How to Spend 3 Nights in Tokyo All Included on 10,000yen ($US125)

Just to show that Tokyo can actually be cheap – and without skimping on the experiential part, we thought it would be interesting to show you how it’s possible to spend 3 nights in Tokyo on a 10,000yen budget (approx. $US125, €94 or £76 at time of writing)

The 10,000yen budget should cover everything from when you get off the plane to when you hop back on again 3 days later. Of course by spending a bit more you would considerably increase your options, but the plan we’re providing will definitely be memorable and give you a strong enough dose of Tokyo that you’ll sleep on the plane all the way home.

First, for convenience sake, we’ll assume that you are travelling alone (travelling as a couple would be even cheaper) and your port of entry is Haneda Airport. The most common (and probably cheaper) port of entry is actually Narita Airport, but recently the more conveniently located and formerly domestic only Haneda has added an international terminal with flights connecting destinations throughout Asia and North America – including budget carrier Air Asia. We’ll also assume you are more interested in trying something adventurous than trying something comfortable and ‘safe’. Tokyo can be quite a full-on experience for a newcomer and the cheaper option is definitely more challenging. If you stay in a regular hotel, you’ll probably have easy access to English information and at least some of the staff are likely to speak fluent English – but our option is  lot more fun. Additionally, the cheapest time to do things is always mid-week – so plan on arriving on a Monday or a Tuesday. The only thing that is cheaper on the weekend (sometimes) is transport.

So here is the plan.

Day 1 : Arrival and off to Shibuya

This is all the money you'll need for your entire stay.

Assuming you arrive in the afternoon, you’ll need to get to the area where you’re staying. Although you could stay near the airport, that would be extremely boring and wouldn’t meet our criteria of being an interesting experience. So for your introduction to Tokyo, you’ll start with a full assault on your senses – we’re off to Shibuya. Catch the Keikyu Line from the airport. You should jump on the Keikyu Limited Express bound for Narita Airport (400yen). Jump off about 20 minutes later at Shinagawa Station and change to the circular Yamanote Line bound for Shibuya/Shinjuku (160yen). If you want to get a feel for the whole city (you’ll mainly just see train stations and the bits in between) you could always take the Yamanote Line in the reverse direction (towards Tokyo Station). Both directions will get you to our destination of Shibuya.

Once you get to Shibuya, look for the ‘Hachiko’ exit. Hachiko is the name of a dog that waited for its master outside Shibuya Station every day for long after his master had died. The statue of Hachiko in the square outside the station is a popular meeting spot. Since people are waiting around, you might even start a conversation and ask for some local tips – much easier than when people are rushing around. Hachiko is also right next to the famous scramble crossing (frankly you can easily miss Hachiko but you won’t miss the crossing). Surrounded by massive video screens and blaring noise, this is your ‘in at the deep end’ introduction to Tokyo. Consult whatever guide you have to Shibuya for things to do – taking a walk through Shibuya 109 and exploring the love hotel hill district are both recommended. For dinner, look for the yellow, red and blue sign of a ‘Matsuya’.  There are seven stores(!) around Shibuya station.  Fill yourself up with a hearty bowl of Gyudon (strips of beef on white rice) for 280yen.

Your next task (and don’t leave it too late because you can’t book) is to find a place to sleep. Although this may seem weird, you’re going to sleep in a ‘comic cafe’. While similar to a western internet cafe, the Japanese version has morphed into something a bit different. Most offer either completely private booths or rooms – you can get changed in them and your bed will be a large, fully reclining seat, a sofa or a kind of cushioned floor arrangement – all are the same price, it just depends what is available when you check in. They also naturally contain an internet connected computer – handy if you want to do some research on destinations for the next day.  There are two options to consider – either a 6 hour pack for 980yen or a 9 hour pack for 1,290yen.  This includes free use of the shower, but no soap, shampoo or towel.  We’d recommend bringing your own soap but paying the 105yen extra for the towel. At the time of writing, the comic cafe we recommend (Manboo! in Udagawacho) had a free extra hour on each package – so 6 was extended to 7 hours and 9 to 10 hours.

