Awesome Free Things To Do in Tokyo

Tokyo has a reputation for being expensive, but it’s also home to countless amazing attractions that are completely free. You’ll be amazed at the number of activities you can enjoy without opening your wallet, including visiting Tokyo’s famous shrines and temples, exploring renowned art museums, and taking in panoramic views of the city. Many of Tokyo’s must-see spots don’t require any spending at all.

People crossing the famed Shibuya Crossing at night
People crossing the famed Shibuya Crossing at night

Cross Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble

Cross the Shibuya Pedestrian Scramble, an iconic intersection and one of the busiest in the world, where thousands of people cross from all directions simultaneously. Despite the chaos, it’s surprisingly organized and participating in it is quite an experience. Plus, it’s one of the top free things to do in Shibuya.

For those looking to catch a bird’s-eye view without spending money, there are a few good spots. One is near the Myth of Tomorrow mural inside Shibuya Station, where you’ll find a large window overlooking the crossing. Another great spot is the Hikarie Sky Lobby on the 11th floor, offering expansive views of the scramble and the surrounding cityscape.

Wedding at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
Wedding at Meiji Shrine in Tokyo

Discover Meiji Jingu

Visit the Meiji Shrine, a peaceful spot right in the heart of Shibuya Ward. Meiji Jingu is a very important shrine in Tokyo, dedicated to Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, pivotal figures in Japan’s transition from isolation to a modern society in the late 19th century.

Wander through the serene forest that surrounds the shrine, home to thousands of trees donated from all over Japan. Before entering the shrine itself, take part in Shinto rituals like purifying yourself at the temizuya (water pavilion).

And while you are there, keep an eye for traditional weddings, as they almost always take place at Meiji. The entrance to the shrine grounds is free, offering a peaceful escape without costing a thing.

Kaminarimon at Senso-ji temple in Asakusa Tokyo
Kaminarimon at Senso-ji temple in Asakusa Tokyo

Marvel at Senso-ji

Senso-ji, located in the historic Asakusa, originally founded in 628 AD, is Tokyo’s oldest temple, dedicated to the goddess of mercy, Kannon.

The main attraction is the Kaminarimon Gate, leading to the shopping street of Nakamise, which stretches up to the temple’s second gate, the Hozomon. On the temple grounds, you’ll find the main hall and the five-story pagoda. The temple grounds also house a lovely garden and some smaller shrines worth checking out.

There’s a small pond behind the main hall where you can see Japanese koi fish swimming. It’s a peaceful spot to take a breather from the crowds.

Beautiful round Moon Pine tree in Ueno Park
Beautiful round Moon Pine tree in Ueno Park

Wander through Ueno Park

Ueno Park, established in 1873, once grounds of a former temple, it’s one of Japan’s first public parks. There are many things to do in Ueno Park, and the good news is that many of them are entirely free of charge.

Stroll in the park and head to the Toshogu Shrine, a gold-detailed shrine dedicated to Tokugawa Ieyasu, founder of the Tokugawa shogunate. The approach and gardens are free to explore.

Visit the Kiyomizu Kannon-do Temple in Ueno to admire the iconic Moon Pine. This remarkable tree has been famously depicted in the One Hundred Views of Edo series.

Walk around Shinobazu Pond, which is especially beautiful in summer when the lotus flowers bloom.

Ueno Park is one of Tokyo’s most popular spots for cherry blossom viewing (hanami) and is completely free to enjoy.

Yoyogi Park Shibuya Ward Tokyo
Yoyogi Park Shibuya Ward Tokyo

Unwind in Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi park is one of Tokyo’s largest and most popular parks, and it’s especially popular in the weekends. Yoyogi Park features paths that wind through the trees and across open spaces. These paths are excellent for walking, jogging, or long walks.

One of the simplest and most enjoyable activities in Yoyogi Park is picnicking. The park has vast lawns that are perfect for laying out a picnic blanket and enjoying some snacks or a meal under the trees.

And here’s a tip if you want a free performance too. On weekends, the park often becomes a venue for street performers, including musicians, dancers, and martial artists.

The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace
The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

Explore Tokyo Imperial Palace

The Imperial Palace is the primary residence of the Emperor of Japan and a place rich in history and greenery. While you can’t enter the palace buildings themselves, the Imperial Palace East Gardens is open to the public and free to enter.

Walk through beautifully maintained lawns, traditional Japanese gardens, and historical ruins, including the foundations of the former Edo Castle’s towers. It’s a great spot for walking, photography, and learning more about Japanese history.

Zojo-ji temple in Tokyo
Zojo-ji temple in Tokyo

See a Buddhist ritual at Zōjō-ji Temple

Head to Zōjō-ji Temple, which serves as the main temple of the Jōdo-shū (Pure Land) sect of Buddhism in the Kanto region.

Zōjō-ji holds regular Buddhist services that are open to the public. These services often include chanting, meditation, and sermons. While the specific schedule can vary, you can see the schedule posted at the entrance of the main hall.

