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Tokyo on a Tight Budget and Here’s How!

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

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Kimono Girl taking a candid picture at Meiji Shrine

Welcome to the Land of the Rising Sun, where beautiful kimonos, bright smiles and the cheeky ‘peace’ hand sign await.

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!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Khaosan Tokyo Ninja inn is a budget accommodation that is catered for all.

Simple lodgings for an international crowd.

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.

Imperial Palace

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!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Sakura bloom at Imperial Palace

Rare in November, you may be lucky enough to spot a late blooming cherry blossom tree.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Autumn foliage at Imperial Palace

Beautiful foliage hues make it a walk to remember indeed.

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.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-View from Seaside Top at the World Trade Building

The city comes to life from the skydeck view!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Tokyo Tower seen from the World Trade Building

No need to play “spot the Tokyo Tower” from up here.

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.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Friendly old man at Tsukiji Fish Market

He must’ve sold a great deal that morning to be so happy in such wee hours!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Fresh tuna belly sushi at Tsukiji Market

Worth every single yen – the true definition of “sushi that melts in your mouth”!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Humorous sushi chef at Tsukiji Fish Market

“Tako?” asked the friendly sushi chef.


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.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Ginza Street Sign in the middle of the street

My shopping paradise is right here!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Many floors at Uniqlo shopping store!

You’re looking at 9 whole floors of damage!

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!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Busy crowd at Shibuya Junction

Welcome to the world’s busiest junction. It’s pretty intimidating over here.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Playing with the camera at Shibuya Junction

Playing with the camera is one great way to pass the time whilst basking in the overall ambience of the bustling centre.

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!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Gardens of Tokyo National Museum in Ueno Park

Tranquil surroundings in the vicinity of the National Museum. Time to rest, read a book or just sit under an umbrella for no apparent reason =)

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-The exhibition halls of Tokyo National Museum

Well-organized exhibitions, informative signs and interesting finds can be found within the main building itself.

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!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Spotted a celebrity at Harajuku's Billionaire Boys Club

Spotted! Pharrell Williams of N.E.R.D fame. That explains the long queue outside Harajuku.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Graffiti art on the walls of Harajuku Street

Life is never boring in Harajuku. Perhaps it was just a little bewildering for this one over here…

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Entertaining food court at Takeshita-dori

How bizarre can it get? Try having your dinner whilst watching a game show in action!

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.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Cinderella's Castle at Tokyo Disneyland

Cinderella’s castle is the epitome of fairy tales come true!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Small World Ride at Tokyo Disneyland

It’s called the happiest ride in the world for good reason!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Watch the fireworks above the castle at 8pm

Stay back late and catch the 8pm fireworks. Grab a great seat at the nearby cafes for a great view.

Meiji Shrine

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.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-The gateway of Meiji Shrine's main shrine

Many paid their respects by bowing slightly at the entrance of Meiji Shrine.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Wedding Ceremony at Meiji Shrine

Who needs a blushing bride when you have one beaming with happiness? Congrats to the both of you!

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Little girl in Kimono at the Meiji Shrine

She turned three and her grandparents brought her to the shrine to pray for blessings.

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.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Dons are affordable and filling

Dons (rice bowls) were common and affordable. This chicken katsu-don cost only RM12 for a filling bowl.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Queue at streetside Bento Shop

Bento shops like this were good for a quick meal. Most of them only open during lunch time to cater to the working crowd.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Bowl of Ramen with pork, vegetables and eggs

One of the best Ramens I’ve ever had was down the road from the World Trade Building. This cost RM16.

AirAsia-Travel 3Sixty-Japan-Tokyo-Ramen bar with many people

One of the many ramen bars and izakayas around.

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!


GETTING THERE AirAsia X flies to Tokyo from Kuala Lumpur. For flight information and the lowest fares, go to www.airasia.com.

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