Manboo comic coffee
Manboo - your luxurious lodgings for your three night stay

Day 1 Itinerary and Expense Summary

Expense Details Cost
Transport Keikyuu line/Subway to Shibuya 560yen
Meals Dinner at Matsuya 280yen
Accommodation Manboo!, Udagawacho (one road back from ‘Centergai’ on the road towards Tokyu Hands) + towel 1,395yen

Extra budget options: If you’re feeling extra hungry get a set with your meal at Matsuya.

view larger map

Day 2 : Harajuku, Omotesando, the Tokyo National Art Center

Don’t be in a huge rush to leave your accommodation – everything (except food and coffee places) is closed until 10 or 11 in the morning.  For breakfast, forget the cornflakes, you’re going Japanese style – a morning ‘teishoku’ (set meal) complete with raw egg and soy sauce on rice from Sukiya for 200yen.  Sukiya is a similar kind of place to Matsuya with a similar number of stores around the station.  There’s not much to do in Shibuya in the morning, but you might want to head back down to Shibuya Station to watch it disgorge itself of hundreds of thousands of commuters.

Before heading up the hill towards Yoyogi Park, drop by Yamaya for a 2 litre bottle of water or tea so you don’t dehydrate during the day. If it’s a week day, things in the park will be pretty quiet.  If you happen to be there on the weekend, things may be a lot more interesting.  If you’re into architecture, take note of the incredible Yoyogi National Gymnasium designed by the great Japanese architect Kenzo Tange and built for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics before taking a right turn and heading towards Harajuku.  The best view of the stadium (in our opinion) is from the over bridge near the railway lines.  Before you go into Harajuku, look at for the massive torii gate marking the entrance to Meiji Shrine. There is a long approach to the shrine through a wooded area.  Entrance to the shrine itself is free.  If you’re lucky you might witness a shinto wedding ceremony – or more likely the group photos afterwards.

Anti-fur protesters at the entrance to Takeshita Doori/Street
Anti-fur protesters at the entrance to Takeshita Doori/Street in Harajuku

Next, you’ll go from the serene and traditional to one of the most unusual neighbourhoods in Japan – Harajuku. Although weekdays are a lot quieter, there might be something happening on the bridge that crosses the railway tracks from Meiji Shrine to Harajuku. On weekends this area is crawling with ‘Lolita-goths’, men dressed as school girls and wannabe idol groups practicing their dance routines. Instead of heading into ultra expensive Omotesando, turn left, head down the hill and head into Takeshita Doori. Takeshita Doori is ground zero for the weird and wonderful youth fashion that comes out of Harajuku. Take your time walking and looking around here. This is also where you’re going to buy a couple of souvenirs – from the 4 level Daiso 100yen shop not far from the entrance to the street.

After exiting Takeshita Dori, turn right on Meiji Dori and then left into Omotesando. Omotesando is famed as the ‘Champs Ellysees’ of Tokyo because it has lots of trees and expensive shops. It’s a pleasant area with a few things worth checking out on our cheapo tour. First is Kiddyland – an enormous toy shop on the right as you head up towards Omotesando station. As interesting as the toys themselves are the customers – mainly young women. Also of note is the architecture in the area. One of our favourites is the TODS building by Toyo Ito – looking like a big box wrapped in concrete tape.  You’ll probably be pretty hungry by now, so stop off at La Boheme in Kita Aoyama for a plate of mentaiko and nori spaghetti for 600yen. Add the 150yen lunch set and you’ve got all you can drink red and white wine – you might be here for a while.  Unlike everyone else here, you don’t have to be back at work in 30 minutes!

After lunch, head back to Omotesando and continue in the direction of Nishi Azabu/Roppongi.  On your right you’ll see one of the most stunning modern buildings in Tokyo – the Prada building by Herzog & de Meuron.  It looks amazing during the day but even more impressive at night.  If you want to take a look at some 400,000yen jackets, head inside.

