Tokyo: How to Spend 7 days in Tokyo for $100

So here’s a fact:
“Tokyo has the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.”

What does this have to do with how to spend a week in Tokyo with only $100? It doesn’t, really. I just need an introduction and this piece of information seems like a good way to annoy you Broke Tourists out there – by pounding in the fact that you can’t afford to even consider dining at these restaurants with your meager budget.


Prior to Arrival

First things first

Just like I had pointed out in the 7 Days in NYC for $100 article, the only way you can possibly make this happen on budget is if your accommodation is free. Besides Couchsurfing, there are multiple other hospitality networks to tap into when you’re trying to find a host. To name a few: Hospitality ClubGlobal Freeloaders, and Servas.

Before leaving the comfort of your home and heading to Japan, it’s best to arm yourself with the free app provided by the Nippon Telegraph & Telephone East Corporation (NTT East) called NAVITIME for Japan Travel. Besides having features like a train map, transit search, map with GPS, and points of interest, the app also allows users to do an offline search of free nearby Wi-Fi hotspots. The reason I suggest you get this prior to arrival is because free wi-fi is difficult to come by in Tokyo in general. BUT! Starting February this year, NTT East has been offering app users the ability to obtain an ID and password to use their free Wi-Fi network for two weeks with no charge! (Apply for this prior to entering the country.)

You should also book reservations for a few other free services in Tokyo. These include sumo wrestler traininga guided tour of the Imperial Palace, and having a local Tokyoite as a personal tour guide.

Also, know that if you’re visiting Tokyo during your birthday, you can get free entry and freebies at Tokyo Tower & Tokyo Joypolis.



NYC: Budget Left - Start



Day 0 – Sunday (Arrival)

Getting into town

First things first, Tokyo Narita Airport isn’t exactly in Tokyo. In fact, it’s almost 60 kilometers away. This meansan expensive and long commute into the city. I can help with the expensive part as long as you’re willing to put up with a longer commute. There are multiple avenues to get to town; the cheapest is via Tokyo Shuttle Bus. It costs ¥1,000 and takes approximately 90 minutes. The buses run every hour.

Once in Tokyo, you’ll have to take either the train and/or subways to your host’s place. With two different subway operators (Tokyo Metro and Toei), one railway company (JR) and other private line operators, navigating your way can seem daunting. Just keep in mind that the less you change between different operators on a single journey, the cheaper your trip. The fare depends on which stop you’re taking the metro to (roughly, it should be less than ¥250.)

Food…Let’s be honest, it is mission-impossible to fit sushi and sashimi into the budget. I can, however, make sure you won’t starve to death. Throughout Tokyo, you’ll be able to find many 100-yen shops. Everything in there costs ¥100 (well, technically ¥108 after tax), including food. I personally recommend Dorayaki for breakfast. It’s a typical Japanese red bean pancake. Not exactly the healthiest, but it’s satisfying. Dorayaki found in 100-yen shops are almost double the size of the ones found in convenient stores (and costs 2/3 the price!)

Onigiri is another cheap and good option. It’s a traditional, portable rice ball that comes in either oval or triangular shape, often wrapped in seaweed. Onigiri with various fillings and flavors are available in all convenience stores in Tokyo. They run roughly ¥150 each.

I’ll recommend more cheap meals later, but let’s just say we’re budgeting ¥550/day on food. An extra tip: tap water in Tokyo is safe to drink.

BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥1,250 / USD $12.50 (Transportation), ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)


Day 1 – Monday

Hacking Tokyo 

Government Observatories

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Okay… from transportation alone the day before, just getting around Tokyo isn’t cheap. At this rate, your $100 budget definitely won’t make it. Fear not, my friend, fear not! Head over to 1-25 Asakusa (Tel: 03-3845-7555) in the Taito neighbourhood (nearest station: Asakusa Station on Tsukuba Express Line). There, you can rent a bicycle for 7 days for ¥1,200. Voila! Your transportation is then taken care of for the week, for cheap too! Remember that NAVITIME for Japan Travel app that I suggested to download prior to arriving in Tokyo? It will come super handy to help you navigate around the city. You’re welcome!

Now, armed with your bike, start your Tokyo exploration by getting a birds-eye view of the city itself. While Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Skytree are the two obvious places to do this, they cost a pretty penny. We’ll go with the free option: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Observatories. Perched up on the 45th floor of the twin buildings, the two observatories (north and south) grant visitors a superb panorama of Tokyo. On a clear day, it’s even possible to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji. Also, since it’s free, it may be worth your while to visit in the evening as well. The observatories close at 11pm.

