Top 20 FREE things to do this summer in Japan

Summer is upon us and Japan has a host of things to do for budget tourists. We have compiled our list of the best free things to do. Enjoy!


Walk along Todoroki Valley


Take a light walk along this hidden away paradise just outside central Tokyo. The water is stunningly luminescent in summer.

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Chillax in Chinzanso Garden 


Formally the gardens to the Four Seasons hotel in Tokyo, this often forgotten garden is really worth the visit in summer, especially if you have a train day pass. Lucky visitors will also get to see some extremely luxurious weddings going on outside.

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Hike up spiritual Mount Takao

takao7Hike up Tokyo’s easiest to access mountain. Multiple routes available for all levels of hiker. Pick up some cheap bento or convenience store food before heading out.

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Imperial Palace East Garden

Maybe not the best place to be if you are afraid of the heat, but the palace makes for a great stroll. Lots of interesting history about what once used to be the most expensive real estate in the world. Just bring lots of water, it gets very humid.

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Koenji Awa-odori


Koenji is a hip town just 6 minutes on the train from Shinjuku. Come here in the afternoon to check out the second-hand shops, chic cafes and strange shops. Then stay for the dance festival in the evening, one of the best in Japan.

When: 2016.8.27 – 2016.8.28 (5:00–8:00 p.m.)

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Take a walk around Tokyo

east_walktnWalking around a city is a much cheaper way to get around than public transportation, plus you get to see real life and a few surprises along the way. Check our free Tokyo City Walk guides for routes.


Stroll down the Philisopher’s Walk

Philosopher_walk_tnAfter enjoying Ginkaku-ji Temple or Nanzen-ji, walk between the two along this historic path. Along the way you can enjoy countless little shrines and temple, plus much of the path is shaded.

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Escape the suns rays at Arashiyama Bamboo Groves


Summer is the best time to visit this place. Just walk from the station, then stroll around these calming bamboo groves. Save money by buying a Kyoto bus pass as well.

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Gion Matsuri


The huge festival of Yasaka Shrine, the Gion Matsuri is one of Japan’s top 3 festivals. Huge 20 metre tall floats are paraded around town, with traditional chants, dancing and of course cheap festival food. The grand precession is on 17th July, but there are other events as well.

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Walk through Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine’s gates


Challenge yourself with a steep climb up this iconic shrine’s hill complex. The view from the top of Kyoto is more than a reward! Pass through hundreds of red gates known as ‘tori’ and up past little Shinto shrines and more.

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Hang out in Amemura (America Town)


This youth hotspot in the heart of Osaka is full of funny little shops, cheap snack bars and all the latest fashion.

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Tenjin Matsuri


Osaka is another great festival city. Another one of the Top 3 festivals, the Tenjin Matsuri features grand processions through the city, as well as on the river. Fireworks are on in the evening as well!

Cool down along Dotonburi Canal

If the heat is getting to you, grab a cheap drink from a convenience store and sit down along the canal. Remember, it is legal to drink alcohol outside in Japan!

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Yoichi Distillery

Hokkaido’s climate is perfect for making whiskey, and Yoichi has become one of Japan’s premier brands, receiving awards all over the world. Take a free tour of their distillery with free tasters and more. Book via the official website.

Farm Tomita

After walking though this lovely, lavender filled farm for free you do feel a little guilty! A cute little train that takes you here is nice, as is the cheap lavender flavoured ice cream.

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Go hiking in Asahidake National Park


Hokkaido has less humid weather in the summer, so makes for a great hiking area. The Asahidake National Park as a good collection of hikes, from multi-day hikes to easy hikes using the cable car. Bring food with you and have a picnic up the mountains!

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Other Areas

Kirin Beer Factory (Yokohama)


More free alcohol! This beer factory near Yokohama is the best one near Tokyo. Get a tour of Japan’s most popular beer brand’s factory, then indulge in some free samples. Reservations are only in Japanese, so if you need help ask at your hostel.

Hakata Gion Yamakasa (Fukuoka)


See some truly macho guys lugging around 1 ton floats on their shoulders at full speed. Spectators can view this gallant display of strength, as well as enjoy the usual cheap festival food. Starts on July 15th after 1am and continues till the evening. Get a free route map from tourist information at Hakata station in Fukuoka.

Official website (Japanese only)

Nagasaki Kunchi Festival


Nagasaki has a large Chinese population, and a strong history of immigration in a usually isolated country. This festival shows off the cities unique background, with Chinese dragons prancing around town and floats shaped like ships. Usually held October 7-9 at Suwa Shrine (Suwa Jinja-mae tram stop)

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Walk along the Yanagawa Canal


While some may like to pay for a ride along the canal, budget tourists can get the same views in their own time by using one of the free walking guides from the tourist information centre in town. Free is always better!

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Want to get the ultimate guide to Japan? Check out my new budget travel book!

Perfect for backpackers, budget travelers, families on a tight budget, students and those who are new to Japan. Get the most out of this amazing country, without burning a hole in your wallet!

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Published by Matthew Baxter

Japan travel writer and onsen addict

One thought on “Top 20 FREE things to do this summer in Japan

  1. That Toori is pretty awesome in Tokyo, and I’ve been pretty interested in checking out the Hokkaidai flower farms since I first read about them and saw pictures.


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