Your Weekend Guide To Tokyo
Cheap hostels in Tokyo have an average price range from US$20 to US$40 per night. When you stay in Tokyo, why not try out one of the famous capsule hostels? Not only are they cheap, but they’re also a very “Tokyo-like” experience, with this one from Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel being located in the heart of the city, Shinjuku.
Or how about these cool hostels:
- The Bunka Hostel aims to bring its multicultural guests together and bond through Japanese culture. With a Japanese-style bar and veranda, this hostel wants to show its guest the beauties of the Japanese culture!
- For all coffee-lovers, Zabutton might be the place for you. Located in central Tokyo, it has its own coffee shop on the first floor. You have the choice of sharing the room with other guests or stay in a private, Japanese-styled room.
- The Nui. Hostel & Bar Lounge is close to Asakusa, one of the most famous sites in Tokyo. The old toy warehouse underwent a huge renovation and the result is this amazing backpacker hostel.
- Do you want to get the traditional Japanese guesthouse experience? The Tokyo Heritage Hostel might be just for you! You can choose between bunkbeds or tatami-rooms, but throughout the whole hostel you feel like you’re in a 1920 traditional guesthouse, which gives you time to breathe from the busy city of Tokyo.
The most used bill in Japan is the ¥1,000 bill, which is equivalent to around US$9 dollars. I would advise you always have one of these on hand for dining, but then it depends on how you want to indulge. You can get a cheap meal at the convenience stores such as Family Mart or 7/11 for ¥500, which fills you for the day, and the variety is great. If you want to eat out, sushi can get a bit pricy, but the Japanese cuisine is varied. Ramen, soba and curry shops will sell meals usually within your ¥1,000 bill limit.
If you want to cheer with a “kampai” to your day in Tokyo, again, the convenience store gives you a cheap alternative to the bar alternative. A pint of beer can cost you around ¥500 to ¥900, or US$5 to US$9.
The most convenient way to get around in Tokyo is via train. It is best to purchase right at the beginning of your trip a “Suica” or “Pasmo” card. These are rechargeable IC cards you need to get into the train station and can also pay for things with them at a variety of stores. You will find them at the same ticket centre you would buy a normal paper ticket. To get from one station costs around US$1.50 to US$3. To get a train from the airport to the city centre costs around US$27. The price for a 3km taxi ride ranges from US$8 to US$12 dollars. But the great news is, at all train ticket centres and inside every taxi there are English instructions, and everyone is open to helping you get the best ticket for your travel plans.
MONEY SAVING TIPS:
A great way to save money is to make the nearest convenience store your friend. You will save a lot of money if you stock up on the rice balls for breakfast like the locals and buy your coffee there, instead of Starbucks. But they really do have a variety of foods, snacks, drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) and even have a fresh display of foods every day.
If you want to save even more money on your snacks, try out the pharmacies. They are almost everywhere like the convenience stores, and have a great offer on snacks. Or stock up in the supermarket and bring the food with you.
If you want to save some coins for entertainment and want to enjoy your time, note that if you want to go see a movie there is a “cinema day”. All big chains (like Toho Conemas, Aeon Cinemas and United Cinemas) offer on the first day of every month a special price for ¥1,100 instead of ¥1,800. Or, if you want to watch a movie later than 8pm, you will get ¥500 knocked off the price of each movie as well. Alternatively, you can attend Wednesday’s Ladies Day and get ¥700 off your movie tickets!
There are also discounts at the amusement parks! That is, if you’re okay with entering after 3pm or 6pm, when parks including Tokyo Disneyland and Disneysea have a cheaper entrance fee. Check the venue’s website for the cheapest deals and to stay up-to-date on special events they’re hosting!
If you are strolling through the colourful and vivid Harajuku, fashion paradise and centre of artistic expression, you almost won’t believe that a few metres away is a little paradise of calmness and nature. The most famous Shinto shrine in Tokyo will make you feel like you’ve entered a different world in the middle of the city, and you can write a wish on a little piece of paper and hang it onto the prayer wall. It is a wonderful spot to take a breath and appreciate the environment. If you visit on a Sunday, you will have a high chance of witnessing a traditional wedding through the courtyard!
Shinjuku – Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
If you don’t want to spend money at Tokyo Tower to get a fantastic view of Tokyo, try out the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. Located in Shinjuku, it gives a free escalator ride up to the observation decks with a breathtaking panoramic view – for free! You can see Mount Fuji, the Skytree, Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Dome and the Meiji Shrine. Here’s how you get there:
Shibuya – Shibuya Crossing.