At the next big intersection you come to, go left and head straight through Aoyama Cemetery.  The cemetery is a lovely oasis in the middle of the city.  There’s also a ‘foreigners section’ which contains graves from the westerners who came to Japan to aid in its rapid development in the late 1800s — never to return.

Hopefully as you head through the cemetery, you’ll notice the looming National Art Center.  This is a great place to cool down and check out some free exhibitions.

The National Art Center, Tokyo
National Art Center, Tokyo by Japanese architect Kisho Kurokawa

Roppongi – the area around here – is more of a nightlife/office district so there’s not that much of interest.  Wander back to Shibuya via Nishi Azabu.  You’ll probably get quite lost, but it’s a pretty quirky (and wealthy) neighbourhood so nothing bad will happen to you.  If you have a map, look for surrealist sculptor Taro Okamoto’s house.  There is a museum attached – but you can see 90% of the things of interest just by looking into the garden.

Back in Shibuya, head to Hanamaru Udon next to Mark City and choose anything on the menu for 294yen.  Shibuya is one of the best places in the world to people watch, so after dinner head to the second floor of Starbucks next to the scramble crossing.  Order the cheapest drink on the menu and grab a seat.  You might even strike up a conversation – most of the clientele are young and not unfriendly.  The rest of the evening is up to you.  For the night, we’ll head back to Manboo! – easier than finding new accommodation.

Day 2 Expense Summary

Expense Details Cost
Meals Sukiya, La Boheme, Hanamaru Udon 1,244yen
Refreshsments Yamaya 100yen
Souvenirs Daiso, Takeshita Dori 210yen
Entertainment Starbucks at Scramble Crossing 150yen
Accommodation Manboo! (9 hour pack + towel) 1,395yen

Extra budget options: Buy some new (old) threads at Kinji Used clothing in Harajuku or splash out on a few more prezzies at the 100yen shop.  Look for people handing out fliers at Shibuya crossing for some deals on dance clubs – as long as you’re not drunk you shouldn’t be in any danger of being scammed.  If you really want to head to Roppongi, try Jumanji 55 for one of the cheapest all you can drink deals.

view larger map

Day 3 : The Imperial Palace and Ginza

Taro_Okamoto_Sukiyabashi
Taro Okamoto's sculpture in a park next to Sukiyabashi crossing in Ginza

After picking up a couple of onigiri (rice balls) at a nearby supermarket or convenience store and another 2 litre bottle of water from Yamaya, jump on the Tokyo metro to Nijuubashi Station.  Once you exit the station, it should be fairly obvious where to go – just follow the crowds.  The big photo opp around here is the castle keep which is the only really ‘castle-ish’ part visible of the low-rise imperial palace.  After this, you can spend the whole morning wandering around the Imperial Palace East Gardens – which includes the impressive base of the long gone Edo Castle.

For lunch, take a 10 minute walk into Ginza and head to the basement of one of the many department stores and pick up a 600yen bento.  If the weather is good, Hibiya park is a nice place to enjoy your bento.  You should be able to spot some turtles, carp and the odd heron in the ponds near the entrance.

There is a lot to explore in Ginza.  Among the places that are well worth checking out are Bic Camera in Yurakucho – an electronics shopping paradise, the Sony Building at Sukiyabashi Crossing (free demos of Sony products split over 12 levels) and the Hakuhinkan toy shop on Chuo Dori.  As a shopping mecca, Ginza – like Omotesando – features some of the most interesting modern architecture in Tokyo.  In particular, seek out the Hermes building – a towering translucent block of glass by Renzo Piano and another Toyo Ito work – the Mikimoto Building.

For dinner, treat yourself to a maguro-don (tuna sashimi on rice) at the nearby Shimbashi branch of Maguro Ichiba for 700yen.

