16 Cheap Things To Do In Tokyo Under $15 That Prove You Don’t Need To Splurge To Have Fun In Japan

Cheap things to do in Tokyo in 2023

Japan has always been a popular travel destination among Singaporeans and it’s not hard to guess why. Good weather, good food, good vibes – the list is endless. However, Japan does have a reputation for being rather expensive.

If you’re looking for affordable things to do in Japan while beating the crowd, you’ve come to the right place. Read on for these lesser-known and cheap things to do in Tokyo

– Affordable activities in Tokyo –

1. Enjoy an authentic onsen experience for as low as S$8.90

Image credit: S Y via Google Maps

Maenohara Onsen Saya-no-Yudokoro is the place to go if you’re looking for an authentic onsen experience. Instead of regular tap water, this onsen uses 100% natural hot spring water from the original source which is something that’s pretty rare in Tokyo. 

Look forward to tsubo-yu and ne-yu, which mean pot-shaped baths and lie-down baths respectively, as well as 4 different types of rooms with different temperatures for you to either sweat it out or cool it down. Note that after 5 hours, there’ll be an additional ¥100 (~S$1) charge per hour. 

Price: Mon-Fri ¥900/adult (~S$9) ¥550/child (~S$5.50) | Sat-Sun & PH ¥1200/adult (~S$12) ¥800/child (S$8)
Address: 3 Chome-41-1 Maenocho, Itabashi City, Tokyo 174-0063, Japan
Opening hours: 9am-12am, Daily
Contact: +81 3-5916-3826 

2. Sing your lungs out at a S$3.80/hour karaoke sesh with free alcohol

Image credit: カラオケパセラ新宿本店 via Google Maps

Whether you’re that karaoke friend who screams their heart out to their favourite hits or the one who sits down and chill, Karaoke Pasela Shinjuku Main Store provides deals that’ll give you bang for your buck. 

Image credit: カラオケパセラ新宿本店 via Google Maps

Sessions last 30 minutes and cost ¥380 (~S$3.80) on weekdays and ¥580 (~S$5.80) on weekends, plus a complimentary drink – including alcoholic ones – after 7pm. If that ain’t enough, browse through their wide selection of packages that give you great deals such as all-you-can-drink options starting from ¥370 (~S$3.70).

Address:  1 Chome-3-16 Pasela Resorts, Shinjuku Main Store 1F, Kabukicho, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan
Opening hours: 24 hours, Daily
Contact: +81 120-706-733 

3. Visit Ueno Zoo to spot rare animals like okapis for S$6

Image credit: @naoexp87 via Instagram

Founded in 1882 and located in a park, Ueno Zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan and houses over 3,000 animals across 300 species. The zoo even grants free admission from time to time, on special days such as Ueno Zoo’s Anniversary Day on 20th March, Greenery Day on 4th May, and Tokyo Citizens’ Day on 1st October. 

Aye-aye, Madagascar lemurs.

Image credit: Brian Ward via Instagram 

Some rare cuties you can catch include the okapis, also known as the “forest giraffe”, and rare reptiles and amphibians in the Vivarium. The great cormorant, a bird that’s now endangered in Japan, can also be found at the Shinobazu Pond. 

Prices: ¥600/adult (~$6.00) | ¥300/senior (~$3.00) | ¥200/student (~$2.00)
Address: 9-83 Uenokoen, Taito City, Tokyo 110-8711, Japan
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9.30am-5.00pm (Closed on Mondays)
Contact: +81 3-3828-5171

*Students should be between 13-15 years old.

4. Shop art supplies with >4,500 colours at Pigment Tokyo

Image credit: @pigment_tokyo via Instagram

Boyfriends who can’t tell lipstick colour apart might be nervous when they come to Pigment Tokyo. Whether you’re a budding artist or just someone who enjoys making art, Pigment Tokyo has all the supplies you’ll probably need. 

