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Is Tokyo Expensive? 10 Cheap Things to Do When Visiting Japan’s Capital

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A lot of people assume that Tokyo is too expensive to visit, and they’re right! Tokyo is more expensive than other cities in Japan because it is the capital and such a huge international metropolis.

My journey to Tokyo was a unique one. I had the opportunity to explore this vibrant city for two weeks, all while managing an extremely tight budget. This forced me to seek out affordable activities and experiences, which I’m excited to share with you.

I discovered that there are, in fact, plenty of cheap things to do in Tokyo, and I’ve curated this list of insider tips and expert advice on how to save money when visiting this fantastic city.

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Is Tokyo Expensive?

Is Tokyo Expensive? 10 Cheap Things to Do When Visiting Japan's Capital

Well, there are no two ways to go about it; Tokyo is indeed an expensive city! However, it’s important to note that the city’s high cost doesn’t diminish its worth. With proper planning and these insider tips, you can make the most of your time in Tokyo, even on a tight budget.

But the good news is that there are plenty of cheap and free places to visit, such as beautifully serene parks, stunning temples, palaces, and more. There are also some relatively cheap accommodation options and places to eat that don’t have to cost the earth.

10 Cheap Things to Do in Tokyo

Here’s a list of 10 Cheap Things to Do in Tokyo, each offering a unique and affordable experience:

1. Imperial Palace, Tokyo, Japan

Imperial Palace Gardens in Tokyo Japan

This was my first tourist attraction on my first full day in Tokyo, and I highly recommend it! It’s based in the Chiyoda area of Tokyo and consists of several buildings and large imperial gardens, which are great places to relax.

The grounds are free entry, and there are free guided tours, making this an absolute must when visiting Tokyo if you’re strapped for cash!

2. Shibuya Crossing, Tokyo, Japan

Shibuya scramble crossing in Tokyo

Shibuya scramble crossing is the world’s busiest pedestrian crossing and a ridiculous experience to participate in when hundreds of pedestrians make their way across the ordinarily busy roads.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Grab a coffee at the Starbucks overlooking the crossing for the best views. I spent a whole afternoon people-watching from here, and it only cost me a cup of coffee!

Of course, it doesn’t cost anything to enjoy Shibuya Crossing. Trust me, you’ll be mesmerized by the sheer number of people walking across the junction, so it’s worth spending some time taking it all in.

3. Meiji Shrine and Meiji-Jingu Museum

Meiji Shrine in Tokyo Japan

One of Tokyo’s most famous Shinto shrines and temples is in Shibuya. The shrine is free of charge and located in a beautiful forest area, which is excellent for getting away from the busy city.

It costs 500 Yen to enter the Meiji-Jingu Inner Garden and 1000 Yen to visit the Meiji-Jingu Museum.

4. Senso-ji temple, Tokyo, Japan

Senso-Ji Temple in Tokyo

Another famous temple is Senso-ji, a really old Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. It is a remarkable and impressive site to visit in the Japanese capital.

The only negative aspect of this place is that it’s always crowded, as it’s such a popular tourist attraction. However, the temple is totally free to visit, so I have no complaints!

PRO TRAVEL TIP: Visit in the evening to avoid the crowds or for another uncrowded look at the temple. The shrine itself and surrounding shops will all be closed, but the temple grounds are still open for exploring.

5. Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan

Dancers in Ueno Park Tokyo

This massive park in Tokyo is famous for its cherry blossom trees during the spring months.

Several famous museums and zoos are located within the park’s grounds, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Science Museum, and the Ueno Zoo.

You can easily spend a day here without spending too much money, enjoying nature, temples, and all the different types of people from various backgrounds. I loved my time wandering around this vast park, and it’s an excellent place for people-watching.

Obviously, there are admission costs to the museums and the zoo mentioned above, but there is no admission fee to enter the park. You can easily spend a lovely, chilled afternoon in the park, so it’s a great cheap option that won’t cost you a penny!

6. Roppongi Hills, Tokyo, Japan

view from Mori Tower, Tokyo

Roppongi is one of the best cultural areas in Tokyo, with several museums and two main observation towers, the distinctly red Tokyo Tower and the Mori Tower.

It also has a few great shopping malls, so it is an excellent place for free window shopping in the afternoon. A ticket to the Roppongi Hills Mori Tower observation deck costs 1800 Yen for adults, which isn’t too expensive considering the fantastic views!