Not far from the observatories is the Meiji Jingu Shrine. It’s located in a large forested area with a massive torii gate, with 1,500-year-old cypress marking its entrance. This Shinto shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his consort Empress Shoken. Many of the trees you see in the park were donated by people from all over Japan and overseas to commemorate the late King. Admission to the main shrine is free although there are other parts, like the treasure house and the inner garden, that charge a fee.

Tokyo is a city full of juxtapositions. This is especially apparent when you step out of the park and cross the street to get to Harajuku. Gone is the tranquility. Find yourself instead in the hustle and bustle of capitalism to the max. Harajuku is infamous as a center of Japanese youth culture where fans and aficionados of Japanese street fashion and associated cultures gather.

Spend the rest of your day either people watching in Harajuku, or meet up with your volunteer guide and have him/her show you around. Some other obscure things to do in the area include: picking up safety skills during earthquakes at the Tokyo Fire Department Life Safety Learning Center or learning about Japan’s awesome fire and rescue system at the Tokyo Fire Museum. After all, Japan is prone to earthquake and earthquake causes fire. Just saying…

Food tip for the day: Depachika’s free food sampling. Depachika is a contraction of the words Depato (department store) + Chika (basement). As the name suggests, depachikas can be found in the basements of many department stores in Japan. It’s a heavenly floor filled with all the food your heart could desire. Walk your way through the different booths for many free tastings.



BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥1,450 / USD $14.50 (Transportation), ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)


Day 2 – Tuesday

A fishy start

Tsukiji Fish Market

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Tsukiji wholesale market in central Tokyo is best known for its fish markets and its tuna auction. The number of visitors allowed for the tuna auction is limited to 120 person per day. Split into two groups, the first group of 60 visitors is admitted from 5:25am to 5:50am, while the second group from 5:50am to 6:15am. The free admission is on first-come, first-serve basis. Normally, you’d have to take a cab to go there because the Tokyo metro system doesn’t run that early. But hey, you got your bike! Problem solved.

After the fish market, bike your way north while hitting up a few interesting spots along the way. The Advertising Museum Tokyo (ADMT) is a high-tech and interactive museum covering the historical progress of advertising and marketing from early 18th century woodblock prints to today’s multi-million advertising campaigns. On the other side of Tokyo Expressway from the museum is the space-age  Nakagin Capsule Tower. The building has 140 prefabricated capsules that were fitted into a main concrete core. Although it started out as a bold architectural feat, the tower has now fallen into disrepair. It still, however, makes a good photo op.

If all the biking is making your thirsty, stop by Free Cafe Harimaya Station. When it first opened, this free cafe in Ginza, run by a traditional cracker maker Harimaya, offered free rice cracker treats as well as drinks (coffee, green tea and juice). They now charge for crackers, but drinks are still free. Drop in for their freshly grounded coffee and roasted green tea.

One of the landmark in the Ginza district is the Sony Building. It features a variety of shops, showrooms and restaurants. Among these are the Sony Showroom, which is free to enter. If you’re a tech-geek, you can geek out at the latest Sony gadgets and get a hands-on experience with every one of them. Many of the products here are strictly sold in Japan.

If you’re more of a financial wall-street type, visit instead the Tokyo Stock Exchange. Be warned that the TSE is pretty much run with technology these days so there isn’t much going on even during the trading hours. English tours and simulated stock trading games are offered at 1:30pm everyday. If interested, reserve one day prior. Another money-related site nearby worth visiting is the Bank of Japan Currency Museum. There you’ll find a collection ancient to modern Japan currencies, as well as other materials related to money in general such as wallets and lottery tickets.

Regardless of whether you’re a geek or a finance type, if you’re in Tokyo, you have to check out Akihabara, the Electric Town at night. After World War II, it became a major shopping center for household electronic goods and the post-war black market. Today, it is an otaku cultural center and a shopping district for video games, anime, manga and computer goods.

BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)



Day 3 – Wednesday

Empire of the Sun

Imperial Palace Tour

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The Imperial Palace Grounds in Tokyo is located in what was originally the site of the Edo castle. The grounds are now home to many offices, as well as the residence of the Emperor of Japan. Visitors are welcome to join free, hour-long guided tours. Prior online reservations are necessary through the official website but you should have done this as part of your pre-arrival homework.

To continue on the political theme, head over to the Japanese Imperial Diet for another free tour. The Diet is housed in a landmark pyramid-domed building. When no governmental meeting is in session on weekdays, the Diet guards escort visitors to parts of the establishment including the Emperor’s Room. The tour runs on the hour and each lasts about 60 minutes. No reservation necessary.

In the afternoon, you can either visit temples or check out an artsy scene. For the former, head over to Atago Shrine and Zozoji Temple. With its steep stairs leading to the Atago Hill representing hard work and success, the Atago Shrine attracts college graduates and corporate climbers alike. Zozoji Temple is famous for one of its garden at the cemetery where rows of stone statues are found decorated with small clothing and toys. These statues are gifts for Jizo, the guardian of unborn children, to ensure that they are brought to the afterlife.

