While I have been to Japan, I haven’t had a chance to visit Tokyo. I loved the Kansai Region, so I’m hoping to get another chance to go back and check out other places in Japan, especially its capital.
In the meantime, check out this guest post from Lena of The Social Travel Experiment blog. Originally from Germany, Lena has been living in Japan since 2014. Find out why Tokyo is great for solo travelers according to Lena!
While I’m not much into solo travel, I have spent some time exploring Tokyo on my own. This was before I came to live in Japan, but I still remember my experiences well.
I have traveled around Japan so much since then, then made so many new ones that I wish I had known when I was here traveling solo.
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1. Tokyo is safe for solo travelers
Even if you walk around at night by yourself in Tokyo, you are probably much safer than you are in many other cities around the world by day. The criminality is one of the lowest in the world, with bicycle and umbrella theft being the most common crimes, so just enjoy your time.
I have heard stories of people losing or forgetting their phones or wallets, and they would in most cases find them exactly where they lost them just lying there, not being touched by anyone. If you can’t find it that way, someone probably picked it up and brought it to the nearest police box or the train station lost and found, so make sure to check there if you lose something.
If you walk around with your backpack open, someone will probably tell you about it to make sure you don’t lose anything, not because anyone would steal from you.
2. Tokyo has solo traveler-friendly accommodations
I know, I know, there are hostels almost anywhere in the word, and most of them are much cheaper in Japan. However, but there are many other great accommodation types for solo travelers in Japan, and the ones you already know have the highest quality.
There are many really nice hostels in Tokyo. They are a bit pricier than what you might be used to from other Asian countries, that’s why so many people say Japan is very expensive. But realistically speaking, it is about the same price range as cities like Paris or London in Europe. Check out the best deals in Tokyo hostels here.
I stayed in a hostel in Asakusa called Sakura. There are mixed and gender-separated dormitories, ranging in price from US$17 upwards. With Agoda, you can also book and pay later.
The staff was super friendly and spoke enough English to ask them for directions and recommendations. The whole ground floor is breakfast space and community space where you can hang out with other travelers or just sit down and read a book. It’s definitely a good place to stay if you’re a solo traveler in Tokyo.
If you want to get a uniquely Japanese experience, you could skip the hostels for once and stay in a capsule hotel. You have your own “room” which just comprises of a tube with an opening at the short side to slide in.
These hotels were specially designed for salarymen who didn’t manage to catch their last train home from work (or drinking) and can be found at every bigger station.
Nowadays, many capsule hotels have realized that tourists also wish to use these kinds of accommodations and they have upgraded them with English speaking staff and amenities.
While the early day capsule hotels used to be only for men, many capsule hotels nowadays can be used by both genders and there are also some women only capsule hotels for you to use.
The traditional hotels of Japan called Ryokan are another perfect accommodation for solo travelers. I really love the traditional wooden design of the Ryokan. There are many that have a community bath (gender separated) where you can soak in a big bathtub. Your rooms will be with tatami (straw) mat floors and a futon to sleep on.
I have once stayed in a really nice traditional Ryokan with a tiny tatami mat room, sleeping on a futon at night which was a great experience. They also had a cozy community space and even roof terrace to mingle with other travelers.
If you have never tried Couchsurfing before, Tokyo might be a good place to start. Because it is one of the safest cities in the world, and filled with one of the friendliest people (more about that below) it is a very safe option to try out Couchsurfing.
I myself am a Couchsurfing host in Tokyo, and I love welcoming travelers to my home to show them how Japanese people live (I am not Japanese, but my boyfriend is). If you would like more information on Couchsurfing, I have a comprehensive guide to all it has to offer.
3. Tokyo has a lot of places where it is easy to eat alone
As solo travelers, it is a constant question: what to do about food? Of course, you can indulge in street food, or find some company for your dinner in a hostel or on apps like Couchsurfing. But there are also two options in Tokyo that you will love if you don’t want (or have) company.
Restaurants in Tokyo
Often when you are alone it feels weird going to a restaurant to eat, but in Japan, it is quite common that people would go and have lunch and even dinner on their own. There are many places with just a counter where you won’t feel strange sitting down and eating by yourself.
I especially enjoy Sukiya, one of the Gyudon (sliced beef on rice) chains. However, Ramen places and other noodle shops (Udon and Soba) and other small shops selling Teishoku (Japanese set menus) are plentiful and at literally every corner in Tokyo.
Another option is getting your dinner at a convenience store next to your accommodation and just eating in your room.
The convenience store food is quite delicious (I eat it for lunch at work almost every day), for around 500 Yen ($5) not very expensive and also very practical. You get a fork and spoon or chopsticks and they will also heat up the food for you on the spot.
4. There are a lot of friendly and helpful people in Tokyo
Many first-time solo travelers are worried about finding their way around a new place on their own. Often, travelers don’t have access to an internet connection while on the road and they have to rely on the kindness of strangers to find their way.
I have two tips for you.
First, if you get lost, just go with it. Forget about your destination for a while and just walk around in whatever direction you think is correct. You never know what you might find on the way. Tokyo has so many hidden treasures to explore.
The other tip is asking for directions. If you are too shy to approach people, often it is enough to stand around looking lost holding a map. Many people will try to help you right away.
More people than you think speak English in Tokyo and even if they don’t speak it very well, they will do their best to try and explain where you need to go. As a last resort, they might just take you the whole way. This has actually happened to me when I first visited Tokyo.
5. Tokyo has a big expat community
If you should really feel lonely in Tokyo, there are two things you should definitely do to meet some new people.
You should have a look at the events on Couchsurfing going on in Tokyo. There are weekly regular meetups and other events you could attend.
If you don’t want to use the Couchsurfing app, just go to the Hub in Shibuya, the place where all the foreigners hang out and find some new friends there.
If this list hasn’t convinced you that Tokyo is a great place for solo travelers, I don’t know what will!
About the Author
Lena loves seeing the world from the eyes of locals. She loves learning in-depth about the culture, history, and traditions and of course, the food of the places she visits. Read her tips about traveling in Japan in her blog The Social Travel Experiment, or follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.