With sublime sushi, towering skyscrapers and vending machines that produce everything from umbrellas to ice cream, Tokyo is the planet's most exciting metropolis. Just wandering down the never sleeping, neon-lit streets can be enough to fill a vacation, but as the wanderer will soon find out, it be a major strain on the wallet. While there are many exciting things to do in Tokyo, they will almost all cost quite a bit. However, for those in the know, a trip to Japan's capital doesn't need to be expensive with so many free and cheap things to do in the city.
There are a surprising number of ways to eat cheaply in Tokyo. While the city has a vibrant street food scene that serves up some of the most authentic Japanese fare around, that isn't the only way to eat cheaply in the city. When looking for a reasonably priced restaurant, it is important to remember that the price of the restaurant is a reflection of what it costs to live there. Avoid high traffic neighbourhoods like Akihabara, Shinjuku or Ginza and rather opt for the cafes in blue collar neighbourhoods like Ikebukuro, Ueno or Senju. Visitors can also find decent deals around neighbourhoods like Yoyogi and Waseda that have a high concentration of students who go to the less prestigious universities in the city (i.e. not Tokyo University). Cafes are a great way to get an affordable and more professional meal, but don't be afraid to stop by the stalls and little shops nestled into the nooks and crannies for ramen, tempura, takoyaki or yakitori street food dishes.
Drinking on the Cheap
While Tokyo is a place you can buy affordable beer from vending machines, they are actually pretty hard to find. Besides, most travellers don't want to sit in their hotel drinking vending machine beer anyway. So when it comes to drinking cheaply, again, it is best to head to the blue collar or college districts of Tokyo. However, there is one exception and oddly enough it is train stations. Many Tokyo subway and train stations host little bars or bar/restaurant mixes to cater to the busy individuals that pass through there each night. While drinking with the overly-stressed business men and women who are grabbing a drink before the last train is only slightly less lonely than drinking alone back in the hotel room, it is still a unique look into Tokyo culture. Within many of the train stations of Tokyo's business hub, visitors can find affordable bars serving up beer, sake and other kinds of liquor to those in need of a cheap and fast drink.
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Visit a Temple
Tokyo is the beating heart of Japan financially and spiritually. Although at a glance it may not look like much more than urban sprawl, there are actually over a hundred temples and shrines nestled among its most peaceful areas. Meiji Shrine and Sensoji Temple are Tokyo's biggest tourist attractions, with the locals only visiting in mass on New Years to offer up prayers and get their fortunes for the new year. Visitors to these two spiritual places can enjoy the peaceful side of Tokyo with beautifully manicured gardens, tranquil koi ponds, traditional teahouses and some of the best maintained examples of Japan's traditional architecture. For those looking to get away from the tourist crowds, they can visit the massive bronze Buddha statue at Tennoji Temple, the traditional atmosphere to Togo Shrine, or the ancient splendor of Suwa Shrine.
Traveling On the Cheap
The cheapest and fastest way to get around the many neighbourhood and suburbs of Tokyo is to take the train. Buses are a good option for short travel and a cab will do in an emergency, but Tokyo is a big city and it will take you awhile, or in a cab's case, cost you a lot to see it through those mediums. Unfortunately, train travel in Tokyo is complicated due to the number of different trains operated by different companies that often don't do cross-company service. There is the JR line that travels around Tokyo's major districts and the subway that connects all of the districts, the monorail that does a wider circle and the bullet trains that go outside Tokyo. Each of these trains offer different day passes at affordable rates. Those that are sightseeing the major places should invest in the JR pass, which will get them most places, but single subway tickets will often provide the best value if visitors are going all over the place and rather infrequently.
Cheap Museum Admission
Museums in Tokyo, of which there are hundreds, usually charge around 200 to 500 yen for admission, which is pretty cheap but it is going to add up if visitors intend to visit a lot of them. Many museums host cheaper admissions on certain days (usually Fridays), but for those that intend on exploring a few museums should invest in a Grutt Pass. This 2000 yen pass provides free or discounted entrance to over 60 museums, zoos and aquariums in the city for two months. Visitors should use this pass to visit Meiji era artifacts at the Meiji Jingu Treasure Museum, the world's only parasite museum at the Meguro Parasitological Museum, or enjoy the works in the Tokyo National Art Centre.