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Japan is known for being an expensive country (and it is pretty pricey) so the best thing that backpackers to Japan, or people visiting Japan on a budget, can do to keep costs down is watching what spending costs in Japan are going on Japan attractions which are either are not worth the money, or where alternative cheaper activities can be done, or even better, free activities in Japan!
On my 2.5 week Japan trip visiting many of the most popular cities and places, I kept a record of what free things you can do in Japan to help you budget and keep your costs low when travelling Japan!
Of course visiting the parks in Japan and walking the cool neighbourhoods of Japan’s cities is free too but I haven’t noted these as they seem like cheating, instead I have given you real, genuine, free activities in Japan and free day trips you can do in Japan to help you save money in Japan.
Japan on a Budget
Do you still need to get your JR Pass for Japan? I really recommend you get one. You can get one with Japan Rail Pass who offer quick & free delivery!
Free Things To Do in Osaka
Osaka Castle Grounds
Osaka Castle is one of the most popular places to go in Osaka, it costs to get into Osaka Castle but you can get literally in front of Osaka Castle and into Osaka Castle Gardens for free!
Most of the other Castles in Japan I came across like Himeji Castle and Kyoto Castle require you to pay to enter the grounds, so the fact that you do not have to in Osaka makes the Castle a great free activity in Osaka.
If you’re visiting Osaka as a family it’s one of the good things to do in Osaka with kids as they will definitely enjoy seeing such a grand Japanese castle and the Castle grounds are perfect for them to play in afterwards.
Plus I’ve heard from a few people who said that the inside of Osaka Castle is not worth the money so win-win!
Related Video: To SEE these free things to do in Osaka and more budget-friendly things to do in Osaka, have a watch of my Osaka YouTube video here!
Abeno Harukas Art Museum / Observatory Deck
A free Viewing Platform in Osaka? Oh Yes!
Head to the Abeno Harukas Art Museum and visit the 16th-floor observatory deck and garden to see a pretty good view over Osaka. Not only is the view of Osaka good but the garden and the whole concept of it is really cool too.
This has to be one of the best free activities in Osaka that could well be charged for.. but isn’t!
Related Post: 7 Day Japan Itinerary.
Free Things To Do in Hiroshima
Hiroshima National Peace Memorial Hall
The Peace Park is important and a must-visit place in Hiroshima to understand what happened in 1945 when the USA dropped an Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima.
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park is free to enter as it’s a park (although not all parks are free in Japan) and within the park is Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, this costs to get in at 300Yen, I think it is worth the cost to be honest as the museum is very good and you will learn a lot.
However for a completely free thing to do in Hiroshima head to the National Peace Memorial Hall just a few meters away from the Museum which is totally free and also gives a great insight into what happened in Hiroshima in WW2. It offers a peaceful place where you can read about the atomic bomb and give thoughts to those who lost their lives and as you leave there is a seating area with a video playing so you can also learn a lot in here without paying to go into the museum.
Hiroshima Castle Grounds
Hiroshima has a Castle right in the centre of the city. It costs to go inside but you can walk all around Hiroshima’s Castle grounds and be literally 1cm from the Castle for free. You just have to pay to actually go inside.
Go to Miyajima Island
If you have a JR Pass which you probably will have and definitely do need to get when travelling Japan, you can get to the beautiful Miyajima Island at no extra cost from Hiroshima which is great (although for the price of the JR Pass I’d hope it is free!).
Get your JR Pass here if you haven’t got one yet!
Get the train from Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station, from there there’s a JR Boat that takes you to the island. The whole journey can be done in about 45 minutes and is a great day trip from Hiroshima as Miyajima Island is truly stunning.
Free things to do on Miyajima Island include, seeing the Great Torii Gate from the side rather than paying to go into the Itsukushima Temple. Seeing the Five Storied Pagoda and Daishoin Temple. Hiking up Mount Misen and generally just walking around the island. Plus there’s lots of Street Food on offer meaning you can eat fairly cheaply too so all in all, it’s a very budget-friendly day trip in Japan!
Related Video: To SEE Hiroshima and my Day Trip to Miyajima Island, have a watch of my Hiroshima YouTube video here!
Free Things To Do in Kobe
Not far from Shin Kobe Train Station are Nunobiki Waterfalls and many other waterfalls. It’s incredible how you go from the City and a busy train station to literally being in Nature and at the base of the mountains within 1 minute and because it’s easy to walk to Nunobiki Falls this is a free thing to do in Kobe.
