Tokyo blow your mind, not your budget – nz herald chicken prolapsed oviduct

Japan is a magical land with weird and wonderful things every way you look. Tokyo takes this to a whole new level with robot restaurants, karaoke buildings seven storeys high, capsule hotels, owl cafes, ninja cafes, alice in wonderland cafes . . . You get the picture. But all its quirkiness comes at a godzilla price.

Tokyo is the most expensive place I’ve ever visited and that price tag is no secret. The city regularly finds itself on most-expensive-places-in-the-world lists. If you are lured there by the bright lights, the unique attractions and the incomparable japanese culture, these tips on how to do tokyo on a budget will have you laughing into your (vending machine) ramen. Visit harajuku and stroll down takeshita st

All that cool and quirky fashion that springs to mind when you think of tokyo comes from here — the zany, bright outfits with coloured tights and fluoro hair.


This lively district is home to many high street stores (including H&M and forever 21), vintage boutiques, creperies and candy-floss shops.Vending machine

Takeshita st is the beating heart of harajuku. I had read that if you visit on a sunday you’ll see loads of people dressed to the nines in harajuku fashion. We braved the crowds to see for ourselves but hardly anyone was dressed up — maybe one in 500. It wasn’t worth wading through the crowds so I would visit during the week if possible when your personal space won’t be invaded and you’ll still get to check out all the colourful shops.

Food is one of the main expenses that will munch into your budget. We arrived in tokyo after a night flight with no sleep and our first meal was at hanbey, an izakaya in shinjuku suburb.

Izakayas are a nightlife institution in japan. They are bustling little bars where people unwind after work. They are pretty casual and you can often spot them by the red paper lanterns outside.

Hanbey is quite a well-known izakaya chain and it’s worth its reputation. This place really woke me up with its lively waitstaff and cool atmosphere.Vending machine located on the second floor of a pretty inconspicuous building, hanbey is a burst of retro exuberance with posters all over the walls, knick-knacks available for sale but most importantly the menu is extensive and the food is tasty and affordable.

You get a free bowl of cabbage, which might sound weird but it’s actually delicious with the various dipping sauces on your table. We ordered a bunch of different yakitori skewers and gyoza (dumplings) and it made for a cheap and cheerful night.

Much has been written about the famed tuna auctions at tokyo’s tsukiji fish market. If you go painfully early you can watch the excitement of the auctions but if you aren’t a morning person there’s still plenty to see later in the day.

We visited late morning and wandered through the market scene. If you are lucky, one of the vendors will be slicing up fresh tuna they bought hours earlier and they might cut a small slice for you.Your budget otherwise, take your pick of the freshest sushi in and around the markets.

We spent a couple of hours walking around these streets. That is plenty of time as there is really a limit to how much seafood you can stare at but it is a unique experience and a must-do when in tokyo. This is, after all, the biggest fish market in the world.

You can order almost any kind of meal from a tokyo vending machine. The food is delicious and affordable and the novelty of choosing your meal from a machine doesn’t wear off (well, it didn’t for me in the two weeks we were there).

Normally you can choose from a variety of tonkatsu pork or fried chicken with rice, salad and miso soup. There are also plenty of vending machines that sell ramen.

The meals don’t actually come from the vending machine (although there are plenty of those kinds of vending machines around the country), you just select your order and pay through the machine then give the waitstaff the receipt that comes out.Vending machine

If you like your beer served with a side of knowledge then you have come to the right place. The museum of yebisu beer is free to enter and if you don’t opt for a tour guide (which I don’t think you need) you can just mosey around the yebisu exhibition and learn about the history of the beer.

Even if you aren’t a "museum person", this should be on your list of places to visit. It doesn’t take long to walk through, the displays are interesting, and there aren’t screeds of long-winded text to read.

Bonus: once you’ve walked through the museum you can enjoy a glass of the beer you have just read about for less than it would cost in a bar. You just pay at the vending machine (remember, japan loves those machines) to get a token, which you give to staff when you order.

I know, I know. When you’re in a place like tokyo you want to eat at all the cool restaurants, gobble down gyoza until you explode and slurp all the bowls of ramen.Your budget but if that’s not a possibility then throw in one or two meals from a family mart convenience store. They’re everywhere! A few times we grabbed dinner here to try and keep our costs down.

They sell perfectly safe sushi, rice balls, gyoza and a number of baked goods which will save you a penny or two. Sure, you’re not going to get premium marbled wagyu beef but eating cheap occasionally might mean you can eat at fancier places now and then.

Pro tip: if you can’t start your day without a coffee, the family mart brand do a pretty good iced espresso for less than a third of what you would pay in a cafe.

If you’re heading out of tokyo to visit another japanese city, it will be tempting to get the shinkansen, or bullet train. It’s a classic japanese experience and it will get you where you need to go super quickly. But if you’re really counting your dollars, a bus will take you to the same place for about a third of the price.Vending machines

We booked buses through willer express and they were really spacious, comfortable and always on time. Each time we booked only a day or two in advance and the buses were never full. The driver makes regular stops at convenience stores and bathrooms (which were always clean) and you get to see the japanese countryside from your window without it whooshing past at 320km/h.

Figure out the places you want to see and cluster them so you visit one tokyo district per day (depending how much time you have in the city). The cost of train tickets adds up very quickly (not to mention the tokyo train system is the most confusing thing ever) so the less times you ride the rail each day, the better.