Do you want to know how to make the most of your time in Tokyo with a limited budget? And as you can easily imagine, Tokyo is a big city and so at times, it may feel as if you need to carefully balance your budget in order to make the most of your time! While it is true spending time in Tokyo can be incredibly expensive, you can also find a range of great experiences that are totally free. Here is the ultimate list of the best free experiences that you can have in Tokyo!
- 1. Pop-culture in Harajuku
- 2. Panoramic View at Government Building Shinjuku
- 3. Visit City Parks
- 4. Shibuya Crossing Views
- 5. Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens
- 6. Discover Fresh Food at Tsukiji
- 7. Tuna Auction at Toyosu Market
- 8. Admire Seasonal Flowers
- 9. Free Tour at Hamarikyu Garden
- 10. Join a Matsuri
- 11. Cross the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba
- 12. Free Traditional Boat Ride on Yokojikkengawa Canal
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1. Pop-culture in Harajuku
Harajuku is the center of trendy fashion and youth culture in Japan and is a mecca for not only fashionable teenagers but also international travelers who are interested in modern Japanese culture. Head to Takeshita Street, the main shopping street, where you will find it to be packed with countless numbers of trendy shops, cozy cafes, affordable restaurants, and much more.
While not completely free, spending a bit to try colorful street sweets such as cotton candies or crapes which are typically less than ¥1,000 and can really brighten your visit!
2. Panoramic View at Government Building Shinjuku
If you want to enjoy the view of Tokyo for free, visit Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building located in Shinjuku. They have two separate buildings and each of them offers a free observation deck that is open to the public. You can take a high-speed elevator that conveniently carries you up to the 45th floor approximately 202 meters above the ground. They offer panoramic views of the sprawling city of Tokyo with symbolic landmarks such as Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree. If the weather permits, you may be lucky enough to see Mt. Fuji in the distance on a sunny day!
(※The north observation deck is temporarily not available as it is used as a vaccination center for COVID-19.)
3. Visit City Parks
Believe it or not, Tokyo is home to a great number of lovely parks that are enjoyed by city dwellers as a peaceful oasis in the bustling metropolitan. They are also a perfect spot to take your family on weekends and give your children a chance to get closer to nature. Ueno Park is a perfect spot for enjoying beautiful cherry blossoms in spring. Head to Showa Memorial Park to admire a wide variety of seasonal flowers all year around. Yoyogi Park has a well-maintained cycle route as well which allows visitors to enjoy a safe and refreshing bike ride!
4. Shibuya Crossing Views
Shibuya is widely known as one of the busiest districts in Tokyo. It is home to world-famous tourist attractions including Meiji Jingu Shrine, giant shopping complexes, and great dining spots such as fancy restaurants, cozy cafes, and bars. Shibuya Crossing is the world’s busiest intersection located right in front of JR Shibuya station.
This iconic crossing draws crowds from around the world with the spectacular view of thousands of pedestrians crossing the intersection at one time! You can see this view from SHIBUYA SKY, a newly-opened observatory that offers a 360℃ panoramic view of Shibuya and the crazy crossing from 229 meters above the ground!
5. Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens
From Tokyo station, it is less than a 15-minute walk to Tokyo Imperial Palace and its beautiful gardens located in the heart of the metropolitan city. The scenic gardens feature moats, stone bridges, and gates that date back to the Edo period when the site was officially used as the grounds of Edo Castle. The huge gardens are open to the public throughout the year for free, making it a perfect spot for taking a relaxing walk while admiring the natural beauty of seasonal plants and flowers.
Enjoy impressive cherry blossoms in spring, or wait for summer when the gardens are covered with lush green trees. Autumn colors here are also incredible, and winter is the best time for enjoying bird watching!
6. Discover Fresh Food at Tsukiji
Did you know Tokyo has the world’s largest fish market? Tsukiji is a lively fish market that attracts numerous visitors from every corner of the world with fresh seafood and other culinary treasures! It is definitely the best spot to try Japan’s high-quality seafood served in a variety of ways, including grilled, steamed, fried, or even raw!
If you don’t want to spend much money, visit there in the early morning when they offer affordable breakfast and a much lower price. Some shops also offer free samples which can be enjoyed free of charge. Additionally, it is also enjoyable to just walk around the energetic market to feel the vibrant atmosphere!
Don’t forget to check our Tsukiji Fish Market tours below!
