A few years back, Tokyo became the destination for my very first solo trip. That trip made me fall in love with solo travel, changing me in more ways than one. Where or what really lies the magic of the capital city in Japan? Today, I’ll give you 15 reasons why I think Tokyo is the perfect destination for anyone’s solo trip.
Confession: My first solo trip was not the first time I went Tokyo, but who says you must go to a NEW city for a first solo trip? Read my step-by-step guide for planning for your first solo trip!
Why Tokyo is the Perfect Destination for A Solo Trip
1. Tokyo is simply SO DIFFERENT!
No matter where you come from, Tokyo will be really different from your hometown. I come from a very modern city (Singapore), and even then, visiting Tokyo for the third/fourth/fifth time was still eye-opening in different ways. Tokyo’s madness and the Japanese culture will make your solo trip to the Land of the Rising Sun a very distinct memory.
2. Tokyo is generally a very safe city.
A very important aspect for considering destinations for solo travel is SAFETY, and everyone knows Tokyo is a very safe city. I don’t like to generalize but in Tokyo, at the very least, petty crime is not that prevalent downtown.
Tokyo’s safety, if I may presume, is largely brought about by the integrity standards that the Japanese observes. The citizens also work hard to ensure a safer environment, by making one another responsible together. You might even see small kids taking public transport and walking home on their own.
As always, low crime doesn’t mean no crime happens. It’s never a good idea to walk alone late at night at dark, secluded places.
3. Shinjuku Station is crazy and you gotta experience it for yourself.
When I try to briefly explain to people about Shinjuku’s location in relation to nearby hotspots like Harajuku and Shibuya, I use “City Hall MRT Station in Singapore” as an example. However, I’m not sure if anyone can ever visualize it in a befitting way. At Shinjuku Station, there are more than 200 exits. The station serves 3.6 million passengers a day. Shinjuku station is soooOooo huge and sooOooOo deep inside, I was amazed how long it took me to walk to the correct platform to for the train to Kamakura for a day trip. Like, just how BIG is this station actually?
| Check out the places not to be missed in Tokyo for your first visit |
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4. You just need to take the train for your public transport.
Tokyo’s train system is so well-covered and efficient, you’ll only need to use the train to get anywhere, as long as you manage to figure out the routes somehow (you will). The trains are also notorious for being really on time.
One thing to note though is that train stations can be ‘connected’ via internal tunnels, but are different train station names. An example is heading to Asakusa using Shinjuku Line and Asakusa Line. Google Maps will tell you to take one train to Bakuroyokoyama station, then it breaks off and you next have to take the train at Higashi-Nihombashi Station. Eh? You thought Google Maps might mean you need to exit the gantry at Bakuroyokoyama, but actually, no! The 2 stations are interconnected – you don’t need to exit the gantries. Have I confused you yet? I still get confused sometimes even though I’ve been to Asakusa quite a few times loll.
If however, you head to the outlying areas such as Kamakura or Nikko, they have their own transport systems such as monorails and buses. Never underestimate just how huge Tokyo is!
5. There are female-only train cabins.
With all good intention, I’ll advise you to stay away from taking the train during Tokyo’s peak hours (although these days, Tokyo is so crowded, I feel there’re only peak and super-peak hours). However, if you really want to be out at that time or to witness how crowded Tokyo’s trains are notorious for, there are female-only train cabins that come into effect during peak hours. I’m not sure if all trains on all lines have this implemented though!
Ps: I have no experience to share for the peak trains hours because you won’t see me out before 9am in Tokyo – I’m really scared of crowds in small places.
6. You’ll probably get lost… a few times.
It’s part of the deal for visiting Tokyo, but look on the bright side. Otherwise, how are you gonna tell others back home later about how confusing, how exciting a place Tokyo really is?
One time, I stood for what felt like a whole 20 minutes at a subway station, staring at its train map that was completely void of English words, filled with station names & Japanese words I couldn’t decipher. At that time, I travelled without mobile data in Tokyo because it wasn’t easily available back then. Inside of me, you bet I was panicking, but I was adamant that I’ll work out the journey somehow. And I finally did and found my way back to the hotel!
Now, with mobile data much more accessible now, the chances of getting lost are lowered.
7. Tokyoites are really helpful people.
Although they’re always in a haste, Tokyoites (slang for people living in Tokyo) are very helpful if you need assistance. They’ll help you to the best of their extent, unless you stop them at a time when they’re rushing to work (because Japanese companies value punctuality really much).
