Written by Chiara Mischke
25 Things To Do In Tokyo For Free
Visiting Tokyo can be expensive, but the metropolis also offers many activities and places you can enjoy for free! This article introduces 25 things you can enjoy in Tokyo without spending any money, from traditional festivals to fireworks, and scenic city views.
Visiting Tokyo can be a very expensive experience, but you might be surprised to hear that the metropolis also offers a variety things you can enjoy for free. Let us introduce you to 25 of these activities and spots.
1. Hanabi - Japanese Fireworks
You can watch fireworks all over the world but there is something special about the beauty of hanabi. July and August are known as hanabi season and offer the largest variety of fireworks.
However, you will be able to find off-season firework festivals as well. The Hanabiryujon in Chofu held in autumn is just one example.
Fireworks are very popular in Japan, and attract crowds of people, so make sure to come early in order to secure yourself a good spot.
2. Matsuri - Japanese Festivals
Matsuri (festivals) have a long tradition in Japan. Most of them are held in the summer and autumn, but you will be see them at any time of the year. Nearly every shrine celebrates its own festival. They can range from very small to large scale celebrations.
Joining is free and, if you have a little bit of change, you can spend it on some delicious festival treats.
3. Watch a Sumo Practice
Picture from Watching A Sumo Practice Session At Musashigawa-Beya
Some of the sumo training facilities in Tokyo allow visitors to watch the sumo wrestlers during their practice sessions. The training takes place early in the morning. Because it can get very crowded, we recommend arriving as early as possible.
You'll be impressed to see these practice sessions which reveal a lot about the wrestlers' strength. It is an experience you can only enjoy in Japan.
4. Suntory Musashino Free Brewery Tour
Picture from Tour Suntory’s Musashino Brewery and Sample Beer For Free!
One of Japans most popular beer brands, Suntory is offering free brewery tours including beer tasting. Every tour is 70-minutes long. It consists of a 40-minute tour through the factory and 30 minutes of beer tasting.
Don't worry if you don't speak Japanese, the staff will provide you with English audio guides.
5. Toyosu Fish Market
Tsukiji Fish Market recently moved to its new location in Toyosu but it is still is the largest fish market in Japan. They also reopened the free tuna auction tour in January 2019. Here you can experience watching these large fish being auctioned off and then cut into pieces on the spot.
The tour is limited to 120 people each morning (2 tours with 60 people each). Once the limit is reached, the registration is closed. We recommend arriving as early as possible to avoid disappointment.
6. Visit Public Parks
Picture from Yoyogi Park: Harajuku's Secret Sanctuary
Public parks have their own unique beauty. In spring, everything gets covered by a fluffy pink and white cherry blossom cloud. Autumn tints the parks in deep, rich reds, emeralds and golds. You will feel like you're walking into a painting!
On the weekends, public parks are always a place where people meet, drink, eat and play games. They are also great places to enjoy nature and meet new people.
We especially recommend Yoyogi Park, Ueno Park, Inokashira Park and the year-round blooming Showa Kinen Park.
7. The Imperial Palace East Garden
Most of the area within the Tokyo Imperial Palace is not available for public, you can visit the East Garden. It is open to the public year-round and the entrance is free.
This beautiful garden is full of historical artifacts and it will take you on a little time travel. Depending on the time of the year, the gates close at 4 PM or 5 PM.
It's recommended you arrive at the garden before noon, so that you have enough time to enjoy the whole area.
8. Meiji Shrine and Harajuku
Picture from Meiji Jingu: Harajuku's Stunning Shrine
Just a short walk away from Harajuku Station you can find the famous Meiji Shrine. Located inside Yoyogi Park, it is a place of tranquillity in the heart of the city.
On the other side of the station is the Harajuku shopping area - a haven for creative people and places and one of the most individual places in Tokyo. Strolling along the alleys with small shops and enjoying all the odd little bits and bobs you can only find in Harajuku will inspire and entertain. Window shopping is free and there is no better place to do it.
If you do want to spend a little money you will find many one-of-a-kind treats like Cotton Candy Icecream or the famous Japanese Crepes.
9. Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
Picture from Asakusa Travel Guide: Savor The Past In The Historical Center Of Tokyo
Sensoji Temple is a Buddhist temple with a history spanning back over 1300 years. Japan's oldest shopping street, Nakamise-dori, will lead you up to the temple. Even if you don't buy anything, you can enjoy seeing lots of traditional snacks and gifts which you can hardly find anywhere else.
In Asakusa,you can provide yourself with a little history lesson at every corner, free of charge.
10. Take a Walk On The Rainbow Bridge in Odaiba
Picture from Walk Across Rainbow Bridge and Enjoy the View over Odaiba
Odaiba is a very popular amusement area. Its symbol, the Raibow Bridge, shines the brightest at night. It is covered in all kind of lights and you can watch the restaurant ships floating on the water lit up various colors as well.
In the dark, you can also see why the bridge is called "rainbow bridge". It glows brightly in all the colors of the rainbow after dark. Taking a walk along the rainbow bridge at night is a beautiful experience that won't cost you anything.
11. Window Shopping and Free Galleries in Ginza
Ginza is mainly known for its high-class shopping street inspired by Londons Oxford Street. Window shopping is a very popular way to enjoy the area.
It's lesser-known fact that there is also a variety of free galleries you can visit in Ginza. The traditional Japanese art at Gallery Shukado and the botanical art at Shibata Etsuko Gallery are just two examples of the beautiful works of art on display.
12. Experience All Things Manga and New Technology in Akihabara
Picture from Visit Junk Street For A Deeper Akihabara Experience
Akihabara is mainly known for its manga, anime and otaku culture, but it is also the place to go for good quality electronics and the newest technology.
In fact, you can find here inventions that you can't experience anywhere else in the world. Akihabara as nearly as many electronic stores as manga-related stores. Many of the electronics on display can be tried out for free. If you love technology, you'll be able to entertain yourself for hours in Akihabara without actually buying anything.
13. Experience Ameyoko, a Former Black Market in Ueno
Picture from 15 Unique Things To Do In Ueno
Ameyoko is mainly a market street offering a variety of food and miscellaneous items. However, this shopping street has a dark history. Its full name is Ameya Yokocho. "Ameya" means "candy shop" and "yokocho" means back alley.
After WWII, candy was a luxury item and hard to get. Ameyoko was used as a black market to illegally sell these rare goods. If you walk through the area with this knowledge, all the confusing alleys start to make sense. It's a little post-war adventure park. And, the fact that it's not far away from the Ueno park, another recommendation of ours, is just an added bonus.
14. Free Boat Tours in the Koto Ward
Picture from Free Japanese Traditional Boat Ride on Yokojikkengawa Canal
Tokyo's Koto ward offers free boat tours on the Yokojikkengawa Canal. A traditional Japanese wooden boat (wasen) will take you on a 10-minute long tour.
In order to take part in these tours, all you need to do is go to the Koto ward office and register your name on the guestlist for the free boat ride. This experience is free because in the Koto ward efforts are made to preserve the culture of wasen rides.
15. The Free Observatory in the Carrot Tower
Picture from Free Observatory! Look Over Tokyo From Carrot Tower
The Carrot Tower is a commercial building located in Setagaya ward. The 26th floor of the building is home to a free observatory.
From this observatory, you can enjoy the view of Tokyo. On a clear day, you can see Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, as well as Mount Fuji!
16. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observatory
Picture from Tokyo Metropolitan Government Observatory: Enjoy The City View For Free!
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has two towers and there are observatories in both of them. These observatories can be visited free of charge. They offer a great all-round view over the city.
Moreover, they are open until after 21:00, which makes them a popular destination to enjoy the city view at night. This is one place in Tokyo that you shouldn't miss out on!
17. The National Astronomical Observatory Of Japan
Picture from See The Universe! The National Astronomical Observatory Of Japan
The National Astronomical Observatory of Japan Mitaka Campus is all about space. In addition to planetarium programs, they also hold star gazing events, which can be attended for free.
Many facilities on the campus are open to the public and require no admission fee. You just need to write down your name at the entrance.
