Tokyo is never ending. At least that’s the best description I can come up with for a simple sentence. If you’ve been to Tokyo, then you know what I mean. If you haven’t been to Tokyo, I hope you’re stumbling upon this post because that’s what you’re planning for and you, too, will soon understand what I mean when I say that Tokyo is never ending. (If you’re planning your first trip, check out my 2 weeks in Japan post.)
You can go to the same area, on the same day, but find so many new experiences because it’s a different time of day. To put it short, Tokyo is amazing. Even for somebody like me who usually despises crowds. Don’t get me wrong, I occasionally feel overwhelmed in some situations in Tokyo, but for the most part, there is so much going on and I’m so happy to be there that it barely bothers me.
One of the many great things about Tokyo is that there is so much to see and do, and that’s without even having to pay to do a lot of these things. That way, you can save your money for more food (because you know you want to keep eating at T’s Tantan), souvenirs, and probably train fare to get you more places. Side note, get a Suica or Pasmo card for that. It’s so much easier to get around on the train without having to calculate how much fare you’ll need, and you can load up at any time with the English options on the fare machines.
Anyway, I’m holding onto a fool’s hope that I’ll be jetting off to Japan come spring as planned, but my gut tells me otherwise. Still, I’m going to pretend all is well and let’s get started. Here are 10 free things to do in Tokyo to help you save that coin and still have a good time.
1. Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
The first place I want to include on this list of free things, you’ll probably see on a lot of other lists and that’s because it’s too good to pass up! The view from the Tokyo Metropolitan building.
The fact that you can get this view for free, compared to the price of some of the other observation decks, is a major deal. If you are there on a clear day, I imagine the views are amazing! I have yet to go on a clear day, next time I’ll try to squeeze it into my schedule! (And hey, if you’re going on a Tokyo scavenger hunt, a photo like this will help you check one off your list!)
Hours vary per season, so be sure to check ahead!
Address: 2 Chome-8-1 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 163-8001, Japan
2. Todoroki Valley
This magical place feels like you’re deep in the mountains and you’re still right in Tokyo!
Todoroki Valley is very close to the Todoroki station, I have a separate post just for this place because it is so lovely! There are riverside pathways, old hillside tombs, a temple, shrines, a garden and a tea house. It is such a beautiful and magical place and I recommend it to anyone, especially nature lovers and those wanting to take a break from the busy Tokyo. There are bathrooms here as well, if you want to stay longer.
Address: 1-22, 2-37~38 Todoroki, Setagaya 158-0082, Tokyo Prefecture
Turn left off of the platform of Todoroki station and head up the sidewalk, keeping an eye to your right. There will be a red bridge not long after and that is where you enter, take the stairs down just next to the bridge.
3. Otonashi Shinsui Park (and Asukayami Park)
It’s not very big, but it’s very beautiful, and fun for kids as well. There’s beautiful water features, though unfortunately it was nearly dry on my last visit.
This last visit was during April, and though there was only one area that had any water in it, I felt like I was in a Sakura petal snow globe. It was absolutely gorgeous when a small breeze would come through and the petals would swirl all around me. Depending on how much water there is at the time of your visit, you will either be walking along a small stream, or you’ll be able to walk in the dried up stream bed if you choose to. Again, it’s not very big, but it is so lovely. It’s right across from Asukayami park, which is also free, so you can throw those two together. Asukayami has a great playground for kiddos as well as old train cars you can go inside. There is a small tram that will take you up into the park in Asukayami, but there is a fee. You can walk up the hill yourself to keep this a completely free activity.
Address: 1 Oji Honcho, Kita 114-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
4. Yoyogi Park
Yoyogi park is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and full of beautiful trees, flowers and even a pond.
There are both paved and unpaved pathways, winding through the thousands of trees on the property, including a pond and a few flower gardens. It’s especially extraordinary in late March/early April when the sakura are in bloom. There’s a dog park inside and I could’ve spent hours watching the adorable pups playing. This is a great spot to pack a lunch and enjoy an afternoon on a picnic. While you’re here, you can also check out the Meiji Jingu (shrine) next door, which is free admission to the grounds itself, though additional fees if you want to delve further into the museum and garden.
The address to Meiji Jingu: 1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 151-8557, Japan, and the park is right next door.
5. Nezu Shrine
Nezu Shrine has beautiful grounds and torrii tunnels which makes for a very photogenic and peaceful visit.
