While there are serious computations and budget considerations to be made (because that Mt. Fuji tour is non-negotiable), there is a way for first-time Japan travelers to make the most out of this awesome country without breaking bank.
1. Experience the Shibuya pedestrian rush.
With over 1,000 people crossing these lanes from all directions at rush hour, this is the one thing you shouldn't miss out on when you visit Tokyo. Get there before rush hour and just watch the people pass you by.
2. Pick up fashion inspiration in Harajuku.
You don't need an exclusive VIP pass to get front and center into one of the most fashionable places on Earth. From Yoyogi Park to Harajuku Bridge, there's no shortage of boys and girls modeling their unique—and peculiar—fashion sense.
3. Indulge your inner geek in Akihabara.
Gadgets, maid cafes, as well as all things manga and anime—they've got it all in Akihabara. You can also drop by the Tokyo Anime Center to browse through their Gundam, Evangelion, and Atom Boy merch. As an anime fan, I know where I'm going first. ;)
4. Immerse yourself in local contemporary art.
If free art is what you want, free art is what you'll get at the 3331 Arts Chiyoda—a former junior high school transformed into contemporary art galleries. Feel free to explore and enjoy the various exhibitions and interactive installations regularly on display.
5. Need a perfect view?
Go up to the observation deck at the Bunkyo Civic Center in Tokyo for this (preferably at night). It gives you an amazing view of Tokyo Skytree, Shinjuku, and even Mt. Fuji.
6. Welcome the Sakura with a picnic.
Wherever the Sakura blooms, that's where you need to be. More than simply taking photos of the gorgeous blossoms, however, you can actually partake in a Hanami, which is a picnic among the Sakura. Bring staple Hanami party food such as bento, fried and grilled dishes, and delish treats, and enjoy the sights with fellow Hanami-goers.
7. Visit Osaka Castle.
The museum inside the castle is not for free, but you can take in the sights and sounds from the castle grounds at no cost. Take a leisurely stroll and have your fill of picturesque scenes such as this one!
8. Have a drink during the Asahi beer tour.
I kid you not, the manufacturing plant of Asahi Beer in Osaka opens its doors for free tours (every 30 minutes!). Just make sure to sign up for a slot beforehand, and off you go on a 90-minute tour of the beer plant, with free beer tasting at the end!
9. Teleport to Paris and Coney Island.
Yes, you can do that while in Japan, thanks to Shinsekai in Osaka. It's a fun and quirky district that features a glimpse of the "new world," with models of Paris and New York's Coney Island.
10. Glimpse the future at the Panasonic Center.
The Panasonic Center, also in Osaka, is home to all sorts of wonderful, magical gadgets. If you're always on the lookout for the latest and newest technological innovations, you're going to feel right at home here. Plus, you can play with the gadgets on display!
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