As COVID-19 has eased into an endemic, the world is slowly but surely resuming travel, and wanderlust souls are seeking adventure once again. Among the many sought-after destinations, Japan remains a crowd favourite for Singaporeans. While Tokyo might seem like an expensive destination for a student on a tight budget, there is a plethora of budget-friendly options that can offer you a glimpse of Japan’s vibrant culture, beautiful nature, and enchanting city. If you’re on the hunt for a getaway to Tokyo without breaking the bank, these budget-friendly and free things to do in Tokyo are for you!
1. Asakusa: Immerse Yourself in Traditional Japan
Located in the Taito ward, Asakusa is one of Tokyo’s most historic districts. Asakusa is centred around Sensoji Temple, also known as Asakusa Kannon Temple, a Buddhist temple that dates back to the 7th century. At the entrance of Sensoji Temple is the Kaminarimon, the Thunder Gate, which is symbolic of Asakusa and an iconic photo stop for tourists. Upon entering through the Kaminarimon, you will be greeted with a bustling shopping street, Nakamise-Dori, which is lined with traditional souvenir shops and street food vendors. Entry to Sensoji Temple is free, so rest assured you can spend all your money on delicious street food instead!
2. Kamakura: Experience the Charm of Old Japan
Kamakura, often referred to as “the Kyoto of eastern Japan”, comes close after Asakusa as one of the most popular cities near Tokyo amongst locals and tourists alike. A short train ride away, Kamakura offers a peaceful retreat from the city’s hustle and bustle. You’ll find numerous temples with entrance fees not exceeding 500¥ (about SGD5 equivalent)—visit Hasedera Temple for its serene gardens and a beautiful view overlooking the coastal line, Hokokuji Temple for its bamboo grove and tea house, or Tsurugaoka Hachimangu for beautiful flowers amid the Shinto shrine. Complete your day trip to Kamakura with a stroll down Komachi Street, relax at Yuigahama Beach, and sip a cuppa in one of the many quaint cafes around Kamakura.
3. Mount Takao: Tokyo’s Best Nature Escape
This one is a must for nature lovers—embark on a hiking adventure at Mount Takao, a scenic mountain located on the outskirts of Tokyo, easily accessible by train. The hike up Mount Takao is forgiving for beginners and offers more challenging trails for those seeking a little more thrill and adventure. For those who are not keen to hike, the cable car or chair lift brings you halfway up the mountain at a fee. The leisurely hike through lush green forests brings you to the summit, where, on a clear day, you can catch a glimpse of Japan’s iconic Mount Fuji. Nature’s respite, breathtaking views, and, importantly, absolutely free of change (if you hike up)!
4. Yoyogi Park: Vibrant City Park in the Heart of Tokyo
Yoyogi Park is one of Tokyo’s most vibrant city parks. Amidst the sprawling green oasis, you may stumble upon local musicians, street performers, or traditional Japanese processions, as the park is a popular location for various events and festivals. If you happen to be in Tokyo in spring, the park makes for a nice hanami spot to enjoy springtime’s cherry blossoms. The park is a mere 5-minute walk from Harajuku Stations, right in the centre of Tokyo city, and admission is free!
5. Meiji Shrine: Step into Imperial Japan
Located right next to Yoyogi Park is the iconic Meiji Shrine. Meiji Shrine, or Meiji Jingu, is a must-visit for those interested in Japan’s rich history and culture. Look out for the majestic Torii Gate, marking the entrance of the sacred grounds of the Shinto shrine, and enter through to the beautiful and serene temple grounds surrounded by nature. For the full Shinto experience, make an offering at the main hall, get your omikuji (fortune slip), and write your wishes and prayers on an ema (small wooden plaque). There is even a Meiji Jingu Museum inside that you can visit to look at different artefacts belonging to the emperor. Admission to the shrine is free, with a small fee required for specific sections and experiences.
6. Odaiba Beach: Relaxation by the Waterfront
Odaiba is an artificial island in Tokyo Bay, with an urban beachfront on reclaimed land—in other words, Odaiba is the Sentosa of Tokyo. Enjoy the breeze and sandy shores during the day, or go for the night view, where you can get a glimpse of the mesmerizing Tokyo city skyline and illuminated rainbow bridge. Go for a walk along the beach, enjoy the waterfront view with a picnic, or even rent a bicycle to cycle around the area. While you’re in the area, Odaiba is also a great place for shopping and eating, and the gigantic Gundam statue is not to be missed!
7. 100 Yen Shops: Bargain Hunting Extravaganza
Speaking of shopping, 100 Yen Shops are your best friends for cheap shopping in Tokyo! Some of the famous chains include Daiso, Seria, and Can Do, which you’ll be able to find scattered all around Tokyo. From snacks and cute stationery to clothes and household goods, you’ll be able to find a wide array of products at many of these shops. Exploring a 100 Yen Shop is a fun experience in itself, where you can explore an assortment of quirky and brilliant Japanese products. The best part? Everything is only 100 Yen (approximately SGD 1)!
Need I say more? Japan’s allure is undeniable (and some would say irresistible too)—from its bustling streets and vibrant city to ancient temples and serene gardens, to historic towns, fascinating culture, and delectable food everywhere, Japan is a haven for the nature-lovers, culture enthusiasts, and foodies! There’s something for everyone in Japan, and what’s more, you can explore and see so much of Tokyo without breaking the bank!