7. Tuna Auction at Toyosu Market
Toyosu Market is another famous fish market located on a man-made island in Koto-Ku, Tokyo. This market was opened in 2018 in order to relocate the inner market of Tsukiji to a new place. They host exciting Tuna auctions, sell a wide range of fresh fruits and vegetables, and of course offer incredibly fresh seafood served at friendly restaurants.
The tuna auction is typically held in the early morning from around 5:30 -6:30. (It may vary depending on the day and the season.) Reservation is required for all visitors, and the application form is available only in Japanese. (see here for details)
8. Admire Seasonal Flowers
Tokyo is a megacity with skyscrapers and bustling streets, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t find any natural beauty within the sprawling city. Tokyo is home to a great number of tranquil spots which boast seasonal blooms which enchant visitors with displays of beautiful colors.
Head to Ueno Park which is one of the popular Sakura viewing spot in Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is widely famous for its beautiful Japanese garden which brings in visitors with stunning scenery created by colorful autumn leaves in fall. Yasukuni Shrine welcomes visitors with a golden carpet of ginkgo tree leaves along the main path to the scenic shrine!
9. Free Tour at Hamarikyu Garden
Hamarikyu Garden is a beautiful Japanese garden located about a 12-minute walk from JR Shinbashi station. This lovely garden has a long history that dates back to the Edo period when it was originally built as a feudal lord’s residence and duck hunting site.
Since then, it has been a must-visit attraction for centuries with the scenic natural beauty found in the heart of the metropolis. It features lush green plants, seasonal flowers, a traditional teahouse, and a peaceful pond that is connected to Tokyo Bay. English guided tours are available for free on Mondays and Saturdays.
10. Join a Matsuri
If you are looking for traditional Japanese experiences in Tokyo, joining a matsuri is a grade-A choice! Tokyo is home to a great number of traditional Japanese matsuri or “festivals” typically held at temples or shrines.
Kanda Festival is one of the three greatest festivals in Tokyo and is held at Kanda Shrine every May. Fukagawa Hachiman Festival, which is also known as the “water throwing festival”, takes place in mid-August every year. During the festival, participants can splash water on the traditional portable shrines and the local people carrying them. It allows them to purify their body and stay cool in the summer heat while marching through the streets. Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival is the most famous fireworks festival in Tokyo however, and attracts about a million people every year!
11. Cross the Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba
Along with the Odaiba Statue of Liberty, Rainbow Bridge is a symbolic structure in Odaiba that brings in visitors by the mass. This suspension bridge connects the beautiful waterfront between Odaiba and the Tokyo mainland.
Unfortunately, only a few people know that you can not only take pictures of it from a distance but also walk across this landmark at no charge! Taking the north route allows you to enjoy the fascinating views of skyscrapers in Tokyo, while the south route offers the beautiful views of the Odaiba waterfront and even Mt. Fuji in the distance on a sunny day!
The sidewalks are open from 9am to 9pm, and from 10am to 6pm during the winter season (November – March).
12. Free Traditional Boat Ride on Yokojikkengawa Canal
Yokojikkengawa is an iconic canal running through Koto-Ku and Sumida-Ku, Tokyo. This quiet canal is widely known as a perfect spot for goby fishing, and it is also close to popular tourist attractions such as Tokyo Skytree.
Along the canal, there is Yokojikkengawa Water Park, which is home not only to beautiful nature but also has enjoyable water playgrounds for kids. They also offer a free Japanese traditional boat ride which allows you to explore the beautiful canal for free. Reservation is not required as long as you are in a group of fewer than 10 people. Make sure to check the operation dates as they may vary depending on the season and the day.
You might think in Tokyo, you have to spend a fuji-sized stack of cash to have a great time and explore Japan. But that’s not always true! If you are looking for the best way to make your time in Tokyo special with a limited budget, why not try some of our recommendations and see the best of what Tokyo has to offer!
Don’t forget to check out our private tours!
Planning a trip to a foreign country alone is never easy! If you need some help to organize your trip to Japan and want to see Japan like a local, you should definitely check out our private tours complete with an English guide! We’re glad to help you make your trip to Japan a safe, comfortable, and unforgettable memory!
Visit the must-visit highlights in Tokyo with our friendly guide! This tour is flexible and destinations are completely customizable according to your requests.
Explore the world-famous fish market in Tsukiji with us and enjoy a wide variety of local food options and drinks!
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Miho Shimizu is a Japanese freelance writer settled in Shizuoka with her husband and two rabbits. Fascinated with traveling at the age of 18, she has spent most of her long holidays exploring incredible spots around Japan. Also love to listen to music, draw, and read novels over a cup of green tea.
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