Of course, even outside ritual times, visiting Zōjō-ji and its grounds is a great free experience. The temple complex includes beautiful gardens, historic gates, and the Tokugawa family mausoleum.

Admire art The National Art Center Tokyo

The National Art Center is a unique museum with no permanent collection.

The National Art Center is located in Roppongi, it stands out for its distinctive wavy glass facade designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa. It opened in 2007 and focuses on temporary exhibitions, some of which are entirely free of charge to the public.

And if it’s outdoor art you are after, take a walk around Aoyama/Omotesando district and admire all the unusual and very cool architecture including the SunnyHills, the Prada Aoyama building and the stunning Tokyu Plaza.

Views of Tokyo from Ebisu Sky Lounge and unobstructed views of Mount Fuji in the distance
Views of Tokyo from Ebisu Sky Lounge and unobstructed views of Mount Fuji in the distance

See Tokyo’s skyline from Garden Palace Tower

Garden Palace Tower is one of the best places to see Tokyo from above. Head to the Garden Palace Tower, a skyscraper located in Ebisu which offers unobstructed panoramic views of Tokyo from its 38th and 39th floors. There is a dedicated observatory called Sky Lounge, which you can access free of charge via the main elevators in the building.

The Sky Lounge is free to access and on clear days, you will see Mount Fuji.

Views from Tokyo Metropolitan building in Shinjuku by Hyunwon Jang
Views from Tokyo Metropolitan building in Shinjuku by Hyunwon Jang

Visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

A super popular attraction is The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku, which stands out for its distinctive architecture designed by Kenzo Tange.

The building has two towers, each with an observatory at a height of 202 meters, offering panoramic views of Tokyo. The North Observatory stays open later, making it a fantastic spot to see the city lights at night.

Entrance to Takeshita street in the Harajuku area, Shibuya ward
Entrance to Takeshita street in the Harajuku area, Shibuya ward

Go color crazy in Takeshita Street

Takeshita Street is an iconic pedestrian shopping street in Harajuku known for its colorful shops, trendy fashion shops, and fun snack vendors, open to everyone to walk through and explore without any entrance fee.

Exploring the diverse assortment of shops and taking in the lively vibes are all free. You can enjoy the energy and creativity of the place without spending a single yen.

Cory from You Could Travel exploring the neon streets in Shinjuku
Cory from You Could Travel exploring the neon streets in Shinjuku

See neon lights in Kabukicho

Kabukicho is Japan’s largest and wildest entertainment district, ideal for adult only experiences. However, I always say that Kabukicho is brilliant to watch but not touch. And yup, you guessed it, it’s free to do so.

Simply walking around Kabukicho at night is an experience in itself. The neon lights and bustling crowd create an atmosphere that’s uniquely Tokyo. The main draw of Kabukicho is its atmosphere, which costs nothing to enjoy.

Check out the giant Godzilla head hanging over the Toho Cinema building. It’s a great photo opportunity.

Don’t miss walking around Golden Gai. This area is known for its tiny, thematic bars packed into narrow alleys. Walking through the alleys is free and gives you a glimpse of Tokyo’s showa-era nightlife.

Nearby, Omoide Yokocho offers a look at Tokyo’s past with small eateries and yakitori stalls. Again, eating costs, but the experience of walking through and soaking up the atmosphere is free.

View from the top of Sunset stairs Yanaka Ginza
View from the top of Sunset stairs Yanaka Ginza

Check out Yanaka Ginza

Yanaka Ginza is a charming shopping street in Tokyo’s Yanaka neighborhood, part of the old Shitamachi district. Unlike modern Tokyo, this part of the city is more nostalgic with traditional shops, and a relaxed vibe.

Stroll through Yanaka Ginza and head to the sunset stairs for an iconic photo of the neighborhood. Walking through Yanaka Ginza, you’ll encounter traditional craft shops and street food vendors.

Don’t miss the Himalayan Cedar Tree, a large and iconic tree located in the Sanbochidana plot surrounded by temples on three sides. It was planted before World War II by the grandfather of the current owner of the Mikado Pan shop.

Visit SCAI The Bathhouse, a free to enter contemporary art gallery located just minutes away from Yanaka Ginza. The gallery was established in 1997 and is housed in a former public bathhouse, which was built in the early 20th century.

Views from Omohara Forest Tokyu Plaza Omotesando
Views from Omohara Forest Tokyu Plaza Omotesando

Stroll down Omotesando

Walking through Omotesando is a fun experience, especially for people who like fashion, architecture, and taking a leisurely stroll. This broad, zelkova tree-lined avenue, is often compared to Paris’ Champs-Élysées.

Alongside the main avenue, the side streets and alleys, like Cat Street, offer a more eclectic mix of smaller boutiques and vintage stores.

For unique free experiences, head to Omohara Forest, located on the 6th floor of Tokyu Plaza. Omohara Forest is a rooftop garden with lots and lots of greenery, and offers really great views of Omotesando from above.

One of my favorite places in Omotesando is the Gyre shopping mall, which has free art exhibitions. On the 4th floor, it features a cool terrace with views of Omotesando main street from above.