Image credit: @pigment_tokyo via Instagram

With a large selection of pigments, brushes, inkstones, and supplies, it’s not uncommon to feel a bit lost. Not to worry as the staff members are very knowledgeable and will be able to help you navigate your way through. If you’re wondering about the prices, alkyd paint – which has a similar consistency to oil-based paint but doesn’t contain oil – starts from ¥319 (S$3.19) and pigments start from ¥330 (~S$3.30)

Address: 2 Chome−5−5 TERRADA Harbor One Building 1F, Shinagawa City, Higashishinagawa, Tokyo 140-0002, Japan
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 11am-7pm (Closed on Mondays)
Contact: +81 3-5781-9550 

5. Snack on Studio Ghibli-approved Totoro-shaped confectionery

Image credit: @shirohige_puff via Instagram

If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli cartoons, you might want to stop by Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory. Even if you aren’t, the fact that this is the only bakery in the world that has gotten the stamp of approval from Studio Ghibli itself should be enough of a reason for you to swing by.

Image adapted from: @artesisi via Instagram 

Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory is known for its Totoro-shaped cream puffs (from ¥520, ~S$5.20) that come in 9 different flavours. However, only 2 flavours – chocolate, and custard and cream – are available all year round. Other flavours such as strawberry and peach are seasonal, and will only be available for a limited time. 

You might want to put this at the top of your itinerary as only a limited quantity of Totoro cream puffs are made in the morning. And by the time afternoon comes around, they are usually gone. 

Address: 5 Chome-3-1 Daita, Setagaya City, Tokyo 155-0033, Japan
Opening hours: Mon & Wed-Sun 10.30am-7pm (Closed on Tuesdays)
Contact: +81 3-5787-6221  

6. Spend some time with nekos at Cat Cafe MOCHA

Image credit: Cat Cafe MOCHA website

At Cat Cafe MOCHA, feel free to stay for as short as 10 minutes or as long as you’ll like. Prices start from ¥220 (~S$2.20) for a 10-minute block on weekdays and ¥275 (~S$2.75) on weekends. Keep paying in blocks of 10 minutes until you hit 120 minutes, which is ¥2,640 (~S$26.40), and you can stay for as long as you like. 

Swing by during their meal times at 10.30am or 7.30pm to witness the cats lined up in a single file, munching away at their food.
Image credit: Cat Cafe MOCHA website

The cafe offers a variety of chargers for you to use as well as Wi-Fi if you’re looking to post your cute feline pics and vids immediately. Cat snacks are available from ¥550 (~S$5.50) if you’d like to give some of the nekos a treat, while stocks last. 

Address: 1 Chome−14−25 Cross Avenue Harajuku 4F, Shibuya City, Jingumae, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Opening hours: 10am-8pm, Daily
Contact: +81 3-6447-2665

7. Get a fortune cat for S$3 at Gotokuji Temple for good luck

Image credit: @lattemilkyway via Instagram

It’s no surprise that you find this cat familiar. Maneki-Neko, otherwise known as fortune cat, is a Japanese figurine believed to bring in fortune and good luck. At Gotokuji Temple, you’ll find yourself surrounded by fortune cats of all shapes and sizes. 

Visitors usually buy a fortune cat and leave it at the temple for good luck, but if you want to bring yours home, feel free to do that as well. Prices start from ¥300 (~S$3) and vary according to size. 

Image credit: @debyes via Instagram 

Aside from fortune cat figurines, there are also omikuji, Japanese fortune-telling slips (¥100-¥200, ~S$0.98-S$1.96). If you got a good slip, bring it home for good luck but if you got a bad slip, leave the “bad luck” at the temple by tying the slip to one of the racks at the temple. Visitors can also buy wooden ema plaques (from ¥500, ~S$4.89) where they can write their prayers.

Address: 2 Chome-24-7 Gotokuji, Setagaya City, Tokyo 154-0021, Japan
Opening hours: 6am-6pm, Daily
Contact: +81 3-3426-1437 

8. Get capsule toys at world’s largest gachapon shop

Image credit: Y Ben via Google Maps

Whether your IC starts with an “S” or “T”, you’d be familiar with gashapons and your mom saying “no” when you want to buy 1 more. Here’s your chance to live out your inner child’s dream at Gashapon No Depato Ikebukuro, the world’s largest gashapon shop. 

