Tokyo has a reputation as an expensive city, but it offers plenty of options for the budget traveller. Here's how to see the city without spending a yen
Tokyo's oldest temple, Sensoji, was founded in the seventh century. It's believed the smoke from the huge incense urn in front of the temple has healing powers, so if you visit you are likely to see people rubbing the smoke all over their bodies. In the streets surrounding the temple there are many traditional restaurants and street vendors selling snacks such as rice crackers, sweet bean cakes and green tea ice-cream.
Meiji Shrine is a huge Shinto shrine set in a calm garden oasis in the centre of Tokyo. The large shrine, dedicated to Emperor Meiji, is set amongst a 178-acre gardening containing plants from all over Japan. Shrines are scattered throughout Tokyo so you are likely to see more than one on any visit to Japan.
Festivals are a very important part of Japanese culture and take place regularly throughout the year. The focus of these festivals can be incredibly varied and can include flowers, fertility, longevity, the dead, the moon, children, stars and plenty more. During these festivals you’re likely to see processions, food stalls and live entertainment.
From 9am visitors can enter Tsukiji, the largest seafood market in the world. Here you'll find stalls selling dried mushrooms, seaweed, tea, pickles, ceramics and kitchenware. At the knife stores you can even have your name engraved on the knives. And of course there are numerous sushi shops where you can enjoy an extremely fresh sushi breakfast. Nearby is the Tsukiji Honganji temple with exotic Hindu-influenced 1930s architecture – also free!
Please note that the early morning tuna auction is currently closed to tourists.
At the 11-story Sony Building you can fiddle with high-tech gizmos that won't be on sale in Britain for at least a year. You can even try out the latest PlayStation software on a giant, high-quality monitor. Other showrooms that can be visited for free include the Nissan Gallery, Toyota's MEGA WEB. and Honda Welcome Plaza where you can see daily Asimo robot demonstrations.
During your stay in Tokyo you’ll find plenty of sights that’ll make you reach for your camera and get snap happy. However, if you fancy a break from taking pictures, why not check out some of the city’s top photo galleries operated by some of the major names in photography. Fuji Film Square is in Roppongi. Canon, Nikon and Kodak all have photo exhibition showrooms in Ginza while Konica, Minolta and Pentax have showrooms in Shinjuku. At these galleries you’ll see frequently changing amateur and professional exhibitions and some of the galleries also contain small camera museums.
Tokyo boasts many sights for you to enjoy and what better way to see these sights than by taking a free guided tour with one of the city’s locals to show you the way. The Systematized Goodwill Guide Groups are comprised mostly of students, housewives and retirees, and operate throughout the city. Tours depart from a variety of locations at different times throughout the day and cover attractions like Ueno Park, the Imperial Palace and plenty more. The tours themselves are free and you are only expected to pay for the guide’s travel expenses and any admissions to attractions.
Bonsai trees, stone lanterns, Zen rock gardens and colourful carp! You’ll find all this and more on a stroll through some of the Japanese gardens found throughout Tokyo. And what's more, many of these gardens are free to enter. There’s the Imperial Palace East Garden, the Nezu Shrine Garden, famous for its blooming azaleas in May, and the Shin Edogawa Garden, a classical Japanese garden complete with carp and stone lanterns. Tokyo’s Ueno Park is famous for its beautiful cherry blossoms in April and also hosts a selection of museums and more.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, or Tokyo City Hall all as it’s also known, soars up for 243 metres above the ground. Designed by Kenzo Tange, the building’s twin towers cover 48 floors. Up on the 45th floor is where you’ll find the public observation decks, which can be reached by elevator in a speedy 55-second trip. Once you step onto the observation deck you’ll be faced with stunning views of the Tokyo, especially on clear days when you’ll get brilliant views of Yokohama to the southwest and Mount Fuji to the west. Open daily 9.30am-11pm.
Tokyo has an incredibly wide variety of museums for you to check out. If you’re on a strict budget, don’t worry because many of the city’s museums won’t cost you a single yen to visit. These free museums include the following: Sumo Museum, Parasite Museum, Advertising Museum, Yebisu Beer Museum, Eyeglass Museum, Japan Stationary Museum, Fire Museum, Banknote and Postage Stamp Museum and the Currency Museum. So from sumo to specs, you’ll be able to see them all entirely free of charge.