Explore Kobe City Using JR Lines
I know you can explore any City for free but in Kobe if have a JR Rail Pass it’s worth noting that although Kobe has a subway which you need to pay extra for, it also has many JR (Japan Rail) line running through it which you can use your JR Pass for so technically, depending on where you stay, to see the City of Kobe and get around Kobe you do not need to spend money on additional public transport with the pass like you do in other cities like Osaka and Hiroshima.
Along with this, Kobe is a very walkable city so be sure to use the JR line to get to Motomachi Station, head into Chinatown in Kobe for some cheap street food and then head down to Kobe Port.
Related Post: My Full Guide to Visiting Kobe in Japan!
Kobe is a great City sandwiched in-between the Ocean and the Mountains and one of the Mountains- Mount Maya can be visited and gives amazing views of the city. For free things to do in Kobe Japan you could hike up Mount Maya from the base.
However if hiking isn’t for you, there is a Cable Car and Ropeway up to Mount Maya from the Nada neighbourhood which is the base, this costs 1540Yen for both lines and a round trip (which is quite expensive) however if you stay at Maya Guesthouse Kobe as I did, they give you a free Cable Car and Ropeway pass all the way to the top! I went up there and only spent money in the cafe at the top! It was great!
Related Video: To SEE Kobe, have a watch of my Kobe YouTube video here!
Free Things To Do in Kyoto
Fushimi Inari Shrine
This is one of the most iconic places in Kyoto and it is free to enter the Temple complex and walk through all of the Torii Gates, therefore I really recommend you visit even if you have just one day in Kyoto, and take your time visiting as many other Temples in Kyoto cost to enter but this Temple in Kyoto is free and it really is special and unique.
Another very iconic and popular place to visit in Kyoto but a place which you can visit for free in Kyoto is the Bamboo Grove. This place is very popular on Instagram and in theory, they probably could charge to enter but as of now, it is free!
The Bamboo Grove in Kyoto has are a few different Temples and a park past the Bamboo Grove walkway so you can spend a good bit of time here.
Related Post: My One Day Suggested Itinerary for Kyoto.
Related Video: To SEE these spots on Kyoto, have a watch of my Kyoto YouTube video here!
Free Things To Do in Nara
Going to Nara
Nara is a popular day trip from the nearby Cities of Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe and most famous for its Deer. Getting to Nara and doing a day trip to Nara is totally free if you have the JR Pass as there is a line from all Cities going into Nara’s main train station which definitely makes you get use of that expensive JR Pass!
Nara Park is in the Centre of the City, it’s huge and is completely free to enter. I was however quite surprised to find that many, if not all, of the Temples in Nara have an entry fee.
I visited Nara and did not pay to enter any of the Temples thanks to my backpacker budget and I still had a nice few hours walking around Nara Park as a free thing to do in Nara so do not let the Temple entry fee’s put you off. You can still visit on a budget and see a lot of Nara for free as the area that Nara Park covers really is huge!
Related Video: To SEE how nice Nara Park is, have a watch of my Nara YouTube video here!
Free Things To Do in Tokyo
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building Observation Deck
The SkyTree in Tokyo gives an amazing view of the City but this is quite pricey whereas the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shinjuku offers 2 360° observatory decks in its North & South Tower (although I can imagine both views are very similar) completely free.
The Tokyo Observation Decks in Shinjuku are such a great free thing to do in Tokyo!
Senso-Ji Temple in the Asakusa neighbourhood is the oldest Buddhist Temple in Tokyo and one of the most popular temples to visit in Tokyo too. A lot of Temples cost to enter in Japan but the Senso-Ji Temple in Tokyo is free to enter.
You can enter inside the Temple for free and the complex around the Temple is also quite big (and very touristy) meaning it will take up at least one hour of your day to visit.
Related Post: Tokyo is such a big city make sure you plan enough time there. 4 days in Tokyo is perfect!
If you want a free museum to visit in Tokyo then the Advertising Museum is free to enter. I actually had trouble locating it as I got to the building I had pinned on my map but without internet couldn’t find it but perhaps you will have better luck.
Explore Tokyo City Using JR Lines
Tokyo has a huge metro system which you need to pay for even if you have the JR Pass however Tokyo is also very well connected by JR (Japan Rail) Lines meaning if you have a JR Pass you can use these lines for free saving you a lot of money on transport in Tokyo.
I made sure that I stayed in a hostel in Tokyo close to a JR Station so I spent 3 days exploring Tokyo whilst my JR Pass was still valid without spending any money on transport which proved to be a big saving for me.
Related Video: To SEE my time in Tokyo and everywhere I went, have a watch of my Tokyo YouTube video here!
I hope this gives you lots of things you can add to your Japan Itinerary for free and will save you money! I definitely saved myself money in Japan when visiting Japan on a Backpacker Budget!
For more of my Japan posts see: