Tokyo is one of the most exciting (and expensive) cities in the world. It is also Japan’s capital city and the most populous metropolis on Earth. Tokyo, formerly known as Edo, was a small castle town during the 16th century. When Tokugawa Ieyasu established his feudal government in Edo, it quickly became the one of the largest cities in the country.
The Meiji restoration of 1868 saw the move of the capital city to Edo as well as the emperor establishing his permanent residence in the city and was henceforth renamed Tokyo (Eastern Capital).
Odaiba sunset.| Emily Cole at KCP Flickr
Today, Tokyo is a favorite tourist destination and a prominent financial, shopping, and entertainment hub. It is also a haven for Japanese history and tradition.
Even if Tokyo is an expensive city, you can still experience so many of what it has to offer on a tight budget. Here are a few places to visit for free when travelling to Japan:
Get lost in the Imperial Palace gardens. The outer gardens are open to the public for most of the year. The East Garden is probably the most popular with its little bridges, grassy knolls, ponds, and flowering trees. Its gorgeous landscape reflects Japanese aesthetics. Most of the Palace’s administrative offices are located here, including the Imperial Tokagakudo Music Hall, the Archives, Mausolea Department Imperial Household Agency, and the Museum of the Imperial Collections.
Imperial Palace East Gardens. | Matthias Catón
Be enchanted in Harajuku. Harajuku is the Kawaii capital of Japan, is the center of Japanese fashion and youth culture where you can get unique shopping finds and have a great dining experience. Harajuku in Tokyo is the best place to see extreme Japanese pop culture come alive, as well as to appreciate some of the country’s historic sights, all in one place.
Explore Odaiba. Odaiba started out as six artificial fort islands made during the Edo period to protect Tokyo from sea attacks. Tokyo Governor Shun’ichi Suzuki began developing the islands, spending around 1 trillion yen. But it wouldn’t bear fruit until the late 1990s, when it became a leisure and tourist spot as well. By the 20th century, the fort islands had been expanded so that they could be used as a commercial and residential area.
Walk along Tokyo’s Sumida River. The Sumida branches out from the Arakawa River at Iwabuchi and flows directly into Tokyo Bay. It passes through the Tokyo wards of Kita, Adachi, Arakawa, Sumida, Taito, Koto, and Chuo. The river meanders for 27 kilometers and runs under 26 bridges which are spaced about a kilometer per bridge.
There are so many more things to see and do in Japan for free for any frugal traveller!
Sumida River.| Emily Cole at KCP Flickr