Before coming to Japan, one of the first things people warned me about was how expensive everything is – to which I’ve quickly come to discover, they were right. Unfortunately, being a major city, Tokyo turned out to be just as expensive as people warned, however, not in the way I was necessarily expecting it to be.
Essentially, I was anticipating spending all of my money on clothes, shoes, and other entertainment related goods, but to my surprise, most – if not all – of my money went to food and travel expenses. Not to say the food here is expensive – it’s actually quite the opposite. Most food purchases can be made at any local convenient store for no more than five dollars, the only bad part is convenient stores are almost too local. I routinely stop in and purchase a snack or two of some sorts (typically melon bread), which has quickly depleted my money supply.
I knew I had to break my bad habits of making daily trips to convenient stores and limit my travels to just the weekends. Looking back on my experiences adjusting to life in Tokyo, I would have benefited greatly from knowing how to spend my money more wisely on inexpensive fun and more substantial (and filling) meals. Luckily, after getting adjusted to Japanese life, I’ve been able to find fun places to go and cheap places to eat that are relatively cheap, affordable, and won’t suck your wallet dry.
First off, if you're looking for a place to hang out with friends that is easy and fun, local game centers are the way to go. Not only are these places hard to miss – as they are typically large, red buildings with the sign “game” plastered on the front – but these massive giants have multiple floors, each containing various types of amusement, able to satisfy even the pickiest of gamers. What’s more, each game typically costs around 200 to 300-yen, which is around $2.50 a game. In my opinion, this is a small price to pay for the amount of fun a person can have for one game alone.
And ladies, don’t worry! If gaming isn’t your thing, there is an entire floor dedicated solely to purikura – which is essentially a Japanese version of a photo booth. Basically, for around four dollars, you and your friends can get high quality photos taken. And, for a small fee, you can dress up in various costumes ranging from an adorable tiger to a dedicated flight attendant.
Aside from common game centers, there are also local parks such as Yoyogi and Setagaya, located about ten minutes away from the heart of Harajuku. These natural playgrounds are the perfect place to go and enjoy nature and spend time talking with friend. The best part is, it’s completely free.
Ideally, to make parks more of an enjoyable daytime activity, stopping at nearby convenient stores to gather some tasty snacks is always a good idea. Essentially, some sun, a cold refreshing drink, and quality conversation is all one needs. As an added bonus, Yoyogi Park and Harajuku are optimal places to spend a few hours because they are both about a ten-minute walking distance from Shibuya.
And while I highly recommend doing some of the aforementioned activities with friends, these are just a few suggestions on ways to have fun in Tokyo while being on a budget. There are many different things to see and do in Japan and knowing how to save money wherever you can helps make the experience a little more enjoyable. Happy saving!