Top 10 free things to do and see in Tokyo
Tokyo is not a cheap destination. Watch your expenses or burn a hole in your wallet. That being said, there are a lot of free things that you can do in this bustling Japanese capital and still have an awesome Tokyo experience!
1. Go up the observation deck of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
With 140 skyscrapers making up the skyline, Tokyo is a city with a mind-blowing aeriel view. Ascend to the observation deck of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building located in Shinjuku to feast your eyes with the free aerial view that it has to offer. If the day is clear, you can even see the snow-capped Mount Fuji from the observation deck.
As there's no time limit on how long you can stay, stay till sunset or even till night to enjoy the exuberant, neon-lit night view of Tokyo.
2. Wander around the romantic Tokyo University
Famous for its academic prowess, Tokyo University has produced 10 Nobel prize laureates and also 18 prime ministers of Japan. The university is so beautiful that countless movies, dramas, manga and anime series have used it as a filming location.
No! It's not like another university! If you haven't visited any other Japanese university before, make Tokyo University the first one as it really gives off a different feel of how universities are like in Japan compared to those in other countries.
3. Visit the man-made island, Odaiba
According to my host, Odaiba is the hotspot for Japanese couples to hang out. If you are here in summer, you can also enjoy a great view of the blooming hydrangeas by the bay of Odaiba.
In July, Odaiba is home to one of the largest fireworks shows in Japan. There are a lot of events all year round in Odaiba, so be sure to check what's happening at Odaiba before you go!
4. Catch a glimpse of the Shibuya crossing
With 100,000 crossing here everyday, Shibuya is officially the busiest crossing in the world. From above, it looks like a miniature mass migration.
For a terrific view, go to the nearby Starbucks cafe and take the window seat. Take an obligatory time-lapse while enjoying a cup of Matcha Latte from Starbucks!
5. Visit Sensoji at Asakusa
This gigantic temple is the most touristy place that I've been in Japan. Despite the hordes of tourists, I still think that Sensoji is a must-see attraction in Tokyo, as the architecture and the history are simply spellbinding.
Besides, Asakusa has a lot of other tourist attractions that are all located a stone throw away, such as the Tokyo Skytree. You can also window shop at the famous Nakamise street and buy some last-minute souvenirs for your loved ones. If you are interested, you can also try an Omikuji (paper fortune) to check your luck with a mere 100 yen. Don't get too upset if it says that you're not gonna get a partner forever though.
6. Head to the biggest fish market in the world
Tsukiji fish market is the biggest fish market in the world. It markets 660,000 TONNES of fish per year! This is heavier than the Burj Khalifa - the tallest building in the world!
If you are imagining Tsukiji as the typical fish market with an unbearable stench, fear not because it's actually one of the cleanest markets that I've been (and it doesn't smell). As the seafood in Tsukiji fish market is so fresh, you should have lunch at one of the sushi restaurants there. Try Tamagoyaki (rectangular egg) from the street vendors and it's gonna blow your mind. Also, Tsukiji fish market has a tuna auction every early morning. Grab your spots fast as there are only limited spots for tourists.
Sadly, Tsukiji fish market is moving due to 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I hope the relocation will make this fish market even better.
7. Visit Tokyo Dome
For some reasons, baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan. And Tokyo Dome is home to major baseball games in Japan. You can see fans lining up for tickets a day before the ticket counters are even open!
If you love thrill rides, there is an amusement park sitting right next to Tokyo dome.
8. Wander around the historical palace
Located on the former site of Edo Castle, the Imperial Palace is a short walk from Tokyo station. The palace was once destroyed during World War II, and that's why you can see some remnants lying around. You can access the site using Nijubashi bridge.
9. Visit Ueno Park
This is my personal favourite of all parks in Tokyo. It houses a few museums, a zoo, a cultural centre, a beautiful pond and some live performances! Grab something from the convenience store and have a picnic there!
10. Become an otaku in Akihabara
Otaku basically means obsessed, and in this context, it means "people with immense interest in Japanese animations", be it manga, anime, games and so on.
However, Akihabara is not only for these people! At Akihabara, you can see cosplayers, colourful signboards, maid cafes, ubiquitous gambling pachinkos and other things that you can never see out of Japan! Enjoy the lively vibe that Akihabara has to offer and also, be prepared for some culture shocks too!
On Sundays, the main road (Chuo Dori) is closed to car traffic. Wander around as you like and fear the busy traffic no more! Take that photo of you lying in the middle of the road (if you have no problem with passerby judging you all the time)!