Armed with only RM1200 and a pocketful of dreams, our Travel 3Sixty’s shoestring traveller set out to prove that a week in one of the world’s most expensive cities can be affordable!
By Ellyse Ng
Accommodation 6D5N – RM440
Yeap, at only JPY2200 or RM88 per night per person for a 10-bed mixed dorm, Khaosan Tokyo Ninja was my dream-come-true for budget accommodation. I met many interesting people from all over the world, participated in the inn’s self-arranged Ramen Party (thanks guys!) and even kept in touch with my friends via their free Wi-Fi. Plus, it’s a quick 10 minutes’ walk from the Asakusa-bashi subway station. Khaosan Inn has other branches all over Japan as well, so take your pick!
Transportation 6D5N – RM100
To be honest, I don’t think I even spent that much on transportation. The taxis were pricey, so subway’s the way to go! The many interconnected lines of the subway will get you everywhere! I organized my trip according to the direction of my ride on that day (example, I visited Harajuku, Takeshita-dori and Meiji Shrine at one go as they were nearby the same station), and I was able to save on a few commutes (and money!) as well. Don’t worry, almost all the attractions are connected via subway. A day’s transport cost me a rough RM15. Download the subway map here.
The palace grounds were open to all (FREE!) and in autumn, the gardens were absolutely beautiful. The rich red golden foliage decorated the grounds, and I spent half a day snapping away. Wear comfortable shoes as it’s a long walk, but the beauty of the East Gardens and Fukiage Gardens made it totally worth the blisters!
City Skyline – RM25
Whilst everyone headed towards the famous Tokyo Tower, I walked across towards the World Trade Building to SEE the Tokyo Tower in all its splendour. The blazing red structure stood tall amidst the silver lights of the city, and I enjoyed my comfortable view from the Seaside Top at only JPY620 (buy online and I could’ve gotten it at JPY500). Besides, I would have to splurge out an additional JPY800 (RM32) just to go up to the Tokyo Tower.
Tsukiji Fish Market – RM40
The world’s most exciting fish auction happens at 4am, and since I am more of a breakfast person than a morning person, I decided to head on over there at a comfortable time (9am) to enjoy what was deemed the best sushi in the world! Sushi Dai’s line was long (it was more than an hour’s queue), so I headed to the 2nd longest line in the vicinity. Websites have warned me against the high price of JPY3,900 (RM160) for a whole sushi set, but by going ala carte, I saved a bomb. Five plates of fatty tuna, tuna belly, egg omelette and mackerel sushi later, I paid my JPY1,000 (RM40) bill and left with a satiated tummy and wallet to boot.
Warning – budgets may be blown here. I went on foot from Tsukiji towards Ginza, and in 20 minutes, I arrived at my shopping haven. Nine floors of Uniqlo and four floors of H&M later, I was a little poorer and 100% happier. Ginza’s great for window shopping, with a lovely suburban atmosphere that made me feel like I’ve stepped into the streets of New York! Lots of self-control needed especially for the ladies.
Shibuya – RM15
When they say that it’s a concrete jungle out there, they were right! The world’s busiest junction is a scary place, but it could be fun with the right company. As the lights turned green, my friends and I thoroughly entertained ourselves with some photography effects whilst the crowd moved quickly around us. We spent the evening in Starbucks upstairs with some JPY380 coffee, staring out at the exciting junction. Fun fact: venture beyond the junction and look for some surprising goodies, such as the very unique banana-vending machine!
National Museum – RM24
For JPY600 admission fee, Tokyo National Museum and its surrounding Ueno Park was where I spent a whole day hopping from one interesting exhibit to another, whilst basking in the autumn colours of the foliage outdoors. The garden outside was vast and beautiful with its lush greenery, and at autumn, the leaves turned a delightful golden colour. There were other museums in the vicinity as well, and on International Museum Day, admission is free!
Harajuku & Takeshita
I got a whiff of Japan’s funkiest right here at the happening street. Quirky little boutiques boasting eccentric fashion items were enough to entertain me as I window-shopped, and I even spotted Pharell Williams (of N.E.R.D fame) at the launch of his own fashion store Billionaire Boys’ Club! The funky street art looked lovely on my camera! At Takeshita-dori, I found an ‘entertainment food court’ where quirky hosts put on a show whilst I enjoyed my meals. Look out for the 390yen shops and the trusty 100yen Daiso shops that were so much fun (and cheap) to explore!
Tokyo Disneyland – RM196
It’s the place where dreams come true, and when I opted for the Starlight pass that allowed me access from 3pm onwards, I saved a hefty JPY1300 (RM52) as well! I went on the magical rides, saw Cinderella’s castle, sat on the cafes and ended my night with the fireworks display over the castle. Don’t bring snacks into the park as they check your bags at the entrance, but don’t worry as there were snack carts around the park to feed your appetite. I took so many photos here that if it wasn’t for my Mili Power Miracle Universal Charger, I would have run out of battery before the fireworks hit the skies at 8pm.
Another free but fulfilling attraction, I loved the charming shrine for its peace, tranquillity and of course, the chance to witness a traditional Japanese wedding ceremony. The bride was dressed immaculately in traditional white garbs, and the guests were in their Sunday best. I enjoyed walking through the gardens surrounding the shrine, and of course, the adorable children in Kimonos were the highlights of my exploration.
Where to eat?
Alright, here’s the tricky part. Look out for ‘quick eat’ restaurants, and one tell-tale sign that it’s going to be affordable is from its ‘vending machine’ at the front of the restaurant. Pick what you want from the machine menu, deposit the money and pass the token stub to the waiter who’ll proceed to prepare your food. Chain restaurants such as Yoshinoya and Sukiya will guarantee a cheap meal below RM20, and their convenience stores boast so much variety that one could easily get a full meal for below RM10.
Budget-wise, Tokyo cannot be compared with the more affordable cities in Asia (think Bangkok, Jakarta), but holidaying with such a modest budget in one of the most expensive cities in the world is considered a feat, that no shopping or luxurious dining could ever replace!
TOTAL DAMAGE: About RM1150
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