Before heading back to Shibuya, it’s time for one of those unique Japan experiences.  Instead of the shower at Manboo! you’re going to visit a sento – a traditional Japanese bath house.  The Konparu Sento (golden spring bath house) is located not far off Chuo Dori – the main drag in Ginza. The cost for entering the bath house is 450yen.  Unlike the comic cafe, towels, soap and shampoo are included and there is no time limit – you can soak here for pretty much as long as you like.

Before heading back to get some sleep, it’s time to go out for a beer in Shibuya.  A place with 300yen beers called Salasa is conveniently located near Manboo! at 28-12 Udagawacho in Centergai. You’ve only got a budget for 1 beer, but if you make friends you never know your luck.

For your last night in Manboo!, take the 6 hour pack – you can leave sleeping for your return flight.

Day 3 Expense Summary

Expense Details Cost
Transport Tokyo Metro – Shibuya to Ginza return 380yen
Food Onigiri, Bento, Maguro Don 1,500yen
Refreshments 2 litre bottle of water or tea from Yamaya 100yen
Bath house Konbaru 450yen
Accomodation Manboo! (6 hour pack) 980yen
Entertainment A beer at standing bar Salasa 300yen

 Extra budget options: More 300yen beers of course!

view larger map

Day 4: Departure

You’ve probably got a long flight ahead of you, so make your way to Doutor coffee shop (they’re as plentiful as Matsuya and Sukiya) for a morning coffee set – which includes a sandwich for 380yen.

When you jump back on the train you can reflect on your trip and how you’ve just spent 3 days in the ‘most expensive city in the world’ for only $US125.  Nice work.

Day 4 Expense Summary

Expense Details Cost
Transport Keikyuu line/Subway to Shibuya 560yen
Meals Breakfast at Dotour 380yen

Trip total: 9,984yen ($US125)

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Set Japan and Hiro Ikematsu for helping out with one of the Shibuya Crossing pics and thanks to everyone who helped out with the research and suggestions!

Update April 2013: We caught up with a cheapo who followed our advice and stayed in Manboo cafe for his holiday in Tokyo, you can hear the interview on our podcast episode “staying in a manga cafe”

Greg has been been searching for a cheaper way of doing things in and around Tokyo for more than 12 years. Greg's qualification for being a cheapo include walking up to an hour across Tokyo to save on the 160 yen subway fare and still having clothes in his dresser from 1998. When not searching for the izakaya with the cheapest beer in Japan, he develops web sites.

  • http://masafumimatsumoto.com/ Masafumi Matsumoto

    This article is hilarious and very useful!

  • regillett

    Even though I live in Tokyo, I might try this one myself just for fun!

  • http://maxhodges.com Max Hodges

    You can also sleep comfortably in saunas (basically a gay sento). They have dark rooms with mats and blankets where you can fully lay down. A visiting American friend and I mistook one for a regular sento in Kyoto and I was like, “that’s strange, they usually don’t do that” when we saw two guys hugging each other in the bath. 

  • http://twitter.com/BarefootNomads Micki & Charles

    Love this! I would have never thought about sleeping in a comic cafe. Ingenious.

    • CheapoGreg

      Sleeping in comic cafes isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but I think a lot of people don’t realise that this has become almost the main purpose of these places. A competitor to Manboo! even has ‘hotels are our rivals’ as their slogan.

      • narmy

        As a Gaijin, could you share some of the names of other comic cafes or the kanji I should look for on the signs?

  • Malice_june

    This was super useful. I am totally gonna try this out. Well apart from the manga cafe (since i have already booked accomodation) but everything else im gonna test out.

    • CheapoGreg

      Glad to hear that! Let us know how you go.  To be honest, I haven’t tried out the Sukiya breakfast set.  Since I live in Japan I usually have breakfast at home – but a raw egg mixed with a little soy sauce on rice is actually pretty good. Not exactly gourmet, but it fills you up!

