My Tokyo Guide
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Updated: December 15, 2022
From free activities and events to cheap Tokyo accommodation and modes of transportation, we’ve got lots of advice on how to enjoy Japan’s capital without breaking the bank.
For a thorough—and budget-friendly—grounding in Japan’s history and traditions, explore Tokyo’s free cultural facilities.
Temples and shrines house architectural, historical and religious treasures, while Tokyo’s free museums, including the Meiji University Museum, Sumo Museum, Ryogoku Fireworks Museum and Omori Nori Museum, demystify various aspects of Japanese culture. Markets like Tsukiji Outer Market, Ameyoko and Tokyo Metropolitan Wholesale Market Toyosu Market offer a taste of Tokyo’s living culture.
Soak up culture strolling through Tokyo’s vast parks and spectacular gardens, which sometimes host special events. Japanese gardens often come with a small admission fee, but there are places to enjoy them for free, like the Imperial Palace East Gardens. For fabulous views of the city, head to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government No. 1 Building, where two observation decks on the 45th floor overlook the city.
At Tokyo's festivals, traditional attire and music, rarely seen religious relics, parades of historical figures and Japanese food combine into incredible opportunities to dive into Japanese culture.
Incredible Japanese cuisine is becoming increasingly accessible to visitors, regardless of dietary needs—you just need to know where to look.
Some of the best deals on meals are served at Japan’s home-grown fast-food restaurants. You’ll find gyudon (beef bowls), udon and soba with tempura, ramen and Japanese-style curry for as low as a few hundred yen.
Extensive menus can be found at Japan’s cheap family restaurants. Depending on the chain, drink bars, salad bars and all-you-can-eat options provide extra value.
Dine shoulder-to-shoulder with locals in yokocho alleyways like Shinjuku Golden Gai. The small pub-like izakaya that line the alleyways serve standard Japanese alcohol and a variety of no-frills Japanese dishes.
Cheap food in Tokyo, perishable and non-perishable, can be found at a number of wholesale supermarkets and certain 100 yen shops. Pick up home-cooked dishes at mom-and-pop shops along shotengai shopping streets. Also check out markets and convenience stores.
Special eating requirements? No problem. Whether you follow a vegetarian, vegan or Halal diet, you can find shops and restaurants that provide ingredients and meals to suit your needs.
Low-cost hotels and other accommodation facilities for longer stays can be found even in the heart of Tokyo. Capsule hotels are another reasonably priced option, albeit one that comes with tight quarters. Female travelers will be happy to find out that women-only capsule hotels have recently become more common.
Budget-friendly Tokyo hostels and share houses come with the bonus of a built-in social scene, though many also have private rooms.
Those searching for an even more local connection can look into Tokyo homestays and Airbnb-style accommodation options where guests share space with a host family.
Want a kitchen and laundry facilities? Apartment and traditional house rentals are available in certain areas, while a number of companies specialize in short- to mid-term furnished accommodation.
Knowing your transportation options is a basic requirement when traveling. Knowing about special tickets and discount fares is even better.
Travel smart by familiarizing yourself with Tokyo’s extensive transportation system.
A variety of reasonably priced passes are available to make exploring Tokyo by train and subway a snap.
Travel beyond Tokyo with a JR Pass, which includes Shinkansen rides, or the cheaper Seishun 18, which provides unlimited travel on regular JR line trains during holiday periods.
Comprehensive bus services connect major stations with distant neighborhoods, and include city buses, low-cost community buses and free shuttle buses. For cheap intercity travel, choose highway buses.
The flexibility of taxis can’t be beat. Simplify the hailing process with taxi apps, some of which have English-language app settings. Flat-rate taxis from Narita and Haneda airports to various areas of Tokyo can be a godsend for awkwardly timed flights.
Maximize your time in Japan with discount air travel. Several low-cost carriers (LCC) fly Japan’s skies, and even Japan’s major airlines have discounted rates available.
LCCs operate out of both Narita and Haneda airports, with Narita’s Terminal 3 known as the “budget terminal.”
Hiccup-free travel starts with knowing customs and manners, safety protocols and where to shop for essential items.
Knowing local laws and etiquette points, like how to bathe at onsen (hot springs) and sento and how to dispose of garbage, is essential for a successful Tokyo trip. Start with the manners and customs handbook prepared by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
Brush up on earthquake safety tips and discover what to do in other emergencies to stay safe during your stay. Apps can help too.
Learn where to pick up cheap essentials to save yourself a headache later. Find budget-friendly prices on clothing at Tokyo second-hand shops and on toiletries at the many 100 yen shops and 300 yen shops.