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 hitting your wallet too hard. When it comes to getting around, the cheapest and quickest way to explore the city is using the subway system and JR train lines. The Yamanote subway line circumnavigates the inner city, making most major sights accessible to visitors in under an hour. The stations also have signs and maps in English, and the trains run frequently, and are clean and safe to ride. When it comes to major sights, many of the top attractions in Tokyo are free. For people-watching, the Shinjuku district is a great way to experience the neon-lit craziness of the city. Head there for sunset, where above ground the reward is a maze of streets and alleys inhabited by 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 a really interesting district of the city.
When it comes to basking in panoramic views of the city, the best free option is from the 45th floor observatories at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings in Shinjuku where, on a clear day, you can see distant and dramatic 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, which is in the historic district of Asakusa and 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” the next best bet. 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.