People walking around Tokyo Midtown during the Christmas illuminations
People walking around Tokyo Midtown during the Christmas illuminations

Photograph the winter illuminations

Christmas in Tokyo is incredible as the city dresses in tons of stunning winter illuminations. They can be found throughout Tokyo from November to February, adding warmth and sparkle to the colder months.

Tokyo Midtown in Roppongi is one of the best locations for winter illuminations. The Midtown Garden’s Starlight Garden is particularly charming, with its space-themed light displays and thousands of LEDs creating a dazzling cosmic experience.

You won’t want to miss the Roppongi Hills Keyakizaka Street, lined with trees, and adorned with lights. Most illuminations are themed and synchronized to music.

A few more key locations to see the winter illuminations: Shinjuku Minami Lumi and the terrace around the Southern Terrace and Odakyu Department Store are beautifully lit. Marunouchi Nakadori Avenue, is usually elegantly illuminated with champagne-gold lights.
Visit the Shibuya Blue Cave illumination, which takes place in December.

Kyobashi matsuri held in Nihonbashi, held October in Tokyo
Kyobashi matsuri held in Nihonbashi, held October in Tokyo

Join a local matsuri

A matsuri is a traditional Japanese festival which is a fantastic way to dive into history and culture. You’ll get involved in that community spirit that even Tokyites love. Festivals are held throughout the year in many parts of the city and celebrate everything from seasons to local deities.

Matsuris are free to attend because they’re community events, meant to bring people together. You don’t need a ticket, just show up and enjoy the festivities. They often feature elaborate floats and traditional music. You’ll see participants dressed in yukata (summer kimono) or happi coats.

Join in the dances or games if you get the chance. Many festivals have simple dances that the crowd can participate in, and it’s a lot of fun to be part of the action.

Tuna Auction held in Tokyo
Tuna Auction held in Tokyo

Watch the Tuna auction at Toyosu market

One of the most beloved things to do in Tokyo is watching the tuna action at Toyosu market. It used to be held at Tsukiji market before it moved in 2018.

Seeing the famed tuna action is entirely free of charge, but there is a bit of a caveat. You need to apply in advance to take part of the tour.

You need to submit an application form on the official government Toyosu market site. If there are a large number of applicants, participants will be chosen by lottery.

Nakameguro cherry blossoms in the evening
Nakameguro cherry blossoms in the evening

Stroll along Nakameguro canal

Nakameguro canal is one of the top cherry blossom spots in the whole of Tokyo. This picturesque canal is lined with hundreds of cherry trees that bloom spectacularly, creating a stunning canopy of pink and white flowers reflected in the water below.

It’s a great spot for photography lovers. Just know that this spot can get seriously busy during the sakura festival, so you’ll want to arrive as early in the morning as possible.

Japan Rail Pass

The optimal way to explore Japan is with a rail pass that is available for durations of 7, 14, or 21 days, offering unlimited travel across the country. Shinkansen included!

Frequently Asked Questions

How cheap can a trip to Tokyo be?

The estimated cost for an 8 day trip to Tokyo, including mid-range hotels, transportation within Japan, some experiences, a day trip to Hakone and portable wifi comes to $2,450/person. On top of this, we recommend around $50-100 per day allocated for food, other attractions and souvenirs.

Is 5 days enough in Tokyo?

Spending 5 days in Tokyo is a good amount of time to experience many of the highlights of Tokyo. In five days you will see several districts, including Shibuya, Shinjuku, Asakusa and Ginza. You will eat plenty of great Japanese food and even street food. You will visit the main attractions, temples, and shrines and can even have a day trip to Hakone or Enoshima island for a chance to see Mount Fuji.

Is Tokyo foreigner friendly?

Tokyo is generally very foreigner-friendly. The Japanese culture is known for its hospitality, and people in Tokyo are typically polite and helpful. If you’re lost or need help, don’t hesitate to ask someone. Even if they don’t speak English, they’ll often do their best to assist you. While the Japanese in Tokyo speak some English, please remember that the locals are more reserved in nature.
There is a lot of English signage around the city, especially in the subway and train stations, tourist spots, and major streets. Menus in restaurants often have pictures or English translations. There are several tourist information centres across Tokyo where staff can provide assistance in English and other languages. Many 7-Eleven and Lawson stores have ATMs that accept foreign cards, making it easy to withdraw yen.

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Cory from You Could Travel entering Senso-ji in Tokyo, Japan

Cory Varga – Cory is a published travel writer and award-winning photographer. She travels full time with her husband and is passionate about creating in-depth travel guides. Cory published her first book on Japanese customs and manners because she’s obsessed with everything Japan. She has visited hundreds of destinations and has lived in 7 different countries. Cory is multilingual and an alumna from The University of Manchester.


2 responses to “Awesome Free Things To Do in Tokyo”

  1. Select Villages Avatar
    Select Villages

    What a piece of information about Tokyo, I love the Tsukiji sea food market. It is my favorite place in whole Tokyo. Voted up for this post.

    1. I love Tsukiji so much!

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