Tokyo is a crazy, frenetic, and amazing. This is a high-tech city that is the center of Japan. Here you can visit the imperial palace, the morning fish market, see the beautiful cherry blossoms, party in the Tokyo’s trendy nightlife district, and eat lots of good food. I love Tokyo. It’s one of my favorite cities. It’s not cheap, but I love the modernity in the city and the fact that in a city of so many people, people still don’t lock their doors!
- Hostel prices – Many hostels costs between $35-40 USD per night. The cheapest places to stay in Tokyo are the pod hotels – and they are quite the experience!
- Budget hotel prices – Private rooms cost around $130 USD for a double room in a hotel which normally includes breakfast. There isn’t such thing as “budget” in town.
- Average cost of food – Raman noodle shops, miso and soba noodles, and donburi stalls range from $2-10 USD. Buying groceries will cost you $30-45 USD per week. Most restaurant meals cost around $15 USD. Midrange restaurants can will cost around $35 USD. Sushi trains cost anywhere from $1-5 USD per piece. Fast food is around $7 USD.
- Transportation – Tokyo has a world-class train system. The Yamanote Line hits all the city’s spots and an all-day ticket can be purchased for $9 USD. The bus is another great way to explore the city, and bus stops are clearly marked. It costs $2 USD when you board, or $16 USD for an all day train and bus combo ticket.
Money Saving Tips
- Skip the taxis – Since cabs can be expensive ($7 USD starting fare), use the public transportation to save money.
- Shop at the 100 Yen ($1 USD) stores – There are many 100 Yen shops in Japan where set meals, groceries, water, toiletries, household items.
- Eat at 7-11 – The 7-11, or Family Mart, and other corner stores have a lot of pre-set meals for $1-3 USD that make for a cheap lunch option. Additionally, supermarkets also have many set meals at similar prices.
- Work for your room – Hostels in Japan let you work for your room. You’ll spend a few hours in the morning cleaning, and you’ll get free accommodation for as long as you want. The Khao San Hostel chain always has spots available.
- Couchsurf – Using sites like Couchsurfing that allow you to stay with locals not only gets you a free place to stay, but lets you interact and learn about local life. Make sure you ask early – the response rate in Japan is not always good!
Top Things to See and Do
- See the Hachiko Statue – The Hachiko Statue is a life-sized statue of a dog from 1925. The dog’s owner died, but every day the dog still went to the train station to wait for him to return from work. It signals loyalty and devotion to the Japanese and is a popular monument. The statue stands in front of the Shibuya Station.
- Visit the Tokyo Tower – Resembling the Eiffel Tower, the Tokyo Tower is taller than its European version, and made entirely of steel. You can pay $15 USD to go all the way to the top floor.
- See the animals at Ueno Zoological Gardens – Located in Ueno Park, the Zoological Gardens is the oldest zoo in Japan and worth a visit for the day. The pandas are particularly rare and interesting to watch. Children get in free and adult tickets are $6 USD.
- Explore Ueno Park – Ueno Park is a great place to spend a free day. The park is covered in cherry blossom trees. The best time to come is when the trees are blossoming, and there is also a big festival at this time. You can also buy food from one of the many vendors.
- Visit the Imperial Palace – The Imperial Palace, home to the Emperor of Japan, is a wonderful place to take a tour and learn about Japanese history and current events. It is surrounded by a beautiful park and garden and admission is free. There’s a guard change each day, which is similar to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
- Shop at the Tsukiji Fish Market – Visit this world-famous fish market, and watch the vendors sell the fish that ends up as sushi in restaurants all over the worlds. It’s hectic, crazy, and delicious. The tuna auction is now closed to tourists, but you can visit the market after the auction is over.
- Watch a sumo match – Kokugikan is Japan’s most famous sumo wrestling arena and is where tournaments are held three times yearly. A visit to one of the sumo stables nearby can be interesting, but must be arranged well in advance.
- Admire Sensji Temple – This is one of the most beautiful temples in Tokyo. Legend has it that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon (the goddess of mercy) out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it always floated back to them. Sensoji was built nearby for them. The temple is Tokyo’s oldest, and was completed in 645.
- Shop at Akihabara Electric Town – For Tokyo, this is the Tsukiji Market of the electronics world. You can find pretty much anything you’ve ever imagined, as well as all of the things you’ve never even dreamed of. Many up-and-coming electronics are tested here, and there is a ton of cool stuff to browse.
- Wander Roppongi Hills – A dream brought to life, this is a complex of architectural wonders. There are various buildings to see, all of which have been designed by leading architects, as well as various public art displays. This visual feast doesn’t cost anything — all you have to do is catch a ride up the hill.
- Drink in Golden Gai – If you are looking for something interesting to do at night, this little alleyway of back-street bars is a great place to start. There isn’t much going on during the day here, but come sundown, these zigzag hallways and closet-sized beer rooms are filled with interesting people and cheap drinks. This is what you might consider “old-school” Tokyo.
- Get on a suijo-bus – For centuries, Tokyo has been centralized around its rivers. One of the traditional ways to get around has always been via water-bus. This is a great alternative to the subway (when possible) and offers a different perspective of the bustling city. There are even floating restaurants, known as yakata-bune.
- Check out a sento – A sento is a traditional Japanese public bath house. While they were originally built to accommodate those that did not have such facilities in-house, they are now a great place to go for some peace and relaxation. They are typically separated by gender.