Tokyo is the world’s largest city and the busy, bustling capital of Japan. It’s known for being on the more expensive end of the world city spectrum, but that doesn’t mean you can’t visit the place on a budget.
There are a plethora of free or very cheap things to experience when you visit the Land of the Rising Sun. And with Japan being Japan, you’re bound to come across the culturally unusual that will be part of your dinner party conversations for many years!
So check out some of the weird, wacky free things to do in Tokyo!
Japan has the highest number of vending machines per capita anywhere in the world. Okay, it might cost you something if you actually insert some yen to purchase something inside of them, but vending machine spotting is something you can do all over the city. There are vending machines on the street, in train stations and in buildings for almost everything you could ever need – including clothes, noodles and even beer!
People spotting at Harajuku
If you venture to the Harajuku area of Tokyo, be prepared to find all sorts of strange characters going against the grain of Japanese society. As soon as you venture into the square near the subway station, you’ll bump into the Harajuku Girls – grown up women who dress up in school uniforms and other unusual gear. Keep an eye out for people offering free hugs too.
Parks and Gardens
While Tokyo seems like a never ending landscape of edifices, there are plenty of parks and gardens to relax in if you feel like removing yourself from the hyper urbanisation of the metropolis. As an added bonus, you can enter many of these gardens free of charge. Some of the popular ones include the Imperial Palace East Garden, the Nezu Shrine Garden, and the Ueno Park (check out the cherry blossoms around April). You’ll be able to wander around Zen rock gardens, bonsai trees, and small lakes filled with colourful fish!
Unusual Museums Galore
Japan is famous for the offbeat, bizarre, and downright weird. And reflecting this delightful culture, are a number of odd free museums that are worth a look see. Some of the strange museum offerings include the Sumo Museum, Parasite Museum, Beer Museum, Eyeglass Museum and even the Japan Stationary Museum.
One for the gadget geeks, the Sony Building in Ginza houses the tech giant’s newest devices for you to road test. Everything from game consoles, televisions and mobile phones are on display, with many of them not even released to market yet!
Crossing the road at Shibuya
This famous intersection is located adjacent to Shibuya station and is one of the world’s best people watching marvels. Every few minutes, thousands of people march across the organised chaos that is Shibuya Crossing. While it looks like millions of ants are crossing the road in all directions at the same time, it somehow all works and no one seems to bump into each other. Feel free to join the masses for a bit of pedestrian crossing fun or stand back and watch.
Tsukiji Fish Market
This iconic market is the largest wholesale seafood market on the planet. The place is buzzing from 4am and over 50,000 traders and visitors are looking around, especially at the latest tuna catch. This place is where most of Tokyo’s restaurants source their sashimi. It’s being relocated to another position in 2016, so try and experience the original site before it moves.
Local Guided Tours
There is definitely no better way to explore a new place than with a local, and a great way to discover your patch of the metropolis is via a free guided tour with one of the city’s residents to show you the way. The tours are organised by the Systematized Goodwill Guide Groups. Tours are run by locals such as retirees, students and home makers and operate throughout the city. That’s right, the tours are free and you only have to cover the guide’s travel expenses and any admission fees to the attractions.
Anyway, while Tokyo can lean towards the more expensive side of world cities, there are plenty of things to keep you occupied that won’t cost you that much coin, or anything at all!