Sightseeing in Tokyo Without Spending a Yen

While it could be argued that simply walking around Tokyo is a free cultural experience, the city abounds in other free attractions and activities as well. Here are some of my favorite free things in Tokyo:

  • The Tokyo Metropolitan Government's 45th-floor observatories in Shinjuku, offering surreal views of the city's never-ending sprawl (and on clear days in winter, also of Mt. Fuji)
  • Meiji Shrine, Tokyo's most venerable Shinto shrine, surrounded by a dense, peaceful forest
  • Harajuku, a lively neighborhood just outside Meiji Shrine, which is packed with teenyboppers in all styles of dress and boutiques that cater to the young (on Sun, kids in cosplay -- costume play -- gather near Harajuku Station)
  • Asakusa's Sensoji Temple, Tokyo's oldest and most popular temple, is surrounded by shops selling a wide array of traditional goods, as well as a lot of interesting kitsch
  • Tsukiji Fish Market, one of the largest in the world
  • East Garden, located next to the Imperial Palace and once the main grounds of Edo Castle (my favorite part is the Japanese-style Ninomaru); free guided tours are offered on Saturdays
  • Beer Museum Yebisu (alas, there are no free samples, but at ¥200 a glass, this is certainly the cheapest place to imbibe)
  • Tokyo Anime Center, located in Akihabara (which abounds in shops selling anime, manga, and electronics)
  • Tokyo Metropolitan Children's Hall, a great public facility for families, with indoor gyms, a rooftop playground, a crafts corner, and monthly events and programs
  • Showrooms, including the Sony Building that lets you try out all their newest products; Megaweb, a huge technology playground featuring more than 100 Toyota models and a museum of old cars; and the Panasonic Center, which showcases its products, lets you play games, and even has a fully designed house of the future (reservations are required to see the house)
  • Free tours of Shinjuku (offered by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government), as well as Asakusa and Ueno (led by volunteer guides)
  • Galleries in department stores, with changing exhibits on everything from ikebana and art to ceramics and crafts
  • Festivals, ranging from biggies such as the Sanja Matsuri in Asakusa to events such as Gishi-sai at Sengakuji Temple, which commemorates 47 masterless samurai who avenged their master's death

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.