Once again, it comes down to the culture of looking out for one another.
8. More Japanese in Tokyo can speak English than you think.
I’ve never really had problems seeking assistance by speaking English. Even when I was alone at the oldest amusement park trying to figure out the ride ticketing system, a Japanese mother in the queue spoke English with me. When I was shopping for a new bag at a Samantha Thavasa boutique, the saleslady spoke English to me, having worked in Singapore before. Amazing!
Well, if the Japanese you’re speaking to can’t speak English, he’ll probably understand what you’re trying to say. You’ll be fine!
9. Tokyo makes it EASY for you to dine alone.
With sushi bars, ramen bars, and even isolated seats at restaurants such as Ichiran Ramen, it’s so easy to enter a restaurant alone in Tokyo and grab a solo seat at the counter just like everyone else, or simply ask for a table for one. Restaurant staff will even watch out for you, ensuring you’re comfortable and know how to place orders.
Also, being busy people in Tokyo, people are always dining alone. You won’t be the odd one out, so no worries about receiving judgemental looks from strangers, cos there’ll be none. If there are, they’re probably foreigners who have never travelled solo before and don’t understand why we do.
If all else fails, you can always buy food from the fantastic convenience stores (Lawsons! Family Mart!) and dine in the comfort of your hotel room. Not sure if the convenience store’s staff will heat up the food for you but very likely will if you ask!
10. No one will judge you for being alone.
No matter if you’re shopping, taking the train, hiking a mountain, anything — the Japanese will always keep to their own affairs in public places and not judge. Which makes you feel very at ease.
| Also read: How to Rock Your First Solo Trip |
11. Say hello to hotel rooms for single travellers!
For females, some hotels even have female-only floors. Talk about safety and thoughtfulness, Tokyo has you covered.
I have yet to try capsule hotels as I’m a seeker of comfort whenever I travel, but if you wanna try something new and also cut costs, you can consider them as your form of accommodation for a night. Sized like a large refrigerator, your ‘room’ is simply an enclosed pod where you lie down and sleep. Genders are usually separated by floors.
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12. There are clean and modern toilets everywhere!
I don’t know about you, but the cleanliness of toilets matters a great deal to me whenever I travel, which was why I had to write a First-World-Questions article about visiting Bhutan.
In Tokyo, even if it’s a public toilet at a busy station like Harajuku, or one outside Meiji Shrine – in the middle of the woods with 100,000 trees, or even up on a mountain when I went hiking at Mt Takao, you’re guaranteed clean, modern toilets! Amazing!
Also, have you thought of trying a Japanese bidet toilet? With lots of buttons that give you control over water pressure, water direction, and even music to drown out any weird sounds from your body? And warm seats too – super awesome in cold weather? Japanese toilet systems are simply the most amazing thing invented. It will make you look forward to pooping time, lol!
13. Because ONSEN.
On hindsight, it’s probably more comfortable to experience onsen as a solo traveller, than deal with the double stress of seeing your friend naked + your friend seeing you naked 😉
14. Tokyo has seasons and sceneries perfect for your selfies.
15. Tokyo gives you easy access to outlying areas for day trips.
Merely 1 or 2 hours away by public transport from Tokyo centre, you can take day trips to Kamakura, Nikko, Hakone, Yokohama, Kawaguchiko to see Mount Fuji, and so many more places. Explore cultural attractions and coastal towns, go hiking, and so much more. Enjoy your me time!
The Japanese are some of the most respectful, honest and cultured people I’ve ever seen, which makes the environment really comfortable to be at, even if you’re travelling on your own in this indescribable city – Tokyo. Now I can’t wait to go back again!
Are you inspired to make a solo trip to Tokyo yet?
Looking for more tips to travel by yourself to Tokyo? Stay tuned, I’ll publish a post as soon as it’s ready! Meanwhile, enjoy these articles from Japan:
• Tokyo for the first time? Here’s where to go!
• Where to stay: Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku Hotel
• My tiny Japanese AirBNB apartment experience
• Why November is a great time to visit Tokyo
• Nature & hiking in Tokyo? Yes, Mount Takao!
Near Tokyo //
• Where to see Mt Fuji? Kawaguchiko!
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Credits: The points about female-only train cabins and female-only hotel floors, as well as photo of female-only hotel storey were contributed by my friend, Grace H., thank you! | All other photos taken by me. | Information about Shinjuku Station and train map are from its website.
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