The Best Free Things To Do in Tokyo

A Backpacker's Guide to Japan's Capital

Japan, along with its capital Tokyo, is notorious for being an expensive place to travel. However, there are a surprising amount of free things to do in Tokyo. From relaxing strolls through one of Tokyo's green spaces and visiting ancient shrines to getting lost in neon-clad streets and taking in the views from impressive viewpoints. Tokyo is a fascinating city and even if you're on a budget you can still enjoy your time by visiting some of these incredible free things to do. And if you're traveling on a budget, check out our list of the best party hostels in Tokyo.

Meiji-Jingu Shrine

Stepping foot into the grounds of Meiji-Jingu Shrine will leave you feeling as though you have left the bustling city of Tokyo altogether. The forested area of tall trees offers respite from the sun and the massive gates and wall of sake barrels will leave you in awe.

The shrine dates back to 1920, although it was destroyed in the second world war and had to be rebuilt shortly after. The feeling of tranquility remains as you enter the shrine and it's a wonderful place to slow down the pace and relax.

Wander Around Harajuku & Omotesando

The area of Harajuku is popular with the young Tokyo crowd so is full of funky and trendy shops selling everything from quirky accessories, extravagant outfits and crazy contact lenses. At the weekend and in the evenings it's likely you'll see some of this trendy crowd dressed to impressed around Takeshita street.

Just a short walk away is the Tokyu Plaza Shopping Mall with its impressive mirrored entrance - a great spot for photos. Also nearby is the tree-lined avenue of Omotesando offering a more upmarket feel and a great place for window shopping.

Visit One Of Tokyo's Beautiful Parks

Tokyo is filled with amazing green spaces, some of them you need to pay to enter, but there are many that are free to enjoy.

Yoyogi Park is next to Meiji-Jingu Shrine and has both forested areas and wide open spaces so is great for a stroll or having a picnic lunch.

Ueno Park is a popular place to visit as it contains art galleries, museums, temples, shrines and a zoo. Although some of these places charge an entrance fee, it's still a great park to visit if you just want to relax around the pond or admire the cherry blossoms in Spring. Some of the temples and shrines within the park are also free to enter.

Shiba Park offers great views of the iconic Tokyo Tower and contains Zozoji Temple, which was our main reason for visiting. You can even get a photo of the temple and the tower in one photo. The grounds of Zozoji Temple are free to enter, but there is a charge for the mausoleum and the museum.

The Imperial Palace East Gardens are the only part of the inner palace grounds that are open to the public and are well worth a look.

Watch The Famous Tuna Auction At Toyosu Fish Market

The famous tuna auction used to take place at Tsukji Fish Market, but has now been moved to the new Toyosu Fish Market. Although the atmosphere is now a little less crazy, going to see the tuna auction is still free and a popular attraction in Tokyo. If you want to get the best view of the tuna auction from the lower deck be prepared for an very early start and be sure to book your slot in advance. Only 120 people per day can visit the main observation platform from 5:45 am till 6:15 am, but you must book ahead on the official website.

If you don't manage to get a spot you can still see the auction from the upper visitor passage, although the view is not as good and you won't be able to hear the auction.

To experience some of the ambiance that existed at the old fish market you can still visit the outer Tsukji Fish Market with many stalls and restaurants selling everything from fish burgers and sushi to tuna sticks and oysters.



Senso-ji Temple

No visit to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the Buddhist temple of Senso-ji in Asakusa. The grounds are open all the time, with the main temple opening at 6:00 am. It's a fascinating place to visit at any time of the day, but we recommend getting here early to avoid the crowds and witness the long line of shopping stalls set up for the day's trade. Senso-ji Temple is Tokyo's oldest temple dating back to the 7th century.

Just outside the temple is Asakusa Culture Tourism Information Center. If you head up to the 8th floor there is a free observation deck. It offers great views and a different perspective of the long street of stalls leading up to Senso-ji Temple. You can also capture a great view of the Tokyo Skytree in the distance, making a trip up there well worthwhile.

Visit The Gundam Statue

The area of Odaiba is a little out the way, but if you're in the area visiting the famous teamLab Borderless Digital Art Museum (not free, but definitely worth visiting) then we recommend checking out the ginormous Gundam Statue. Towering at nearly 20 meters tall, even if you're not a Gundam fan, this statue will impress.

During the day the statue lights up and transforms for around a minute at 11:00 am, 1:00 pm, 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm, but the nighttime transformations are even longer and more impressive. There are 5 different nightly shows that vary in length from 2-5 minutes and some include a giant wall projection and music. The night shows are at 7:30 pm, 8:00 pm, 8:30 pm, 9:00 pm and 9:30 pm.

Take In The Tokyo Skyline At The Metropolitan Government Building

We were so impressed by the observation decks at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building and couldn't believe they were free. There are two observatories, one in the north tower and one in the south tower, both situated at a height of 202 meters. The view of the sprawling city of Tokyo is incredible and on a clear day you may even be able to see Mount Fuji. Other famous Tokyo sights, like the Tokyo Skytree, Meiji-Jingu Shrine and Tokyo Tower can also been seen from the observation decks.

Join The Crowds At Shibuya Crossing



You'll find plenty of guides on the best place to view the famous Shibuya Crossing, but we think it's best experienced from at the crossing itself. You'll get to be among the hundreds of people crossing, witness a countless number of photo shoots of people trying to get the perfect shot and best of all it's free.

Shibuya Crossing is the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world with up to 2,500 people crossing at any one time. There are numerous places to get amazing photos from every corner of the crossing and if you're quick you can even get one from in the middle of the road surrounded by masses of people - just keep an eye on the traffic lights to ensure you're out of the way before the cars zoom past!



Get Wonderfully Lost In Shinjuku

It's not a matter of if you get lost in Shinjuku, but when! Shinjuku train station is the busiest train station in the world with a staggering 3.6 million people passing through the station daily and has over 200 exits!

There's no better place to get lost than the neon clad streets of Shinjuku - you may stumble across the giant godzilla head on top of a hotel building, hear the clanging of hundreds of Pachinko games as you walk past one of the many arcades or find yourself in the coolest area of tiny bars in Golden Gai. Wherever you end up in Shinjuku you won't be disappointed and don't worry you're still bound to be near to one of those 200 entrances to the train station!

- Andy & Sarah

Andy and Sarah are the creators of Hotels & Hand Luggage, a travel website full of incredible photography and in-depth guides that will inspire you to book your next trip. They are on a mission to take readers on a visual journey around the world and provide up-to-date destination advice. Follow them on Instagram: @hotelsandhandluggage.



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