Japan’s most famous intersection is located outside Shibuya Station. Every time the lights switch to green, you will find yourself among so many people – so much so that it is highly possible you’ll forget which direction you originally wanted to go! Having all those people around you is an electrifying feeling and, if you look around, you will find yourself surrounded by skyscrapers, neon advertising signs and screens. It is a whole different experience when you watch the spectacle from the Starbucks next to the crossing, and as my friend described it: “I can’t believe we were ants like them five minutes ago!” It is definitely a great place to go, not only for its many shops, restaurants and bars, Shibuya is full of free museums and exhibitions you will discover while you’re exploring the district.
Asakusa is a beautiful neighbourhood where you can find everything – shops, restaurants and the famous Senso-ji Temple. It was once Tokyo’s largest pleasure district, where geishas, gangsters, artists and beggars filled the streets. It got destroyed in WWII, but the revitalization afterwards made the neighbourhood into a unique area with a lot of atmosphere. You will enjoy strolling around the area! Close to the Senso-ji Temple is Nakamise Dori, a colourful shopping avenue where you can find cute and unique souvenirs and delicious street food. Did I mention in Asakusa there is also the oldest amusement park in Japan? It’s called Hanayashiki and is located in the middle of Asakusa. And who knows, while you explore, you might spot a Geisha!
LOOK OUT FOR…
There are three great sumo tournaments that take place on the first 15 days of January, May and September. You can watch these at Tokyo’s National Sumo Hall at Ryogoku Kokugikan. If you’re not in Tokyo for the tournament season, you can still catch a glimpse of this fascinating and intense sport at an early-morning training session at a “beya” (a sumo stable). Here is a list for the sumo stables that you can check out. It is definitely an experience you will get only in Japan and when you see the sumo’s train you get a feeling of their strength and the pride they take in their sport.
Studio Ghibli Museum.
Many know and love the movies created by Hayao Miyazaki. His studio’s movies – the likes of which include Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke and Howl’s Moving Castle – were a huge part of our childhood. The museum lets you dive in into the fantastic world of these magical movies and gives you an insight in their creation process. It is located in Mitaka and takes around three hours to complete. It’s full of exciting exhibitions and, at the end, you even get to see an exclusive short film by Hayao Miyazaki.
This wonderful garden is in Koraku, and is among Tokyo’s most popular gardens. What makes it so special is the famous combination of history and modernity that Japan embodies. The garden was established in the 17th century by the Tokugawa clan and includes Chinese and Japanese landscaping elements. When you will enter, you will spot the Tokyo Dome in the scenery. The Full-Moon Bridge inside dates back even to the early Edo period, and the scenery will cast you a few centuries back in history.
Look out for this modern Atlantis on your trip to Tokyo! It is a great place to spend the evening as it’s right next to downtown Tokyo. The atmosphere is indescribable; filled with entertainment, architecture and restaurants. The scenery includes the impressive Fuji TV Building, Panasonic Center and the Tokyo Big Sight – plus Tokyo’s stunning shopping malls. The view of downtown’s eye-catching skyline across the water will leave a lasting impression on you which you will love to remember through a few hundred pictures. If you visit at night, you will get a fantastic view of the Rainbow Bridge to give you a glorious finish of your day.
- Japan is famous for its love for Karaoke – and you’ll soon see why! Tokyo’s karaoke venues are a fun place to be and to let your inner SingStar out!
- Maid Café. If you want to try out something very unique to Japan, go to a Maid Café. You will wonder most of the time what is going on, but it won’t take you long to be infected by the good mood of the well-dressed waitresses and sing along with them when they serve you your super-cute food. I promise you will have an unforgettable experience!
- My all-time favourite Japanese dessert. There are lots of small shops around Tokyo that sell the delicious fried pastry in form of a fish, filled with sweet red bean paste, chocolate or custard. Not only is it super insta-worthy, but it’s also so satisfying for your sweet tooth.
- Japan is the Nation Of Fish, as described by my Japanese friend. And that’s probably the reason why it’s sushi is so delicious – but also why it can get very pricey. But that doesn’t mean you should miss out on it! That’s why Tokyo offers great alternatives through restaurants like “Hamazuchi”, where you not only get served by a robot and get your Sushi delivered on an assembly line, but you pay per plate for a very cheap price. It’s a must-do!