For the latter activities, head over to Espace Louis Vuitton and Only Free Paper. At Espace Louis Vuitton’s 7-floor building, find free rotating art exhibition on display throughout the year. At Only Free Paper, find free papers and magazines covering a wide variety topics. The store is also located in the middle of one of the trendiest area in Tokyo – at the end of “Cat Street” in Shibuya.

Whichever activities you ended up choosing, be sure not to miss one of the world’s most recognizable intersections –  Shibuya Crossing. For the best view, go to the Starbucks on the second floor of a building by the intersection. Also, don’t miss the statue of Hachiko! It’s a monument dedicated to a Japanese Akita dog from the beginning of the 20th century, known for his unwavering loyalty. The plaza where it’s located is a popular meeting spot in Tokyo.

A trick to cheaping it out on food is to crash a university’s cafeteria. Do so at Waseda University’s Okuma Garden House. During lunchtime, you can get a medium-sized curry set for under ¥200.

In the evening, choose between a few night scenes: Ruby Room clubbing, OATH dance parties, or What The Dickens pub scenes. Each has its own twist, but none charge a cover.



BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)


Day 4 – Thursday

Plastic Tokyo


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Situated in the east of central Tokyo by the bay is a large artificial island of Odaiba. It was built upon what was originally a set of man-made fort islands of the Edo Period. In the 1980′s, a massive development project was undertaken to make Odaiba what it is today, a popular shopping and entertainment district.

Odaiba is connected to mainland Tokyo by Rainbow Bridge. Biking across the bridge is forbidden. However, you’re allowed to walk your bike across with wooden boards attached to the tires. The bridge has two separate walkways. The north side of the deck offers views of Tokyo skyline, with Tokyo SkyTree (the world’s second-tallest structure) and Tokyo Tower. The south side offers views of Tokyo Bay, Daiba park, and Mount Fuji (on a clear day). The walk across Rainbow Bridge is about 1.7 kilometers ,which can be easily done within an hour.

Once you make it to the island, there’s no shortage of free things to do. You’ll find everything from a space-age Fuji TV Building, an 18th-century South European themed mall, a scale-copy of Statue of Liberty and a massive Gundam robot. Other free, worthwhile attractions are the Panasonic Center, Museum of Maritime Science, Toyota Megaweb and Rainbow Sewerage Museum.

If you’re still on the island in the evening, be sure to check out the Gundam bot lit up with a dramatic projection on the backdrop (7:30pm, 8:30pm, 9:30pm for 11 minutes; 8pm & 9pm for 2 minutes). While waiting for the light show, drop in on Gundam Front Tokyo theme park. Although most of the features in the theme park charge admission, a few areas are free. One of these is the Gunpla section where over 1,000 kinds of Gundam plastic models manufactured since 1980 are on display.

A cheap dinner option is Yoshinoya. This chain stores may already be familiar to a lot of you since they have locations in many Asian countries as well and Australia and United States.



BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)


Day 5 – Friday

Big in Japan

Sumo Stable

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Sumo is quintessentially Japanese. To learn about this sport, it’s possible to attend a sumo training session, or an “asageiko,” in one of the many sumo stables or “beya.” Many companies charge tourists a fee for the opportunity to visit a sumo stable, but it can be done for free. Some of the sumo stables, mostly located in the Ryogoku and Kiyosumi areas, welcome visitors to view their morning practice (which usually starts at around 5:30am – 10am.) Schedule an appointment to visit an asageiko by calling a day in advance.

Follow up your sumo knowledge with a visit to the Sumo Museum. It’s located on the first floor of the Ryogoku Kokugikan (the largest indoor sumo hall in Tokyo.) This small museum is dedicated to the history of sumo, particularly artifacts and ceremonial clothing. Admissions is free when tournaments aren’t in session.

In the afternoon, check out the nearby Tokyo Restoration Memorial Museum. The museum hall exhibits collection of photographs and articles related to the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923 and the World War II air raids. Many lives were lost during these two disasters. Adjoining the museum is a memorial hall where all the unclaimed bodies are put to their final resting place in the temple pagoda.

For a less morbid attraction, there are the offbeat Stationery Museum, Origami Museum, and a tech geeks’ temple – Kanda Myojin. This shrine has become the place in town for the tech crowd to connect with their spiritual side. Instead of the predictable embroidered cloth bags, Kanda Myojin offers their charms in the form od stickers that look like computer hardware. They come in three separate pieces: a credit-card-sized one for the wallet, a medium-sized sticky strip for the computer, and a tiny SD-card-shaped sticker for the mobile phone. Geek of the world can now rejoice for never again will their ID’s be stolen nor their gadgets go bonkers.

