I cannot BELIEVE I haven’t done one of these recently! They are SO much fun to do! And today it’s big grandaddy of them all – Tokyo! The Japanese capital, with it’s colour and history. I figure, it shouldn’t be too hard because frankly there is so much to see and do you can pick and choose and if we only have two days we can keep it to the cheaper – or even better – free things to do! And with Japan there are always parks and temples – if that interests you – or even just hanging in some of the different parts of Tokyo can really be great because it’s varied and interesting. So anyways, I feel like I am almost starting at the middle here.
So let’s start at the rules. We have $200USD to spend in Tokyo for 48 hours. But it’s not quite ’48 hours’, it’s the best part of two full days, and one night. Which means we fly into Tokyo early in the morning of Day One, and fly out on the evening of Day Two, thus meaning we only need to pay for one night’s accommodation. Flights are NOT included in the $200, so we could be flying in from anywhere and flying out, likewise, to anywhere.
So our first thing to set down will be the accommodation, the most vital part because this is what takes the biggest amount out of the budget. You might like to stay in a four-star hotel, but that will certainly set you back $150 or maybe more. So we need to look at alternatives, and so I am going to suggest and look into something I have considered in the past but never actually tried before, and that’s a Capsule Inn!
I’ve had a look at a few choices and they aren’t as cheap as you might think. One of the cheapest looks to be the Shinjuku Kuyakusho-mae Capsule Hotel, although there are huge discounts right now I think it’s possible to get a bed for around $60USD to $70USD. The place actually looks pretty nice online with a bathhouse (only for men) and of course, it looks super clean. So why not try a Capsule Inn in the country they originated in? Otherwise a dorm bed you can probably get cheaper, but not very cheap.
I stayed at the Sakura Hotel in Jimbocho which as I write in March is listed as under $50USD, which is around what I paid in 2011 for a basic single with shared bathroom. It’s a classic basic hotel in Japan where in the lobby you can buy noodles from a vending machine and add boiling water and you’re sorted! It was absolutely fine and clean enough. And had a crack on my wall presumably from the earthquake which occurred shortly before I went to Japan that year! So – if you’re prepared to be basic, and you have 200 bucks to spend, you’ll be okay.
From Airport to Tokyo & Public Transport
Tokyo has two main airports, Narita and Haneda. Both are connected to the main city via train, Haneda is the smaller of the two and the less used but also by far the closer. Narita is, by train, 62 kilometres from Tokyo Central. You have the option of taking the regular train, which will save you money but take over an hour, or take the superfast Tokyo Express which takes 53 minutes and costs 3000 Yen, around $28USD. Each way. The other option is much cheaper but also takes a lot longer, I think from memory it was 90 minutes and the cost around 1000 yen.
So it’s up to you how you want to work it, but a return ticket on the express to Tokyo’s main airport is going to put you back $50USD or a little more and that’s a quarter of our budget. We’re talking about already using at least half of the total budget.
A one-day pass on the Tokyo Metro – well I looked it up and got two different prices, so I will go the more expensive one to cover ourselves, and that’s 1000 yen a day. I presume this will get you to and from the airport, so that would be 2000 yen in total for the two days and that’s versus 6000 Yen for Tokyo Express to and from the airport which won’t enable you to explore Tokyo. 2000 Yen is around $18USD, so we’re going to endure the longer, slower ride each way to save a fair bit of money. And in a place like Tokyo, you may want to splash a bit of cash! So it’s good to keep it in your pocket for something else I think. Let’s say Capsule Inn at $60 and Metro Pass $18, we’re at $78 with still over $120 in the bank!
The great thing about the metro in Tokyo is that it’s one of the most comprehensive in the world. It goes above road, road level and underground, you get to see a lot of the city from the metro, and yes, you can experience being forced into a carriage by attendants at the right station and the right time too!
Yes, people LOVE Japanese food and you will have to sample it whilst you are in Tokyo. At least treat yourself to one good meal whilst you’re there – let’s go with dinner! Wherever you stay you will be able to eat very cheaply if all you want is a bowl of noodles, you can get one for less than $2 easily and most places have the facilities for you to heat it up yourself with hot water and microwaves at the ready. But really, it would be a shame! So let’s devote dinner on the first day to being your ‘bog meal’.
There are so many restaurants in Tokyo, but if you want a great dining experience you will need to pay a bit for it. Is it outrageously expensive? I don’t think so. And if you would like to experience Okonomiyaki, well you should be able to go to an Okonomiyaki restaurant and eat and drink for $30USD. Surely! We can revisit and add a couple more drinks later if there’s room in the budget.