A little piece of advice with Nezu shrine, if you go early, you just might be the only visitor there. Check out my post on Nezu Shrine to learn more. There is a garden you can enter for an extra fee, but you can see some of it from afar without paying, to keep this free. The shrine is in the middle of a residential neighborhood, but you kinda forget that once you enter because of the peace and beauty.
It opens at 6 AM, so if you’re running on a different time zone and wake up early, this is a good spot to check out.
Address: 1 Chome-28-9 Nezu, Bunkyo City, Tokyo 113-0031, Japan
6. Giant Ghibli Clock
If timed correctly, this will probably be a quick stop, but a very cool one!
Photo by Jessica Patterson
The Giant Ghibli Clock is an awesome steam punk display with a likeness to Howl’s Moving Castle. If you’re a Ghibli fan, don’t miss this free display! The clock goes off at 12 PM, 3 PM, 6 PM and 8 PM Monday through Friday; and 10 AM, 12 PM, 3 PM, 6 PM and 8 PM Saturday and Sunday.
This art piece is three stories high and a whopping 60 feet wide! How cool is that? So set your cameras to record and watch the mechanicals spring into action.
Address: Nittele Tower 1 Chome-6-1 Higashishinbashi, Tokyo, Japan
7. Nishi Rokugou Park
This large tire park is sure to be a unique visit, compared to other parks.
Photo From Atlas Obscura, via Google Maps
This recycled tire park is frequented by not only children, but also adults. There are a lot of tire sculptures that can change up, and a big hill you can “sled” down on tire pieces. Seriously how cool is this park?
Pack a lunch, it’s sure to provide a good couple of hours of entertainment for children and adults alike!
Address: 1 Chome-6-1 Nishirokugo, Ota City, Tokyo, 144-0056, Japan
8. Shirahatazuka Shizeki Park
You’re probably thinking another park? Well this one, my friends, is not your average park.
Photo from Google Maps iapple nam contribution.
This park is actually home to a kofun. If you are unfamiliar with kofuns, read up! There are a ton of these ancient and awesome gravesites throughout the country. This one happens to be in a quaint park with some cool sculptures around.
It’s one of those lesser known spots, which makes it great to visit for any of you looking to avoid crowds. They don’t know whose tomb this is, a proper survey has never been done of the area. They just keep it as is, honoring the mound with a little park.
Address: 3 Chome-10-14 Higashiiko, Adachi City, Tokyo, 121-0801, Japan
9. Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge is a whopping 2,618 feet long, about half a mile. For those of you on the superior metric system 😉 that’s 798 meters.
Photo by Gussisaurio via Wikipedia
The Rainbow Bridge Walkway is a fun way to spend about 30 minutes! The North side has views of Tokyo Harbor and you can see Tokyo Tower. The South side has views of Tokyo Bay, occasionally you’ll be able to see Mt. Fuji from this deck as well, on clear days. It takes an average of 30-40 minutes to fully walk across, and the hours differ based on the time of year. On Summer hours, April through October, it’s open from 9 AM to 9 PM. On Winter hours, November through March, it’s open from 10 AM to 6 PM. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing time.
Address: 105-0022 3-33-19 Kaigan, Minato-ku, Tokyo
10. Ameyoko Outdoor Market
Ameyoko is a shopping street that also happens to be an outdoor market.
Screenshot from Google Maps, that appears to be a mellow point in the morning.
Outdoor markets aren’t as common in Japan as they are in somewhere like, say, Thailand. I stumbled upon it when researching where I could go to buy cheap luggage when I bought too much to fit in what I had with me. For the record, there is a very affordable luggage shop here, if you need it, too! Just explore first, because some are more expensive than others.
On the weekends, this place really comes to life! It’s bustling with locals and tourists alike. You can get cheap street food, or simply fill your time browsing the many shops and people watching. There are more than 400 shops, so plenty of time to spend here!
Address: 4 Chome-2-2 Ueno, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0005, Japan
This is just a teeny tiny pinch of all of the free things you can do in Tokyo, some a bit less crowded than others. Obviously Ameyoko street is going to be a lot more busy than Shirahatazuka, so this can help give you a few ideas depending on what kind of mood you’re in, and what size of crowd you’re prepared to face!
What are some of your favorite free spots in Tokyo? Or if you’ve yet to go, what are you looking forward to most?