There are around 3,000 machines but not to worry, they are organised according to the type of gashapon (from ¥200, ~S$2), making it easier for you to navigate your way around. For variety’s sake, the selection is always changing, so there’s always a reason for you to visit again.

Image adapted from: Heng Farah & sai you via Google Maps

The machines only accept coins, so do prepare a bag of ¥100 (~S$1) coins or use the change machines available on-site.

Address: 3 Chome−1−3 Sunshine City, World Import Mart Building 3F, Toshima City, Higashiikebukuro, Tokyo 170-0013, Japan
Opening hours: 10am-9pm, Daily

9. Have a picnic at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Image credit: @btsavage via Instagram

Time to live out your J-drama dreams at Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. They have cherry blossom trees that transform the park into a pink-hued wonderland during sakura season. However, that’s not the only time you can visit. Drop by during the other seasons and you’ll still be in for a treat – be it lush greenery or pretty red-orange autumn leaves. 

Image credit: @@garyblds via Instagram 

Aside from aesthetics, Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden is also pretty rich in history and culture. It was actually owned by the Imperial family and was rebuilt in 1949 after being destroyed during World War II. 

Image credit: @mikiti884 via Instagram

The garden is sectioned into 3 parts: Japanese Landscape garden, French garden, and English Landscape garden. Grab your camera, a picnic basket, some food, and head down to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden for a peaceful, tranquil afternoon. For a fuss-free meal, drop by convenience stores such as Lawson beforehand and grab a bento set or sandwich.

Prices: ¥500/adult (~S$5.00) | ¥250/seniors and students (~S$2.50)
Address: 11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0014, Japan
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 9am-6pm (Closed on Mondays)
Contact: +81 3-3350-0151

*​Admission is free for children aged 15 and under.

10. Shop til you drop at Oedo Antique Market

Image adapted from:  @myfavorite_antiques via Instagram, @saltedpinkhome via Instagram

If you’re someone who enjoys thrifting and has an eye for eclectic curios, you shouldn’t miss Oedo Antique Market, the largest outdoor antique market in Japan. Keep your eyes peeled for hidden gems from the Edo-era (1603-1867) along with a wide selection of goods such as ceramic, clothes, and ukiyo-e prints.

Image credit: @saltedpinkhome via Instagram

The market is held on the 1st and 3rd Sundays of each month but is subjected to changes on rare occasions – so do check their website for more information. You’ll be glad to know that admission is free

Address: 5-1Marunouchi 3 Choume, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo
Opening hours: 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month, 9am-4pm 

11. Challenge your friends to vintage arcade games from ~S$1/game

Image credit: Hayashi Rina

Time to unleash the competitive gamer child in you at Takadanobaba Mikado Game Center, a vintage arcade with classic games from the 1980s and 1990s. Look forward to puzzle games, driving simulators, and even Mikado-chan merchandise. 

The older games start from ¥50 (~S$0.50) while the others start from ¥100 (~S$1.00) so do make sure you bring extra change. Some games you might recognise include Street Fighter IIIrd Strike and KOF 98

Address: 4 Chome-5-10 Takadanobaba, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 169-0075, Japan
Opening hours: 10am-12pm, Daily
Contact: +81 3-5386-0127

– Cheap food in Tokyo –

12. Indulge in affordable grilled eel rice bowl for S$5.50 at Unatoto

Image credit: @sammy.sabs via Instagram

If you’re a big fan of Japanese food, you would know that unagi – grilled freshwater eel – is considered a delicacy and can be pretty expensive (up to ¥3,000, ~S$30), especially at famous places such as Izu-ei. Here at Unatoto, you can get a bowl of chopped eel with seaweed for just ¥550 (~S$5.50)

Image credit: @nadai_unatoto_asakusa

Their popular choices include unadon (¥590, ~S$5.90) – a bowl of rice and grilled eel – as well as the double eel bowl which is a little more pricey at ¥1100 (~S$11). However, prices are still kept pretty reasonable, with the most expensive item being the “surprise weight” at ¥2,500 (~S$25) with an entire eel and unlimited rice refills. 

There are a few Unatoto outlets scattered around Tokyo, but the 2 convenient ones are located in Ueno and Shinjuku. 