18. Enjoy Public Art around the City
Picture from Top 5 Stunning Public Art Installations in Tokyo
Tokyo is full of amazing public art. Many train stations and public places showcase wall art or sculptures. The big spider sculpture "Maman" in Roppongi Hills or the Ghibli Clock outside the Nihon TV building are just two of the most famous ones.
While Roppongi is well-known for its displays of public art, you'll be able to enjoy inspiring free art all around the city.
19. The Origami Gallery in Ochanomizu
Picture from Origami Kaikan in Ochanomizu - Enjoy the Traditional Art of Origami
Origami is a craft with a long tradition in Japan and the the Origami Gallery in Ochanomizu is a facility created with the purpose to spread origami as a traditional art.
Here you can admire beautiful origami crafts, as well as participate in origami workshops. You'll be impressed by the depths of this art!
20. The Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
Picture from Edo Shitamachi Traditional Crafts Museum
The Edo Shitachimachi Museum is located in Asakusa. This facility is dedicated to spreading the knowledge about the traditional arts and crafts of the Edo period (1603 - 1868).
You will be able to find furniture, small models of Edo buildings as well as craft utensils from that era in the museum. Admission is free, but do check their little gift shop if you'd like to buy a souvenir.
21. The Omatsuri Museum - Celebrating the Festivals of Japan
Picture from See Japan's Festivals Any Time - Omatsuri Museum, Asakusa
The Omatsuri Museum is located in Asakusa, just like the Edo Shitamachi Museum. This facility has fun displays telling the history of Japanese festivals from the Edo era until modern days.
Various types of festival artifacts such as clothes and special sake are on display as well, and you'll be able to see them from close and in detail, something that you wouldn't be able to do at a real festival.
22. The Scholarly Museum Intermediatheque
Picture from Connected To Tokyo Station - The Scholarly Museum Intermediatheque
The Intermediatheque in a free science and culture museum close to Tokyo Station. It specialises in giving old items a new purpose, a concept called ReDESIGN+.
Some of the most impressive items on display here are the animal skeletons and other items formerly used by the University of Tokyo. It's a quite thrilling exhibition that won't disappoint!
23. The Suginami Animation Museum
Picture from Free Admission! Suginami Animation Museum: Experience Anime Production
At the Animation Museum in Tokyo's Suginami ward, you can learn everything about animated movies. From classic drawing boards to the newest animation methods, everything can be found in this museum. In fact, you can even create, dub and direct your own animated movie!
24. The Advertisement Museum in Shiodome
Picture from Advertising Museum Tokyo In Shiodome: All About Japanese Advertising
If you visit Japan, you'll most surely notice yourself that advertisements are very different from the ones in other countries. They are loud, cheerful and colorful. The Advertisement Museum is a facility specialized in showcasing all types of advertisements.
You can actually see even advertisement memorabilia on display that date back to the Edo era! However, if you are a fan of the loud and colorful contemporary advertisements, this museum has no shortage of them either.
25. The Textile Culture and Ukiyo-e Art Museum Amuse in Asakusa
Picture from A Rare Sight: Asakusa's Textile Culture And Ukiyo-e Art Museum
Amuse is a unique museum in Asakusa dedicated to clothing and folk-art. The highlights of this facility are the displays of traditional clothes from the past. You can see how certain clothes and textiles were used in daily life in the past, and even discover some curious things such as salmon boots.
Amuse also hosts one of the largest traditional souvenir shops in Asakusa. When visiting the area, do stop by.
Bonus! Free Zoos, Museums And Parks on October 1st (City Day)
Picture from Not Just For Tokyo Citizens! City Day: When Zoos And Gardens Are Free
In addition to the places and facilities mentioned above, they are public holidays in Japan when you can visit zoos, museums and parks for free!
One of these public holidays is October 1st, Tokyo City Day! Please be aware that sightseeing spots tend to get very crowded on public holidays.
Enjoy Your Free Tokyo!
Tokyo is notorious for being an expensive city. However, there are many fun things to do and explore without spending any money.
We hope that this list of free activities made you curious and that you'll even try some of them!