Solo Travel in Japan

solo japan travel

Traveling alone in Japan has become increasingly popular, not only among salarymen on business trips but also among locals, especially the younger generations. Solo travel has created a unique market aimed at singles, offering a variety of experiences and opportunities to explore the country.

Exploring Japan Alone

If it’s your first time traveling alone or visiting Japan, it might be simpler to base yourself in one place and make day trips or mix in an overnight trip or two. While sticking to the city may be easier and cheaper, venturing out into the countryside allows for different experiences and a deeper understanding of Japanese culture.

As tempting as it may be to try and see everything in a limited amount of time, it’s advisable to incorporate flexibility into your daily itinerary. This allows for unexpected situations and gives you some extra time to rest or enjoy the beautiful surroundings. Here are some basic points to note for solo travelers in Japan.

Safety Issues

Japan is renowned for being a safe country, where locals often leave their belongings unattended and where walking alone at night is generally safe, even in dark alleys. However, it’s crucial to remain aware of your surroundings and exercise caution, just as you would in your home country. Don’t let the friendly and helpful nature of most people in Japan make you complacent; it’s important to be vigilant.

Police boxes, known as koban, can be found in all neighborhoods, including remote places. If you encounter any problems or emergencies, these police boxes are safe places to seek assistance.

Police boxes (koban) can be found in all neighborhoods even in remote places. This is the one on Yonaguni Island

Accommodation

For single travelers looking for economical and no-frills accommodation, business hotels and hostels are the best options. They are readily available in most cities across Japan and provide basic sleeping arrangements.

For those who want to experience traditional Japanese culture and hospitality, ryokans are a great choice. While traditionally not catering to single travelers, the number of ryokans offering plans for solo travelers has increased in recent years.

A single room at a business hotel

Dining Out

Dining alone in Japan is not a problem, as many restaurants are well-equipped to serve solo diners. They have recognized the increasing trend and now accept reservations for single diners. Some establishments even have individual cubicles, while others may seat single diners at the counter to ensure tables are available for larger groups.

Staff and fellow customers are accustomed to solo travelers, especially in big cities where solo dining is common. So, don’t worry about drawing unwanted attention. However, it’s a good idea to do some menu research beforehand, especially for restaurants that use ticket vending machines for orders, to avoid holding up the line.

Hanging out alone isn't that uncommon here

Meeting People

If you’re interested in meeting like-minded travelers, consider joining a day tour or staying at a hostel. These can be great opportunities to connect with others and even meet local Japanese people. You can also sign up for a tour with a local volunteer guide or participate in a home visit to add a unique element to your solo travel experience.

Saving Your Seat

In many countries, leaving your seat and personal belongings unattended is discouraged. However, in Japan, it’s not uncommon to see customers leaving their belongings at their restaurant table or train seat unattended. While theft on sleeping passengers is relatively low, it’s still advisable to take precautions. Take your important items, such as your wallet and passport, with you when you need to leave temporarily and use an item you wouldn’t mind losing to save your space.

Unattended belongings

Outdoor Activities

Solo travelers can easily enjoy outdoor activities in Japan. If you’re a seasoned mountaineer, inform someone of your hiking itinerary and register your hike before starting on the trail. Carrying a working phone and a bear bell can also be useful in certain areas. However, if you’re not an experienced hiker or prefer guided tours, it’s best to stick to short and easy routes or join a tour for a more organized experience.

Water sports in Japan can be done solo or as part of a guided tour. If you plan to swim at beaches, pay attention to tides and water currents to ensure your safety and the safety of others. Guided tours may require a minimum number of participants, so be prepared to pay additional fees for a private tour if necessary.

Choice of doing the activity on your own or be paired with the guide

Tips for Solo Female Travelers

Japan is considered one of the safest places for female solo travelers, with a low probability of harassment from locals. However, there are a few additional tips to keep in mind:

Traveling Alone

Our Solo Female Travel series offers travel itineraries that have been tested by the author to answer common questions about safety and feasibility for female solo travelers. These itineraries focus on slightly off-the-beaten-track destinations that are still manageable for the average female traveler.

Fashion

While Japanese youth often express themselves through fashion, the general fashion for average Japanese tends to be on the conservative side. Modest outfits with covered shoulders and relatively high necklines are common, even in warmer seasons. It’s a cultural preference that protects the skin from tanning and avoids drawing attention to body shapes. It’s also typical for hemlines to fall around the knees, and socks or stockings are often worn.

Summer outfits

Sleeping on Public Transport

It’s common to see people sleeping on buses, trains, and even train platforms in Japan. While theft from sleeping passengers is relatively low, there are a few things for solo female travelers to consider. Make sure not to accidentally expose yourself or invite intrusive gazes with your choice of clothing. Additionally, ensure that your belongings are secure. Be conservative in your travel wardrobe to avoid any unnecessary attention.

Sexual Offenses

Though the rate of provocation against women may seem low, there are certain areas where it is more prevalent. Groping and upskirting are not uncommon on crowded trains, which is why some train companies have introduced female-only train carriages during peak hours. To avoid unwanted advances, it’s best to avoid peak hours as a tourist and stick to the female-only carriages if you’re concerned about harassment.

Women-only train carriage

If you become a victim of sexual assault or upskirting, report the crime to the police immediately. Enlist the help of fellow passengers, if possible, as they can assist in apprehending the suspect by providing photographic or video evidence. The Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department advises victims to speak up, move away from the offender, take note of distinguishing features, and report the crime to the authorities.

In conclusion, solo travel in Japan offers a unique and enriching experience. With the country’s reputation for safety, a wide range of accommodation options, and accommodating dining establishments, solo travelers can explore Japan comfortably. By keeping these tips in mind, especially as a solo female traveler, you can make the most of your trip and create unforgettable memories.

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