Did you know that you can have a fun and enjoyable time in Tokyo without breaking the bank? Even though Tokyo has a reputation for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, it actually has several historical, cultural, and modern points of interest that tourists can get access to free of charge. Below are some free sites and attractions that you can check out the next time you are in Tokyo:
1. Ueno Park
Located in the heart of Tokyo, Ueno Park is a large public park that offers many opportunities for recreation and entertainment. Entering and exploring the spacious grounds is free of charge, and you can easily spend several hours relaxing, snacking, and people-watching under the trees, or walking or biking along the network of pathways that take you to a tour of the pleasant pond area and the temples, shrines, and museums in the vicinity. It is also home to the Ueno Zoo, which is known for giant pandas.
2. Senso-ji Temple
A 7th century Buddhist Temple, Sensoji Temple is one of the most famous ancient and historic landmarks in Tokyo. It is situated in Asakusa, a district renowned for its Old Edo atmosphere. Leading to its approach is a long, narrow street lined by small stalls and shops that sell a wide variety of local sweets, snacks, and souvenirs.
3. Imperial Palace East Gardens
With many different species of trees and well-trimmed gardens, the Imperial Palace East Gardens is an excellent spot for relaxation in the middle of the bustling metropolis. You can go there as soon as it opens in the morning, and treat yourself to magnificent displays of beautiful and colorful flora. It is one of the city’s most visited sakura viewing sites during the spring season.
4. Gundam Statue
At 18 meters tall, the life-size Gundam Statue in Odaiba is a spectacle that should not be missed not only by fans of the sci-fi franchise but also anyone who wants to experience something uniquely Japan. At certain times of the day, the giant robot transforms from its Unicorn mode to its Destroyer mode, so be sure to check the show schedule in advance to be able to catch it.
5. Shibuya Crossing
A world-renowned intersection, the Shibuya Crossing is a fascinating vision that provides a glimpse of the day-to-day lives of commuters in this part of the city. Its surroundings seem to always be busy and packed. The high-rise department stores and other business establishments in the area welcome endless streams of people from noon til night, and feature large neon LED screens that flash ad after ad after ad.
6. Sumo practice
There are sumo stables around Tokyo where you can watch sumo wrestlers practice for free. In the Ryogoku district, there are dozens that are open to tourists who wish to witness the training routines that these athletes undergo on a daily basis. You have to get there early in the morning, as practices usually start at around 6 am or 7 am, and last for about three hours.
7. Yoyogi Park
Another pleasant park in the middle of Tokyo, Yoyogi Park is a large green space that features wooded areas, trails, ponds, and lawns. It has nice pathways for walkers, runners, and cyclists, and also a dog park section where you can watch canines of all shapes, sizes, colors, and breeds having some fun time. In the spring and autumn seasons, it sees crowds and crowds of people wanting to get the best seats for cherry blossoms and autumn foliage viewing.
8. Meiji Shrine
Built about a hundred years ago, the Meiji Shrine is a Shinto Shrine that occupies a huge complex that features lush forested areas, many shrine buildings, and pleasant walking paths. It offers a serene and refreshing atmosphere within Tokyo, only a few minutes’ away on foot from the vibrant Harajuku district.
9. Suntory Brewery Tour
If you love beer and want to try what Japan has got to offer, book a free Suntory Brewery tour. You will be educated on the brewing process, given the chance to watch how the filling and packaging processes go, and feast on three different beers and some snacks after.
10. Suginami Animation Museum
For anime fans, the Suginami Animation Museum is a must-visit. It has exhibits that tell the story of the history of Japanese animation, some original sketches and autographs of legendary animators like Doraemon’s Ayumu Watanabe and Mobile Suit Gundam’s Toru Yoshida, and an area where you can make your own anime and even dub some famous ones!
11. Sengakuji Temple
Sengakuji Temple is the site of the graveyard of the famous 47 Ronin. Every December 14, it observes a festival that honors the anniversary of the samurai’s avenge, and gets alive with all the visitors and food stands that sell takoyaki, okonomiyaki, and other local dishes.
12. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
To enjoy gorgeous views of Tokyo from above without having to spend a single yen, visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It has two observation decks, one in each of its two towers, at about 202 meters high off the ground. It is best visited at night for stunning views of the bright city lights amidst the night sky.
If you are into the latest Japanese youth fashion, make sure to stop by Harajuku to find several boutiques and shops that offer a wide selection of the current fashion trends. You can also find many food stores there that serve unique snacks like giant crepes and rainbow cotton candy.
Considered to be one of Tokyo’s more posh neighborhoods, Omotesando is a haven for those looking for high-end luxury brands — from clothes and shoes to bags and accessories. You can spend many hours window shopping and also checking out the modern designs of the stores and boutiques in this area.
15. Rainbow Bridge
Extending about 800 meters across Tokyo Bay, the Rainbow Bridge is highly recommended to anyone who loves nice and scenic leisurely walks. From sunset to night time, the views of the bay and the city from it are incredible, and make for amazing photos. Walking the entire length from either the Tokyo side or the Odaiba side takes under half an hour.