Tokyo has a well-earned reputation as a holiday destination which comes with a hefty price tag, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy Japan’s premier city without it breaking the bank. Take getting around, for example. The cheapest and quickest way to explore is by way of the subway system and JR train lines. The Yamanote subway line rings the inner city, making most major sights accessible to visitors in under an hour, and stations have signs and maps in English, with the trains frequent, clean and safe to ride. When it comes to the major sights, many of the top attractions are free. For people-watching, the Shinjuku district is a great initiation into the neon-lit craziness of Tokyo. Head there for sunset, where above ground the reward is a maze of streets and alleys inhabited by the hip young Tokyoites. And if you’re looking for cheap eats, in between department stores and designer boutiques are restaurants, ramen houses serving noodles, and back alley bars, making this one of the most interesting districts in the city. The Tsukiji Fish Market is where much of Tokyo’s fish and seafood is processed, and surrounding the market are a number of inexpensive hole-in-the-wall shush joints offering the freshest sushi you can imagine.
When it comes to enjoying panoramic views of the city, the free option is from the 45th floor observatories at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings in Shinjuku where, one a clear day, you can even see Mt Fuji. Culture vultures will enjoy the Meiji-jingu, or Meiji Shrine, arguably Japan’s most beautiful Shinto shrine, and there’s also the majestic Imperial Palace, located in the centre of the city, and which is home to one of Tokyo’s most notable landmarks. Also on your list should be Tokyo’s oldest temple, Asakusa Kannon, is in the historic district of Asakusa which is one of the few areas in the city where old traditions remain. If you want to stock up on inexpensive souvenirs, Nakamise is the first place to go for Japanese fans, paper lanterns, solar powered money cats, and Japanese doll key rings, with Akihabara or “Electric Town” next. Eating is also a serious business in Japan, and with many Tokyoites leading hectic lifestyles, eating out for lunch has become almost as popular as eating out for dinner – and a cheap option. Conveyor-belt sushi eateries and department store food halls are also a good choice, while other havens for inexpensive food such as ramen, yakitori and tempura can be found at markets, temples and shrines.