7. Hama Rikyu Gardens

Hama Rikyu Gardens in Tokyo Japan

The Hama Rikyu Gardens are a beautiful metropolitan garden area located next to the Sumida River. They are an idyllic oasis if you want to escape the city life of Tokyo for an hour or more, which is what I did.

The gardens offer free guided English tours every Saturday and Monday at 11 a.m., and admission is only 300 Yen.

I loved visiting these gardens. I couldn’t believe how peaceful and serene they were, and I totally forgot I was in such a busy, hectic city.

8. Visit Kamakura for a day

Great Buddha Statue in Kamakura Japan

After spending several days living cheaply in Tokyo, I took a day trip outside the city to Kamakura, a seaside city approximately one hour south of Tokyo.

The city’s most famous landmark is the Great Buddha statue located at the Kotoku-in Temple. It is breathtakingly impressive up close and definitely one of the most memorable statues I’ve ever seen.

Kamakura can get overly crowded with tourists, which I experienced during my visit, but don’t let that deter you! It’s an excellent alternative to Tokyo and makes for a perfect day trip from the city.

It’s also relatively cheap. The one-hour train ride from Tokyo is relatively inexpensive, and there are lots of food stalls and restaurants in the area selling all sorts of interesting snacks that aren’t too expensive.

9. Stay in a capsule hotel!

interior view of capsule hotel

For my two weeks in Tokyo, I booked a stay at one of the city’s many capsule hotels. Capsule hotels have become trendy in recent years, especially in Tokyo, where they are very cheap compared to other accommodation prices.

Capsule hotels are definitely a novelty experience. You’re assigned your own tiny capsule pod; mine featured a tiny retro TV complete with retro dials.

However, capsule pods are extremely small, so I’d suggest skipping this if you’re claustrophobic. I found sleeping in my pod cozy, private, and unique!

10. Sushi Bars in Tokyo, Japan


I can’t finish this list without mentioning the food I experienced in Tokyo; it was so good! I visited several sushi bars in Tokyo and have never been disappointed!

There’s a wide range of sushi restaurants in Tokyo, from Michelin-starred restaurants to popular and cheaper conveyor belt bars.

Of course, being on a budget, I opted for the cheaper conveyor belt bars. In these, you take a seat, order your food from an iPad, and hope for the best! It’s a unique dining experience, and surprisingly, many sushi bars are not too expensive.

I also discovered a chain of cheap Japanese curry restaurants throughout the city. These restaurants feature inexpensive menu items that are filling and pretty tasty, too!

PRO TRAVEL TIP: For the ultimate in budget-friendly cheap eats, indulge in “Konbini” or convenience store food and visit the neighbourhood Lawsons, Family Mart, or Seven-Eleven.

Where To Stay in Tokyo, Japan

As mentioned above, capsule hotels are your best option if you want to stay somewhere cheap in Tokyo. There are also plenty of cheap hostels, so accommodation in Tokyo doesn’t have to cost the earth.

Here are a few accommodation options to consider:

Capsule Hotel Recommendation: Resol Poshtel Tokyo Asakusa —This capsule hotel is centrally located and close to shopping and food. It offers a shared lounge, air-conditioned rooms with free WiFi, and a shared bathroom.

Budget Hostel Recommendation: Toco Tokyo Heritage Hostel — If you fancy staying in a traditional Japanese house, then this hostel is the place! It’s a beautiful old building dating back to the 1920s and has dorm rooms.

Mid-Range Hostel Recommendation: Imano Tokyo Hostel — This hostel is centrally located in the Shinjuku district and has a bar, too!

Day Tours in Tokyo

There are many day tour options in Tokyo, and I’d recommend them if you’re short on time and don’t mind spending a bit more money. Here are a couple of top-rated tours to consider:

Tokyo Full-Day Explorer Walking Tour: This tour visits several of the main tourist attractions I’ve mentioned in this post and more and is a great option to see the best that Tokyo has to offer all in one day.

Full-Day Sightseeing Bus Tour: This deluxe coach tour takes you to 18 of Tokyo’s iconic landmarks in one day over 10 hours.

If you fancy something a little different, then there are also ghost tours in Tokyo that are spooky fun!

Best Time to Visit Tokyo

If you really want to visit Tokyo but don’t want to spend too much money, the best time to do so would be during the off-peak season, which is basically the winter months from October through the beginning of March.

