Travelling solo to Japan can be an incredibly rewarding experience. The country is safe, clean, and welcoming, with a rich culture and history to explore. And if you join one of our Japan tours then you aren’t really alone, you’ll be exploring Japan with other like-minded travellers! Here are some tips and advice for solo travellers, as well as some suggestions for what to see and do.
What to see and do:
- Tokyo: Tokyo is a vibrant and exciting city, with something for everyone. Don’t miss the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market, the beautiful Sensoji Temple in Asakusa, or the bustling neighbourhoods of Shibuya and Shinjuku. For a more traditional experience, check out the Meiji Shrine in the heart of the city.
- Kyoto: Kyoto is the cultural heart of Japan, with over 2,000 temples and shrines to explore. Don’t miss the iconic Fushimi Inari Shrine, the beautiful Kinkaku-ji Temple, or the tranquil Philosopher’s Path. For a more immersive experience, consider staying in a traditional ryokan or attending a tea ceremony.
- Mount Fuji: Mount Fuji is one of Japan’s most iconic landmarks, and a must-see for any visitor. Consider hiking to the summit, ride the nearby cable car for sublime views, or simply enjoy the mountain from the surrounding area.
- Hiroshima: Hiroshima is a sobering reminder of the devastation of war, but also a symbol of hope and resilience. Don’t miss the Peace Memorial Park and Museum, which commemorate the victims of the atomic bomb.
- Bowing: Bowing is an important custom in Japan, and is used as a sign of respect or gratitude. When meeting someone for the first time, it’s polite to bow slightly.
- Shoes: In Japan, it’s customary to remove your shoes before entering a home or temple. Look for a shoe rack or genkan (entranceway) where you can leave your shoes.
- Onsen: Onsen, or hot springs, are a popular Japanese pastime. When visiting an onsen, it’s important to wash thoroughly before entering the bath, and to avoid getting soap or shampoo in the water. Also bear in mind when travelling solo in Japan that if you have tattoos, you will not be permitted to use onsen. This is because tattoos are taboo in Japan, due to their association with Yakuza gangsters.
Tips and Advice:
- Learn some basic Japanese: While many Japanese people speak English, it is not as common as you may expect, especially away from the big cities. Anyway, it’s always appreciated when visitors make an effort to speak the local language. Learn some basic phrases like “hello” (konnichiwa), “thank you” (arigato), and “excuse me” (sumimasen). Consider downloading a translation app, such as Google Translate, to help with communication.
Getting around & understanding Japanese signs:
- Get a Japan Rail Pass: The Japan Rail Pass is a must-have for anyone travelling around the country. It allows you unlimited travel on most trains and buses, and can save you a lot of money in the long run. On many of our Japan tours, your Japan Rail Pass is included in the cost of the trip.
- Phone apps and books: The Japan Travel Guide by Lonely Planet is a comprehensive guidebook that covers all aspects of travel in Japan. For phone apps, consider downloading Japan Connected-free Wi-Fi, which helps you locate free Wi-Fi hotspots throughout the country.
- Google Translate: Not only will it help you with learning a few phrases in Japanese, you can also Translate signs and menus using the phone camera. Open the App, point your camera at the sign and Google will translate.
- Stay in a hostel: Hostels are a great way to meet other travellers and save money on accommodation. Look for hostels that offer private rooms if you prefer a bit more privacy. Our Essential Japan Explorer tour stays in hostels, keeping costs down for travellers.
- Consider a tour: Tours are a great way for solo travellers to meet other people whilst travelling in Japan.
Explore our Japanese tours suitable for solo travellers
- Don’t be shy: Eating alone is quite common in Japan, so don’t feel self-conscious about it. Many restaurants and cafes have counter seating, which is a great option for solo diners.
- Consider dining at lunchtime: Lunchtime is often less crowded and cheaper than dinner, making it a great time to try out new restaurants and dishes.
- Try kaiten-zushi: Kaiten-zushi, or conveyor belt sushi, is a fun and casual way to dine alone. Simply grab the plates you want as they pass by on the conveyor belt and stack them up until you’re finished.
- Use a ticket vending machine: Many Japanese restaurants have ticket vending machines outside where you can purchase your meal ticket before entering. This can be a great option for solo diners who don’t want to deal with language barriers or ordering in person.
- Bring a book or download a podcast: If you’re feeling self-conscious about eating alone, bring a book or download a podcast to keep you company. Alternatively, you can observe the people around you and take in the ambiance of the restaurant.
- Safety: Japan is generally a very safe country, but it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings. Stick to well-lit areas at night, and trust your instincts if you feel uncomfortable. Avoid walking alone in unpopulated areas.
Remember that Japan is a very safe country with a low crime rate. Japanese people are generally very respectful and helpful towards tourists, and you’ll likely encounter friendly locals who are eager to assist you. Don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice if you need it.
If you’re looking for a guided tour of Japan, On the Go Tours offer a variety of options for solo travellers. Consider the 13-day “Essential Japan Explorer” tour, which takes you to Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and more, using public transport and staying in hostel accommodation. For a more upmarket trip, the 12-day “Land of the Samurai” tour makes use of 3-4 star hotels. There is an included visit to Mount Fuji and you will stay in a traditional ryokan!
Travelling solo to Japan can be an incredible adventure, offering a unique blend of traditional culture and modern innovation. With these tips and suggestions, you’ll be well-equipped to make the most of your trip.