The best things in life are free — and that includes walking tours. Sure, exploring on foot sounds boring when in the land of high speed bullet trains, but rest assured it’s anything but. Walking tours are a great way to get to know Tokyo and unlike bus tours, Tokyo walking tours tend to be smaller, meaning you’ll be making new friends in no time. It also meants the guide can focus on their guests better and you’re not as pressed for time.

As you pound the pavement you’ll catch glimpses of everyday Japanese life, pass cute little shops and get a more intimate feel for the city. Sold? In no particular order, here are some groups that organize free Tokyo walking tours for fellow cheapos — note, though, that you’ll still have to pay for admission to certain locations, and if you’re eating as part of the tour, it’s considered polite to treat your guide to a meal.

1. Tokyo Free Walking Tour

Imperial Palace Bridge
Imperial Palace Bridge | Photo by Gregory Lane

This tour group offers 4 different tours around Tokyo — all completely free. The guides are English speaking volunteers who want to build positive relationships between Japan and foreign countries by sharing their knowledge of Japanese history and culture with visitors. Under their expert guidance you can explore the Imperial Palace East Gardens and learn about the days of the Shōgun in Tokyo . The other options are a tour of Asakusa, a combined tour of Meiji Jingū and Harajuku, and Ueno Park. The length of the tour varies from 30 minutes to 2 hours. If you want to join a tour you can reserve your spot on their website.

2. Tokyo SGG Club Tours

sensoji temple tokyo walking tour
Photo by Grigoris Miliaresis

Tokyo SGG Club is another volunteer group running walking tours in a number of Tokyo neighborhoods. SGG stands for “Systematic Goodwill Guide,” and volunters hold a 2-hour walking tour of the Imperial Palace East Gardens and 90-minute tours of 3 other popular areas in Tokyo — Asakusa, Ueno Park and Yanaka. They also offer English guided tours of Shitamachi Museum and ASAKURA Museum of Sculpture.

NOTE: Due to COVID-19 most of SGG Club’s tours have been put on hold. At the time of the most recent update, only the Asakusa tour is available and it must be booked 7 days in advance via email (more details here). Participants must be vacinated against COVID-19.

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3. Tokyo Localized

akihabara
Akihabara | Photo by iStock.com/SeanPavonePhoto

Started by a traveler with a love for tour guiding, this site has various free and paid tours that visit different Tokyo neighborhoods including night tours, and even 1 tour in Kamakura. They also have a private tour option that allows you to personalize your itinerary.

The most interesting option, however, is probably the Shinjuku Night Tour, which takes you through Kabukichō, Omoide-Yokochō and Godzilla Road before winding up in Golden Gai. An ideal way to explore a sketchy part of town, this tour meets up at the Shinjuku Tourist Information Center.

Reservations for all tours can be made via their website. Also know that unlike some of the other groups on this list, Tokyo Localized encourages you to tip your guides.


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4. Kimi Information Center

With their main office in Ikebukuro, this life assistance company for foreigners, with services covering everything from real estate to job-hunting, also has a roster of volunteer guides who are students keen to practice their English. Visit their website to inquire.

Other options

Sometimes the tours just don’t go where you want to go, or you prefer to go at your own pace. Don’t be put off though, Tokyo is a very walkable city and you can always check out our recommended walking routes in Tokyo and be your own guide. Alternatively, here’s a nifty little guide to help you find professional tour guides in Tokyo.

We do our best to make sure all the information in this post is correct, but, like everything in life, it’s subject to change. Originally published in May, 2014. Last updated in September 2022 by Maria Danuco.

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