  • Clandestine

    This article is amazing, but I had some difficulty figuring out how to go from one area to another, and it seemed that in this trip there was no use of trains but for from and to the airport.
    It would be much better if there is some directions from one place to another. For example, from Matsuya to Maboo! Udawagacho, and from Maboo! to Yamaya.

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi there.  Thanks for the comment!  There are exactly two uses of trains in this itinerary – to get to and from Shibuya and to get to and from Ginza (using the Tokyo Metro) on Day 3.  It’s maybe difficult to tell the scale from the maps, but most places are quite close together.  For example, Manboo!, Matsuya (there are lots of these), Shibuya Station and Yamaya are all within less than a 10 minute walk.  For a visitor, finding your way around can be a challenge, but if you print out maps in advance you can ask people to help you.  There are kobans (police boxes) everywhere and the police men on duty are used to getting lots of questions about directions.  Once you get to Manboo! I’m sure the staff would be quite helpful also.  Lastly, to be honest, Yamaya is a little hidden away so an easier to find place to stock up (and an interesting visit in itself) is a store called Donki.  It’s quite close to the comic cafe and most people in Shibuya will know where it’s located.

  • http://www.facebook.com/higashi.minami Higashi Minami

    This was simply… terrific!  THX   This article’ s author seems to be quite smart!  he he!  

    • CheapoGreg

      Thank you very much! That’s very flattering – and not at all true :)

  • http://www.project-kathryn.com kathryn

    I knew there were showers at the manga cafes but never knew whether you had to bring your own towel.   For extra cheapness, you could grab a 100 yen bread from the conbini and have it with the free corn soup at the manga cafe! 

  • Fellow Bargain Hunter

    Super fun write up. I can help your readers save 20 yen. The cheapest drink at Starbucks is a bottle of “mineral water” – 130 yen. Their coffee is not high on my list of poignant potables, but with free Wifi, comfortable seats (if you can get a padded seat along a wall!), no smoking, and staff that will almost never hassle you regardless of how long you stay there, a Tokyo Starbucks can be a true oasis.

  • E

    Do they have luggage keeping service?

    • CheapoGreg

      You mean the comic/manga cafes? No – so you’d have to travel really light or use the lockers at a nearby station which would add significantly to the cost. This is definitely for the more adventurous – a lot of tourists have enough trouble finding their hotel let alone a comic cafe with no English signage.

  • Kirstie

    I spent a few nights in a manga cafe back in October, and it seems like you’ve got to be a Japanese citizen or at least have some sort of foreigner registration card if you wanted to use the internet there.

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Kirstie, Yeah, not sure if it’s a new thing but they seem to be a bit stricter than they were about this. It might just be an over reaction from some past incidents of mis-communication with non-Japanese speaking customers. Will check this out next time I visit a manga kissa.

      • e.brown.

        its a security thing i think based on potential threat of cyber attacks or whatever. they need i.d before allowing internet access post 2008 i believe, same as when you rent a smart phone from the airport for example. your passport should be fine to create a registration card.

        • CheapoGreg

          Thanks for the clarification. I thought that rule just applied to voice communication because criminals were using pre-paid mobiles purchased with no ID. Seems a silly rule. If a cyber criminal has to go to an internet cafe just to get an internet connection then they need to go back to cyber crime school!

          • e.brown

            yeah i think it was just the anonymity factor of internet cafes they were trying to regulate and having i.d linked to the membership card needed to use the internet i think maybe alleviates fears of people like politicians that dont know how shady interwebs work.

            again im only going on assumptions based on different news stories so i wouldnt be surprised if i was totally wrong.
            you can still use the internet cafe if you dont have i,d you just cant access the internet

  • e.brown.

    i followed a similar plan on a JR pass manga kisa tour around honshu and had a blast.not sure about manga kisa showers though :/ can also stay at laqua onsen overnight in tokyo for no additional fee. also the odaiba onsen as well runs all night.

