Tokyo can be very overwhelming when you first arrive, especially with all the talk that it is so expensive. So, I thought I would give you guys some recommendations, tell you where I stayed, and what places are good to explore that are budget friendly while being amazing at the same time!
The area that I stayed in was perfect for a broke traveller like me. We were in the area ‘Taito’ at a hostel called ‘Tokyo Hostel’. The staff were very friendly and everything was kept clean and maintained. It’s not one of those ‘5 star’ hostels, but has a real welcoming, homely feeling which was lovely in a non-English speaking city! They have the usual facilitates like a kitchen which is great If you have limited funds. If you can cook a few meals yourself then you will save heaps on your bank account! There’s even a massage chair and a bull riding machine which weirdly, seemed to be everywhere I looked in Tokyo! Also, this hostel was one of the cheapest that I found on all the accommodation websites, so I also think it was a bargain. Be warned Tokyo hostels are quite a bit more expensive than what you would normally pay for a hostel in the rest of Asia and maybe even Europe.
Ueno station, which is one of the main train stations, is how we went on the subway to see everything, and was only about a 30 minute walk. There is a station called Minowa which is a 10 minute walk from the hostel and links to Ueno, so if you are feeling lazy, or if you have luggage then it’s a good idea to use this station to get to Ueno and then catch another train to wherever you would like to be in the centre.
Near Ueno station there is so much to see as well! There’s a huge street market selling fresh food, clothes and jewellery, anything you could think of they sold it, which was sometimes disturbing *shivers*. They had a huge, beautiful park which would just about take you an entire day to look around. Also, in there was a zoo with two beautiful Pandas!! This was the first time I had ever seen Pandas before so you could say I was quite excited! At 600 Yen it was quite cheap, however lately I have stopped supporting zoos, and would rather have seen them in the wild! We spent a good 4 hours there and we actually ran out of time and had to rush to see everything. There are also a massive amount of toy vending machines across from the station (if that was ever something on your bucket list?), and when I mean massive I mean there’s hundreds of them… there are some seriously bizarre toys. I bought one that looks like an angry cat which sticks to my phone and stands it up. Have I ever used it? No, but I feel it was totally worth it!
The Senso-ji Temple is not far away at all from the hostel. It is one of the most popular temples in Japan! We had a great time looking around here and trying to understand what the heck was going on. Like the ‘cleansing of the soul’ smoke which we had no idea what it was until we actually read a guide book. We also got a prediction of our future here! You donate 100 Yen and you take a box, shake it and wish for what you would like. Then a stick would fall out of the box with a symbol on it. You then match the symbol up with the symbol on the draws and take your paper fortune, which is yours to keep. If you get a bad fortune then you are advised to tie it to the wire rack nearby so it will not come true! Thankfully I got a ‘normal’ fortune so I kept it and put it into my travel diary.
For a day trip, you can take the Yamanote line (bright green colour) to Harajuku, and spend the day walking down the famous narrow shopping street looking at the ‘cute’ stores, and gawking at the strangely fascinating fashion. ‘Over the top’ and confident would be some of the key words to explain the fashion. You have probably seen the Harajuku girls in the music videos that came out years ago by Gwen Stefani.
In that area there is also the Meiji Shrine and the surrounding Yoyogi Park. If you go on a Sunday you are likely to see a Japanese wedding in action. Luckily we timed it perfectly and I got to see a family posing for wedding photos and got some great shots of the beautiful bride. The park is very relaxing to walk around and is basically a dense beautiful forest.
On an afternoon or a morning trip I can suggest taking a train to the main Tokyo station (Business District). To be honest I didn’t think there was much to see here which is why I wouldn’t allow the whole day for this. We saw the Emperor’s palace and surrounding buildings which were beautiful but everything around the business district is really expensive. So, if you want to eat then I suggest you go out of the centre of Tokyo, maybe take a picnic with you if you plan to spend the day here!
Another idea for a day trip would be to check out Shinjuku. Instead of a day thing we went at night after visiting Harajuku so we could see the famous crossing with thousands of people weaving around each other. I tried Shabu-Shabu (Japanese hot pot) for the first time which was amazing and very fulfilling! Shinjuku is also famous for their electronics and that is very visible from the overly large TV screens planted all down the main street.
I hope this gave you some ideas on things to do if you’re on a tight budget like I always am! There’s always free things to do in a city just read my guide on 10 things to do in London if you don’t believe me! Check out Hostelworld if you fancy booking a night or 5 into Tokyo Hostel.