Tokyo: List of Things To Do For Free or For Less Than $10USD
*2016 prices and based on 1yen to $1.32USD exchange rate
These two sites will provide you with a wealth of cheap ideas and keep you abreast of what cheap things are happening.
There are more shrines in every Japanese city than you could ever visit. Check out and see when there are special festivals going on to get the most bang for your non-existant buck. All shrine areas are free to enter, but some will charge a small fee to go inside the buildings. There is plenty to see on the outside as well as plenty of photo opportunities.
There are almost as many gardens in Japan as shrines. While many of them charge a fee, the fee is usually inexpensive: around a few hundred yen. Check out this site for some of the bigger gardens: http://ow.ly/XFjll. If visiting in the fall or spring there are lists of where to go to view the best color and when to see it. The Japanese take their seasons seriously and put a lot of information out about where to go for best results. Try www.japan-guide.com for this info.
4. Mt. Takao
Mt. Takao, while located within Tokyo, is about a 50-minute train ride from Shinjuku. The train ride is not expensive--about 390yen from Shinjuku for a single ow ticket--and you take the Keio Line headed to Takaosan. It's the last stop and you disembark at the base of the mountain. It can be crowded, so go early if you can. There is also a cable car available that will take you halfway up the mountain for about 480yen ow. Along the way, there are shrines, a monkey park, places to eat and drink, and potentially a beautiful view of Tokyo and Mt. Fuji at the top of the mountain if the weather permits.
Besides shrines, Japan has many, many, many festivals. Check various websites to see what is going on and when. These websites are good and they provide the basic info in English (while usually the actual festival's webpages will most likely only be in Japanese.) TokyoCheapo.com, JapanCheapo.com, Japan-guide.com, JapanVisitor.com, Japan-Talk.com,
6. Godzilla Statue
It makes for a fun photo op. The statue is located a block from the Hibiya station, near the Peninsula Hotel, and is not easy to find because he is not to scale.
7. Wandering Around the Neighborhoods
Not just the famous ones like Harajuku, Shinjuku, Shibuya, but others. There are over 1000 neighborhoods in greater Tokyo, and at least 47 of them important enough to be listed in this article from Japan Talk: http://ow.ly/XFfVJ. They all have a personality and are filled with interesting sites from weird window displays to neighborhood shrines that are no bigger than a phone booth (if you remember those).
8. Window Shop at a Don Qijote (AKA Donki) and Tokyu Hands Department Stores
While the first is considered a discount store, they are both filled with all types of fun, unusual things and both are located in quite a few locations throughout Tokyo. Both are great places to look for gifts. I can't promise you'll leave either spending nothing or under $10 but you might--so I've listed them here.
9. Explore the Tokyo Dome Area
The Tokyo Dome is where they stage big concerts and events but outside the Tokyo Dome is an amusement park with various cheap food vendors and a lot of outside lights that come on at night. It's a really pretty place to hang out and you can always ride one of the amusement rides.
10. Ride the Toden Arakawa Tram
This is the last of the old-fashioned above-ground lightrail trams in Tokyo. This Tram runs from Waseda area to Minowabashi which is near the historical site of Edo's red-light district Yoshiwara and features an old-fashioned, completely covered shopping street, several blocks long. The entire ride takes about an hour and you pay about 165-170y each time you get on (if you get off along the way, you need to pay again to get on again) OR you can purchase a special one-day economy pass for the streetcar for 400yen, 200yen for children . There are two really nice stops we've discovered along the way. First, from Waseda there is a beautiful cemetary at the fourth stop (the Toden Zoshigaya station). Further along at the OJI-ekimae station there is a great park you can access by riding a little tram car up to its top. There is an old-fashioned playground for kids there. Though I've not been here, apparently, at the Arakawa-yuenchimae station there is also a children's amusement park and petting zoo.
11. Tsukiji Market--closed as of May 2016. Moving to another location.
The famous Tokyo fish market is a must-see--though after 2016 it is closing and moving to a new location so may not be after its move. Currently, you should arrive by 4:30am in the morning in hopes of being one of the lucky 60 to be let in. They only let in two sets of 60 per day, so get there early to ensure your place. If you can get in, it's totally worth it--and it's free. Then treat yourself to some really fresh sushi for breakfast afterward.
There are lots of great museums in Tokyo from parasite museums, to toilet museums, and of course art museums. Many are closed on Mondays and while some are free, others charge a small entrance fee. Check out this site for some of them: http://ow.ly/XFjll
13. Window Shop Tokyo's Last Black Market
Peruse the stalls at Ameya-yokocho—Tokyo’s biggest outdoor market near Ueno Station.
14. Take a Photo with Hachiko
Tokyo’s most famous Akita (now a statue) is located outside the Shibuya station.
15. Buy food or booze at any Lawsons or 7-11 Convenience Stores
These convenience stores are literally on every street, sometimes multiple times. They are open 24-hours and offer inexpensive and fresh food choices as well as cans of beer and other booze. These are not like the convenience stores in the US where you buy a frozen bean burrito. The food is actually good tasting and fresh.