Winter: Travelling during the winter months would mean cheaper airfare and accommodation, but the weather will be less lovely during these months.

Spring: Springtime is usually a busy time to visit Tokyo as, of course, it is the Cherry Blossom season. This is hugely popular with local and international tourists, so expect to pay more if visiting during this time.

Summer: As you can imagine, summer is quite a humid season in the city, with temperatures reaching 35 degrees Celsius on consecutive days in recent years. June is the rainy season in Tokyo, while July is very humid.

Autumn: Many people say that autumn is the best time of year to visit Tokyo. This is because the fall leaves are at their full colourful splendour in the many parks, bringing a certain beauty to the city.

Getting Around Tokyo

There are several different options when it comes to getting around Tokyo, so let’s see what the best choices are:

Tokyo Metro

The Tokyo subway is the most used mode of public transportation in Tokyo. It is a vast underground metro system that can be highly confusing! After two weeks in Tokyo, I still didn’t fully get the hang of it and found myself on the wrong line several times!

The subway lines are highlighted with different colours, numbers, and letters. My advice would be to study in advance the name of the station you want to go to, as well as the colour of the line and the letter and number!

You can also download Tokyo Subway apps in advance, which can help, but they can also be overwhelming! Buses are also used a lot in Tokyo but are not advised for travellers as they are just as confusing as the subway and take longer to travel.

JR Yamanote Line – Tokyo trains

Separate from the subway, Tokyo also has a train line known as the JR Line, which stops at some of the city’s most prominent city centres.

I found this more straightforward to use than the Metro system, but realizing the difference between the two can be confusing!

PRO TRAVEL TIP: If you are travelling around the country, I suggest you investigate buying a Japan Rail Pass. The price has increased as of October 2023, and it isn’t as much of a bargain as it once was. However, depending on your travel plans, the all-you-can-ride rail pass may be a good money-saving option.

Tokyo Taxis

Taxis are also a good option in Tokyo, but they can be very expensive. And trying to explain to your driver where exactly you want to go can be difficult, as nearly all taxi drivers don’t speak much English!

I would use taxis only if it’s your last option, like if you’ve missed your previous subway or train line, for example.

Is Tokyo Expensive? FAQs

Are you still trying to decide if Tokyo is worth visiting because it’s too expensive? Let’s answer some commonly asked frequent questions about Tokyo, Japan:

Is Tokyo safe to visit?

Absolutely! Japan is one of the most peaceful countries in the world, and Tokyo is also one of the safest cities despite being such a huge international city.

I felt completely safe there, even walking around by myself at night. I never experienced any crime and never felt in danger at all.

How many days should I visit Tokyo?

This is a good question, and there’s no right answer! I stayed in Tokyo for two weeks, which I felt was enough time to really get to know it. Between one and two weeks, you can see all the main tourist spots and immerse yourself in the culture.

I recommend visiting Tokyo for at least 4-5 days. This will give you enough time to explore and get a feel for the city.

Which is better to visit: Tokyo or Kyoto?

This is another excellent question! It all comes down to personal preference. If you love visiting major international cities and aren’t bothered by huge crowds, which can be overwhelming for some, then Tokyo is the place to be!

But if you’re looking for something quieter and more authentic to the Japanese way of life, Kyoto is a great alternative.

After spending two weeks in Tokyo’s big metropolis, I really loved Kyoto and welcomed the more sedate, serene pace of life that it offered.

Is Tokyo Expensive? 10 Cheap Things to Do When Visiting Japan's Capital

Conclusion: Is Tokyo Expensive?

In conclusion, there is no denying that Tokyo is an expensive city to visit, which can be overwhelming when planning your trip.

But hopefully, this blog post has taught you that it is possible to visit Tokyo and do plenty of great activities without spending too much money.

Overall, I loved every minute I was in Tokyo! The only other capital city I can really compare it to in Asia is Seoul. Tokyo is such a fascinating place with fascinating people and so many things to do, even if it does take a little bit of getting used to the Japanese customs.

But other than that, it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been to and is a strong recommendation! Even if you’re limited in cash, you can still enjoy this fantastic city and everything it offers.

So, if you’re still not sure if Tokyo is expensive, don’t worry—go, and I promise that you won’t regret it!

Guest author Mark is from Wolverhampton in England and started his travel blog site MJ Travel Guides to combine his love of writing and travelling. He has visited over 40 countries, mainly as a solo traveller.

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