Ueno outlet
Address: 6 Chome-11-15 Ueno, Taito City, Tokyo 110-0005, Japan
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11am-10.30pm | Sun 11am-10pm
Contact: +81 3-3831-9490

Shinjuku outlet
Address: 1 Chome-25-1 Shinjuku Center Building B1F, Shinjuku City, Nishishinjuku, Tokyo 160-0023, Japan
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 11am-11pm, Sat 11am-9pm (Closed on Sundays)
Contact: +81 3-5381-6969

13. Choose from over 50 flavours of onigiri at Onigiri Bongo

Image credit: LUNA T via Instagram

Onigiris at Onigiri Bongo start from ¥300 (~S$3) and although they are already bigger than the average onigiri, feel free to upsize them for just ¥50 (~S$0.50). They have classic fillings such as salmon flakes as well as unique combinations such as curry and beef, and bacon and cheese.

Image adapted from: @kuidaoree via Instagram

For something that’s more filling, opt for their set meals that start from ¥700 (~S$7) on weekdays. On weekends, get their Saturday Limited Special Set that consists of 2 onigiris, tofu soup, boiled egg, side dishes, and pickles ¥800 (~S$8)

Address: 2 Chome-27-5 Kitaotsuka, Toshima City, Tokyo 170-0004, Japan
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 11.30am-11pm (Closed on Sundays)
Contact: +81 3-3910-5617 

14. Konbinis – Ready-to-go meals

Adapted from: FL via Google Maps

Is a trip to Japan seriously considered complete if you don’t make a run for their Konbinis, AKA convenience stores? Lawson and Family Mart should be familiar names to those who are planning to go to Japan. 

Speaking from personal experience, the fried chicken at the convenience stores are really bombz.
Image credit: @visual_impact_devour via Instagram

Apart from a wide variety of bento sets including Western dishes such as pasta and Japanese sets such as sushi, look forward to freshly fried chicken karaage around ¥200 (~S$2) as well. Onigiris that are between ¥100-¥300 (~S$1-S$3), are also available for those looking for something on the go.

15. Kura Sushi Japan – Get a gachapon toy for every 5 plates of sushi

Image credit: @bokeatsmuch via Instagram

One of the best ways to eat sushi is kaitenzushi, AKA conveyor belt sushi where the little bites of goodness go around on a conveyor belt and you just take what you want. Double the fun at Kura Sushi Japan and get a shot at their gachapon machine for every 5 plates of sushi you get – it’s like a reward

Image credit: @bokeatsmuch via Instagram

Plates of sushi on the bottom lane of the conveyor belt start from around ¥125-¥140 (~S$1.25-S$1.40). The upper lane of the conveyor belt is for dishes that you have to order from the menu. There are many outlets scattered around in popular districts such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Shinagawa – so do make sure you try to fit this place into your itinerary. 

16. Enjoy S$5.80 beef set at Yakiniku Like Shibuya Udagawacho

Image credit: 焼肉ライク 渋谷宇田川町店 via Google Maps

Prices are kept affordable here at Yakiniku Like Shibuya Udagawacho. The starting price for meat is ¥250 (~S$2.50) for 50g of beef intestine. If you think that’s affordable, wait till you see the set meals. Get 100g of meat with rice, kimchi and soup from ¥580 (~S$5.80) onwards. Psst… free rice refills are available for set meals. 

Solo travellers or those who are looking for some me time will be happy to know that the place has seats and grills for one. 

Address: 31−4 Shinoda Building 1F, Shibuya City, Udagawacho, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan
Opening hours: 11am-10.30pm, Daily
Contact: +81 3-5456-8929

Save this Tokyo budget guide for future reference

Now that you know all the lesser-known things to do in Japan under S$15, it’s about time you start booking your flights and planning your itinerary. 

Just a note before heading there, remember to adhere to unspoken cultural guidelines such as not eating while walking, and to refrain from talking when on public transport. It’ll also be good practice to bring along a plastic bag so that you can keep your trash, as trash bins are hard to find in Japan. 

For more things to do in Japan:

Cover image adapted from: @mikiti884 via Instagram, @shirohige_puff via Instagram,  @lattemilkyway via Instagram

Gracelyn Lim

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