Travel, Teach, Live in Japan
Parks and Gardens
Tokyo has some great parks where you can take a break from the city and enjoy life at a slower pace. If there are any national holidays or festivals during the time of your visit, keep your eye open for any special events or celebrations going on. I've seen taiko drumming, bon dancing, hanami parties, Tokyo fireworks, and more without spending a single yen. The best part about it - this is 'real' Tokyo and a peek, even if only brief, inside the workings of Japanese culture. My favorites are Inokashira Park, San-Kei-En, Yoyogi Park, and Ueno Park.
Nature Study Park
I'm singling out this particular park because it has a slightly different character to other locations in Tokyo. There is an admission fee of 300 yen but the cost is minimal and it's well worth it. This park is run by the National Museum of Nature and Science and has been set up to preserve the natural environment of Tokyo. There are various trails through the grounds with educational tips along each route.
Tokyo has window shopping to suit all tastes. If you fancy a stroll through an old fashioned style street market, check out Ameyoko in Ueno and listen to the calls of the vendors as they shout out the prices and benefits of their goods. For top end brands and high fashion you should hit the sidewalks in Ginza, while Odaiba has everything funky and modern. If you want to see Tokyo on a local level head out to the suburbs and walk down the high street. The 100 yen shops are well worth a look.
Temples And Shrines
Similar to the parks mentioned earlier, festivals and special days are celebrated at shrines and temples with events and a variety of cultural activities. Many of the temples date back to the time of the Shogun Tokugawa and are steeped in tradition and history. Recommended visits are Meiji Jingu Shrine near Harajuku and Sensoji Temple in Asakusa.
To get a handle on just how vast the city of Tokyo is, head to Shinjuku Metropolitan Government building. There are 2 observation platforms and both are free. There are signboards that identify and tell you about the key landmarks you can see and, on a clear day, there is a fantastic view of Mount Fuji.
A must for history buffs, culturephiles, and those who love old style Japanese architecture, this is a great Tokyo for free recommendation, right in the heart of the city. The East garden is open throughout the year and in summer, many Tokyoites head here to enjoy the greenery and relax. Bring a picnic and have a day of leisure strolling though the grounds.
Finally, if you love books, head to Jimbocho on the Mita line. Originally Tokyo was divided into areas according to the industry of each zone. Just as Akihabara is 'Electric Town', Jimbocho is 'Book Town'. There are secondhand bookshops all around this area. If you know what you're looking for this could be a real treasure trove.
Author: Honor Dargan
Goal: Tokyo Made Simple