukiji station, exit 1

fugu in japan
The deadly fugu blowfish
eating fugu in japan
Me about to eat the fugu, pretty terrified to be honest!

3) Sumo –  I was on a tight budget so I took the cheap (free) option and went to a sumo stable (training camp) where you can see these big guys train. Again get there early, they finish up around 9am so try to arrive around 6 or 7. There are so many stables across the city, just jump on google and you’ll have it sussed in no time. If you’re in season (January, May and September) then you can watch an actual sumo contest – head to Tokyo’s National Sumo Hall on the appropriate day and buy your ticket at the gate – remember the competitions start at 9am so you want to get there by 7am to grab yourself a ticket. Tickets cost around $20 and by all accounts, it’s well worth it.

sumo stable in tokyo
Visiting a Sumo stable in Tokyo is a great, cheap activity

4) Harajuku – free again! This area becomes alive with unadulterated fashion victims on weekend afternoons, famous for Japanese ‘cosplay’ fans, you’ll be picking your jaw from the floor after 15 minutes of people watching. Great entertainment.

people at harajuku
An afternoon at Harajuku is an unforgettable experience

5) Shibuya crossing – walking distance from Harajuku, this is the globes most famous road crossing –it’s a five-way “scramble crossing” under the giant video screen. Participate then jump in one of the restaurants over looking the crossing for a truly mezmerising scene. P.S this is free again!

The Shibuya crossing in Tokyo
The Shibuya crossing in Tokyo -this photo fails to do it justice!

 

 

 

 

6) Tokyo city view –  This is true backpacking genius. The official Tokyo city view is $18 however shun their overpriced consumerism and head over to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Offices building in Shinjuku and make your way to the 45th floor to see Tokyo from their free observation deck (open 9.30-5.30 every day).

 

The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office
The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office

7) Meiji Shrine – you can walk here from Harajuku too so save your money and fit this, Shibuya and Harajuku into one awesome afternoon. Arguably Tokyo’s most famous (and biggest) shrine is a must for every visitor.

Meiji Shrine Tokyo Japan
Meiji Shrine

8) Shinjuku – the nightlife area, full of neon, gaming and everything that you expect of Japan. If you’re with friends, you can’t fail to enjoy a wander around Tokyo’s red-light district of Kabukichō – it feels like something between Bangkok’s Patpong area met with an all girls school! Crazy!

cheap travel in japan
Shinjuku at night

9) Odaiba – Tokyo’s largest (because they have a few) artificial island and home to various technology centres. Loads of cool modern inventions to drool over.

free things to do in Tokyo
Fuji building in Odaiba

10)  Imperial palace – the palace’s east gardens open to the public at 9AM (except Mondays and Fridays). It’s free, you can’t access the actual palace but the serenity will be a welcome break from the intensity of Tokyo, trust me!

free things to see in japan
The gardens of the Imperial Palace

Ok guys, so there is Tokyo on a budget. A great place to backpack in but certainly not cheap. However, stick to activities such as the ones I’ve listed and you can get by for around $30 per day including everything. Make sure you eat either noodles from the newsagents (my speciality) or from the ticket vending machine places (you’ll see them), of course you have to splurge on sushi and sake sometimes but be careful, that suff is not cheap in Tokyo! Happy travels and enjoy Japan 🙂

 

 

 

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16 thoughts on “10 Cheap Things To See and Do in Tokyo

  1. Great list dude! People say Japan is expensive, and it can be, but there are plenty of free activities to keep you busy. Waking around Tsukiji market was one of my favorites. Great street food 🙂

  2. It took us a good few days to realise there is more than one train/subway network running through the city. We came armed with a map for the metro only to find we were staying near the JR!! Highly confusing but we got there in the end. I would recommend the tea house in Hama Rikyu gardens as it is much cheaper than elsewhere and in a beautiful setting, if a long walk from the station (JR!) Also at Shibuya there is an old train carriage with some helpful tourist information people on hand, only after we spoke to them did we understand which train ticket we had bought!

  3. I laughed when I saw your first photo. That was the exact reaction I had when I arrived at the Narita airport! I nearly got a headache from the complexity of the map (coming from the Philippines where the subway system is nearly non-existent!) with no English instructions. It was fun trying to figure out how to go to my destination. I haven’t explored much from that visit so I will definitely head back to Japan and do your list. Thanks, man! Cheers!

    1. i guess confusion is half the fun though, right?!? I’d love to go back to japan too, just need to take a bank loan to fun a few months there – it’s EXPENSIVE!!

  4. I am feeling very superior to all of you guys. I can actually read those maps. May be that’s why I love travel in Japan so much – I have an advantage!

  5. Instead of staying in capsule hotel, I recommend staying in one of Shibuya’s awesome ‘Love Hotels.’ You gotta see how hooked up some of these places are.

  6. Ha ha! I had to laugh at your opening photo because I remember thinking the same thing. I came to Japan in August 2009, shortly after vacationing in Paris and living near Washington D.C. Those two cities have two of the easiest train/subway system maps to read, especially because they show on the maps where points of interest are. Now that I’ve been to Hong Kong, Singapore, Sydney and many other cities around the world, I’ve seen how easy train/subway maps are. Tokyo, for whatever reason fails to get this. In many train stations you’ll still only see maps written in kanji and good luck figuring out what stop to get off at if you want to reach a point of interest.

  7. Treading on my territory there Johnny! :)) Feeling very protective of ‘my’ Japam.

    How about my tip: lunch at a Michelin-star restaurant for under $10. It’s called Nakajima and it is in Shinjuku, details here: http://bit.ly/hjBWGt

    1. lol, sorry 😛 i love japan too and there’s plenty of it to go around! wow, thanks for the link – i’ll check that out next time i’m over 🙂 is it amazing?!

    1. Hey Matt, thanks for popping by! I’d love to say it was the most amazing sushi of my life but it wasn’t, quite average really but still loads of fun. ‘fun’ in the sense that you might die – so maybe not so much ‘fun’ either – anyways, it was worth it so give it a crack if u get the chance!

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