A Guide to Having a Fun Time Traveling Alone in Japan
Compared to other countries, Japan is well-equipped to handle solo travelers, as a lot of Japanese people like to travel alone. Keep reading to discover some ways to enjoy traveling solo in Japan!
What Traveling Alone Is Like in Japan
It is so common to see people traveling alone within Japan that it is even said that “Japanese people love traveling alone.” One reason for this is because it is quite safe compared to other parts of the world, but another lies in the large number of restaurants that welcome and cater to solo travelers. There are also many ryokan (traditional Japanese inns) and hotels with stay plans specifically aimed at solo travelers.
Have Fun Traveling Solo
Japan is filled with many activities for solo travelers, such as entertainment facilities and tours. Here are three especially recommended ways to enjoy your time alone in Japan!
Try Out Several Kinds of Cultural Programs and Activities
Since you’ve come all the way to Japan, why not explore more of the country’s traditions and culture? There are lots of cultural programs and activities that solo tourists from overseas can participate in. For example, you can wield a sword and experience what it’s like to be a samurai, or wear a kimono and learn about sado (Japanese tea ceremony). Get out there and try your hand at any activity that interests you!
Visit a Super Sento or Hot Spring
One of the best parts of traveling in Japan is whiling away the time in a relaxing hot bath or spring. By traveling alone, you get to do this at your own pace, without having to consider the plans of anyone else. Give this a try at a super sento (a type of large-scale public bath house), of which you can find several in large cities of Japan. Super sento are unique because they contain more than just several kinds of baths; for example, you’ll find break rooms, restaurants, and entertainment facilities in them as well! There are even super sento that let you bathe in swimsuits - a plus for people who prefer not to go naked!
*Many public bath houses may not let those with tattoos use their facilities, so please make sure to check the policy of each bath house on their official website before entering.
Dive into Solo Karaoke
There are many places where you can do karaoke (the act of singing with a microphone to backing tracks) in Japan, and they typically offer a wide selection of foreign songs in addition to Japanese music. Karaoke may seem like an activity meant for a group of people looking to enjoy themselves together, but solo karaoke is actually quite popular in Japan. You will find several stores catering to this demographic that offer headphone rental and plenty of other services for the solo singer. Feel free to visit one of these stores and belt out your favorite song without a care for anyone else!
Easily Find a Place to Stay the Night
Many accommodations in Japan are inexpensive and welcome solo guests. Alternatively, many solo travelers will spend the night at Internet cafes or 24-hour saunas to save money.
Capsule hotels are lodging facilities consisting of simple beds in tiny rooms shaped like capsules. They offer the bare minimum in terms of facilities and services, but that is what allows them to be reasonably priced. Most capsule hotels have locker rooms, so you’re covered on the security front. On top of them being clean and stylish, some even come with large public baths or saunas!
Meeting Others When Traveling Alone
Another great part of traveling is getting to exchange conversation with people you just met in a place you’ve never been to before! Check out the below spots if you’re looking to meet and get to know a bunch of people.
Stay at a guest house if you want a chance to get to know people from all over the world! There’s something special about exchanging travel info in the common space or participating in guest house events. That said, guest houses can really vary when it comes to what they have to offer: some are really inexpensive and only provide the basics, while others let you stay in a renovated historic home. Many guest houses can also handle guests who speak English and other foreign languages.
Local Izakaya and Tachinomiya
You can also meet people at izakaya (Japanese bars where you can enjoy delicious food and alcohol). There are several kinds of izakaya, but it is recommended to visit tiny places run by locals, which, compared to national chain stores, have better atmospheres for enjoying conversation with other guests or the owner. These places are also filled with other solo guests, making it easier to approach someone.
Those who find it difficult to enter an izakaya by themselves should check out tachinomiya, which are a type of izakaya where you enjoy alcohol and snacks while standing up. Feel free to casually drop by and order some inexpensive food there!
Inexpensive Foods That You Can Eat Solo
Many restaurants overseas require a minimum of two people to place an order, but in Japan, you will find plenty of eateries that cater to solo diners. Let’s take a look at some popular places for food within Japan!
Sample Foods at Famous Shotengai, Markets, and Even Hakata Food Stalls
Every region in Japan will have “shotengai”, which are shopping alleys lined with a variety of stores, including those selling food, daily necessities, and other miscellaneous goods. They attract both shoppers and foodies, as they are also home to tons of delicious eats! The great thing about shotengai is that you get to sample local specialties either in-store or while walking about. One example of a famous shotengai is Ameyoko (Ameya-Yokocho) in Ueno, Tokyo.
Also, don't forget to check out each area’s markets! The Hakodate Morning Market, for example, is a great place for thoroughly enjoying fresh seafood. There are plenty of shops that will cook up or turn into sashimi any seafood that you purchase at the market so that you can eat it on the spot!
Also, when in Hakata in Fukuoka, give yatai (food stalls) a try. During nighttime in the Nakasu area, you will find over 100 yatai that offer various foods, such as ramen, yakitori (grilled chicken skewers), and tempura.
Ramen is definitely a classic for anyone eating out! There are a countless number of ramen shops in Japan, from chains to stores owned and run by individuals. Most of them have counter seats and are frequented by many solo diners. Some of them are like the famous chain Ichiran, which has a wooden partition between each counter seat so that you can dine without dealing with the person sitting next to you.
Tachigui Sushi Shops
One kind of food you have to try when in Japan is “sushi”! Though you may think that it is a high-class food, there are actually plenty of stores where you can eat it casually. A type of store where you can eat inexpensive, freshly-made sushi while standing is called “tachigui sushi”. Many people drop by tachigui sushi stores for a quick bite before heading home, making them great places for solo diners.
Another great food for solo diners is gyu-don (beef bowls), which you can think of as the Japanese version of fast food. There are many gyu-don chain stores like Yoshinoya, Sukiya, and Matsuya that have designed their shops to be more welcoming to solo diners. These eateries are great because they also offer foods other than gyu-don, such as buta-don (pork bowls) and curries, and are reasonably priced. Furthermore, many of them operate in the early or late hours, so you can visit them whenever hunger strikes!
Self-Service Udon Restaurants
If you want to savor udon (thick noodles made with wheat flour) in Japan, try a self-service udon restaurant like the chain store Marugame Seimen. This sort of restaurant lets you add your own seasonings, tempura, and so on to your bowl of udon. The whole process, starting from ordering your food, is incredibly fast, and it is quite popular with solo diners. Enjoy udon that perfectly fits your tastes at this sort of restaurant, whether that be a simple and inexpensive bowl or a more luxurious one with a variety of toppings!
Eating Yakiniku Alone Is Also Popular!
You may think that yakiniku (Japanese BBQ) is a food that’s meant to be eaten with a group of people, but in Japan, there are plenty of places that offer yakiniku to solo diners. One example is Misono, a yakiniku restaurant in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, that only offers counter seats that each come with their own grill. You can order small portions of meat there, so feel free to only order the parts that you like!
Some other places that are reasonably priced and are easy for solo diners to enter are the curry chain restaurant CURRY HOUSE CoCo ICHIBANYA and the famous gyoza chain OHSHO.
Japan is full of other activities that are perfect for people traveling alone. If you’re interested in exploring Japan solo, make sure to use this article as a reference when planning your travel itinerary!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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