As for your lunches, well, you can make do with grabbing something from a Convenience Store – which are everywhere in Tokyo and Japan! Or you can find fast food style Japanese places which do sushi, noodles and other stuff – like a Sushi train style deal. Maybe one do it yourself and one at a cheap restaurant, I would say $20 would easily cover that. Easily. And a water or two as well. I’m not a big eater of breakfast and when travelling often skip it altogether. Nevertheless you can grab something probably at your hotel or nearby convenience. Let’s say $5 for the one breakfast as you have breakfast on the plane before landing (and likewise dinner on the plane as you leave). That’s $55 on food. Plus $60 accommodation and $18 transport. We are ay $133, so $67 left for sight seeing!
Parts of Tokyo, Spending your Time
Look, honestly you could get by on next to NOTHING on sight seeing and yet still see heaps. For example just go to Shibuya, see the famous dog statue of Hachiko who would return to the station where he would meet his owner many years ago now, at the same time every day after his owner had passed away. It’s a famous spot! And it’s right by the world famous Shibuya crossing, one of the busiest pedestrian crossings in the world. All traffic gets stopped by the lights and from every corner people cross.
That’s not so far from the Yoyogi Park and Harajuku. If you’re looking for alternative culture in Japan, these are the places to go. A walk in Harajuku highlights the fashion, and often in Yoyogi Park you will find Cosplayers who actually pose for photos. On the right days (Sunday I think is the main one). Next to it is an even bigger park which is almost like a forest, and at the centre of that is the Meiji Temple, one of Tokyo’s most famous temples, and completely free to visit.
Speaking of temples, there is also Senso-ji which is probably the number one temple to visit in Tokyo. This is neat the Asakusa Metro and in that part of the city. The area is really cool and there are all these little vendors in huts on the road to Senso-ji. But to visit this temple – free! And it really is a beautiful temple so it should be high on your list!
Akihabara is an interesting locale too and is worth a bit of time. It’s famous for two things really – electronics and Maid Cafes. Maid Cafes, if you want to visit one which I have never done but they sound bizarre enough to interest me (in the same category as the Robot Restaurant), then they will put you back some money. If you’re lucky you can probably get out spending around $20 but you pay a premium. And although it’s a strange novelty there are cat cafes too which as well (not sure where though) and you can still get a coffee. The Robot Restaurant is in Shinjuku and you will need more than $20 there. The robots I believe provide the entertainment. If you’re not worried about the money, sure, but otherwise seems an extravagance. I will go one day nevertheless! Akihabara though is buzzing with activity and you will see the Maid Cafes from the outside and ‘maids’ actually advertising them on the streets with flyers. You’re not supposed to photograph them.
Ueno is one of my favourite parts of Tokyo. It has the large Ueno Park, next to the picturesque Shinobazu Pond. With its lilies. It’s a beautiful spot, and next to this giant pond (could be better labelled a ‘lake’) is the Shitamachi Museum. This great little museum is actually well worth the price of admission, 1000 yen that gets you into a bunch of different places including Shitamachi. This is the only information I could find re: tickets on their website. This little museum recreates houses and life in the Edo period. It’s awesome.
There are a load of museums in Ueno including a science museum, a couple of arts museum and the Tokyo National Museum. If you’re into museums, see that one. Again, the entrance is 1000 Yen (less than $10USD) so it’s not too expensive.
If you like seeing the city from heights, you can try the Tokyo Tower or the Tokyo Skytree. The Tower is only 900 Yen, so around $8USD, so that’s not too bad, and the Skytree starts at 1550 for an adult and there are ticket options which cost a bit more. HOWEVER – there are free options for Tokyo views, such as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No.1 in Shinjuku. I think this is one I tried. Here’s a list I found online – 6 Best Free Observation Decks 2021.
Finally, if you have the time and the interest, consider the Miraikan – The National Museum of Emerging Science and Technology. And the interweb says it costs only 630 yen?? Wow, around FIVE bucks! Check it out because it has amazing interactive exhibits and loads of stuff with robots. YES ROBOTS. Not fake ones like at the Tokyo Robot Restaurant. And I think the monorail gets you there which I think is covered by your Metro Pass. So it’s win win win!
All In All…
So all in all, there is more than two days’ worth of stuff I’ve listed here. So take you’re pick because I don’t think, even if you did the Shitamachi Museum, Miraikan and Tokyo National Museum, you’d be over budget. In fact we’d be at around $160USD leaving us another $40 to do with what you will.
Nightlife in Tokyo is fantastic! So try a little clubbing or some karaoke! Maybe you don’t need a hotel of any sort if you stay up all night!
So There You Are!
So actually I am really confident that $200USD will do you for two days and one night in Tokyo and you will have an awesome time!
What do you think? Am I too ambitious here? What would you include that I haven’t? Let me know in the comments! Take care and as always – May the Journey Never End!