For dinner, try the working-man noodle shop – Hako Soba.These cheap soba joints run on an automatic food ticket vending machine system. Unfortunately, the buttons of the machine are only in Japanese. The cheapest options are likely to be the basic dishes of kake or kitsune soba.



BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)


Day 6 – Saturday

Do as the Japanese Do

Nogawa Park

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There are a few alternatives for how to spend your day today depending on your situation. If you’re catching an early flight tomorrow, I recommend you simply skip to the itinerary for tomorrow.

If not, then consider spending a relaxing day in the outskirt of Tokyo. Nogawa Park is located in the western part of central Tokyo, about a 50-minute train ride from Shinjuku. On summer weekends, find locals picnicking and BBQing in the park. Transportation costs approximately ¥490 one way. If you’re positive about your stamina, try biking and spend the money on snacks for your picnic instead!

Coming back from a day out in the nature, you can wash the dirt and sweat away and soak in a hot bath in a Japanese onsen (hotspring). Jakotsuyu (1-11-11 Asakusa, Taito-ku) is an establishment found in the center of Asakusa and has been around since the Edo period. It’s extremely affordable at ¥450. Enjoy the painting of Mt. Fuji that looms over the interior of the bathing area. Do bring the necessary toiletries to avoid extra rental charges.

In the case that you don’t have your accommodation sorted out for the night, skip the picnic and the onsen because you’ll need the money for a place to stay. The cheapest, and perhaps the most interesting, way is to stay at an “internet cafe”. KaraNet24 is a nine-story building in Shibuya where broke tourists, young runaways, divorced husbands, homeless, jobless, and drunk businessmen crash in the evening. Basically, for ¥1500, you can get a tatami room that you’ll be able to sleep in, while also enjoy all the amenities: unlimited internet, karaoke, and manga.

For dinner, consider Hanamaru Udon. Similar to Yoshinoya, Hanamaru Udon is essentially another fast-food chain where you can have a sit-down meal of udon, soba, curry or beef ricebowl.



BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food), ¥1000 / USD $10.00 (Transportation), ¥450 / USD $4.50 (Entertainment)


Day 7 – Sunday

Leave your heart in Tokyo

Sensoji Temple

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Since it’s your last day in Tokyo, which is also the last day of your bike rental, make your way back to the Asakusa district. This neighborhood is chock full of things and places that are quintessentially “old” Tokyo. The most famous of which is the colorful Sensoji Temple. This Buddhist Kannon temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo, dating back to 645 AD.

The main entrance of the temple is through the Kaminarimon (Thunder Gate). Near the Kaminarimon is a newly built Asakusa Tourist Center. This stunning structure is designed by a renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma and it looks not unlike the bathhouse straight off the anime Spirited Away. While you’re there, also inquire about the free Panda Bus that takes you around the neighborhood towards Skytree complex and the free Asakusa Walking Tour (11am & 1:15pm).

Leading up from the gate to the Sensoji Temple is a shopping street of over 200 meters called Nakamise. Vendors sell everything from Buddhist paraphernalia to assorted tourist kitsch. There are also plenty of food vendors. However, if you’d rather save your money to spend on souvenirs, then grab a cheap and hearty lunchbox from Paku Paku Bento Box at only ¥250 each.

If your schedule allows, consider visiting a few spots around Asakusa. Just on the west of Sensoji Temple is the Kappabashi-dori, a.k.a. Kitchen Town. It’s a street in Tokyo almost entirely devoted to shops selling kitchen wares. As an offbeat tourist attraction, the Kitchen Town is famous for its fake plastic food replicas called Sampuru. The name Kappabashi-dori is derived from the Japanese folklore creature, Kappa, that used to be prevalent in the neighborhood back in the days. When walking down the street, find images and statues of Kappa that has become the mascot of the area. Learn more about Kappa at the Sogenji Kappa-dera Temple.

An alternative is to visit the Imado Jinja Shrine on the north of Sensoji. If you’re out of love and out of luck, this top love shrine in Tokyo is the place to visit. Furthermore, Imado Jinja also claims to be the origin of the “Maneki Neko” of the “Beckoning Lucky Cat”. At the shrine, you can find a statue of two cats, male and female, joined together in their beckoning pose. Having your photo taken with the statue is considered lucky. Whatever your thing is, be it love, luck or you’re simply a cat lover, it will be a good way to end your cheapo Tokyo trip.

Note: Do remember to spare ¥1,450 for your commute back to Narita airport!



BUDGET SPENT FOR THE DAY: ¥550 / USD $5.50 (Food)¥1,450 / USD $14.50 (Transportation)



Article - Tokyo - End

For more free things to do in Tokyo:


Article by Elys Muda
Photo credit: Morio (Wikimedia Commons)




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