  • lisy

    Hello Greg very thanks for your post experience, I will travel next month to Tokio for 1 week, and Id like to follow your plan, I would like to ask you if you know the way to do this but my problem is that we need a place to keep our lougage while we visit the city, we dont know how more expensive is, or if they have a kind of lokers in the same comic caffe or mamboo!

    Another question cause i didnt understand well, once I take the Keikyu in Narita to go center tokio I dont know where station get down, if its in Shinagawa station or another after 20 min? And also Id like to know wish is the diference with Keikyu line and Keisei Tokkyou are them the same?

    grettings Lisy p.d sorry for my bad english

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Lisi,
      That’s great to hear you want to follow our plan! Please appreciate that it’s quite adventurous though – you’ll have some challenges. If you do decide to do it, It would be good to meet you while you’re here to do a quick interview.
      There are lockers around most stations, but they are not so big and you have to be careful because most are not 24 hours. Try the following link with Google translate -> http://coinlockersearch.com/shibuya.html It would probably be better to have your bags with you though – I’ll see if I can find if any manga cafes have “coin lockers”.
      If you’re coming from Narita, check our article on the topic -> http://tokyocheapo.com/travel/cheapest-transport-to-and-from-narita-airport/ If you catch the Keisei Line from Narita, you change to the Yamanote loop line at Nishi Nippori and get off at Shibuya. The Keikyu line is only if you are arriving at the other airport.

      By the way, if you listen out for Episode 9 of the Cheapo Podcast (out in a couple of weeks) we interview a tourist who decided to stay at Manboo.

      • Lisy

        Greg very thanks again for all your info, , If you mean to meet us there once me arrive at
        Shibuya, I’ll arrive on 29 April this month, but how to contact with you
        I like the idea but how to see you I don’t have my movil with me,
        anyway at this moment our best option is to arrive at Shibuya whit the
        less weight as possible, just remember that I’m traveling for a month
        after to Thailand so I can not have little things at all with me. I
        guess too that I could find a hostel around once me there, do I’m
        right? And if I come from Narita airport taking the keisei line to get
        off at Yamanote in Shibuya how much I need to spend, I read in an
        article that once in Tokyo we could get a tikes day for metro for
        around 700 yens only Tokyo
        metro.
        I ask you pleased let me know if you know for a comic caffe with room lougage or lockers
        Greetings Lisy : > )

    • narmy

      Most of the larger train stations have lockers where you can store your luggage. Bring a smaller backpack for your immediate needs for each day. For help with trains, go to hyperdia.com REALLY a Godsend!

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  • JAL

    It would be even cheaper now the the $ to YEN rate is much better !

    • CheapoGreg

      Indeed. At current exchange rates, it would cost about $US101 / 77EUR.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Susan-Elizabeth-Marsh-Tanabe/1083885165 Susan Elizabeth-Marsh Tanabe

    Hi Greg ~ I’ve been enjoying La Boheme since finding my first one, a “Jazzu Kissa” in Takadanobaba, 1982. Since then we’ve tried others and I always put one in our itinerary when i take students to Japan (now that we live in Oregon). So, a question. Why the Kita Aoyama locale when one is walking on Omotesando? The basement one there is uber cute. Also, Tokyo Union Church (a few steps up the hill toward Aoyama Dori) is an excellent example of Kenzo Tange’s architectural style… nice to mention.

    • CheapoGreg

      Hi Susan, I guess it’s just a matter of taste – for me the branch on Omotesando is a little poky. They do hav some really interesting branches. You should check out the disco ball and beaded curtains in the Minami Aoyama branch. I really like the Shirokanedai and Shinjuku Gyoen mae branches as well.
      I completely forgot that the Union Church was a Kenzo Tange work – there are so many amazing buildings along that street it’s easy to miss one out. The Yoyogi Gymnasium by Tange is another one of my favourite’s. Did you come across this post on the site? http://tokyocheapo.com/entertainment/omotesando-worlds-best-outdoor-modern-architecture-museum/

  • mohd adree badri

    nice information..i like to follow