Traveling solo in Japan is just so much fun! It is a very safe place to be and with so many opportunities to learn about the culture, get lost in futuristic cities, seek refuge in zen gardens, treat yourself to amazing food, and maybe even spot a Geisha, Japan has so much to offer! It truly is a trip of a lifetime. For all the solo ladies out there, here’s my top kickass Japan guide travel tips, for the ultimate Japan trip.
Traveling solo in Japan
When you visit Japan, it is simply magical and unlike any other culture you will have immersed yourself in. The temples and shrines, the crazy technology, the FOOD, the unbelievably polite people, the mountains, the cities and the shopping! It is all out of this world. You’ve made the right choice to come here for some single travel.
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Where to go and what to see in Japan
My most favourite Japan tourist spots, that I last visited, are Tokyo, Tsumago, Magome, Kyoto, Nara, Koyasan, Hiroshima, Miyajima and Fukuoka. I went to visit Tokyo first, then worked my way through Japan so that I could finish in the Southwest. I then took the ferry to Busan in South Korea!
One of my favourite ways to meet other people on my solo travel adventures, is to join group tours and activities. Here are some of the most popular Japan tours and activities you can join!
Want to see Mount Fuji? Enjoy the catch of the day at the fish markets? Get lost in Kyoto’s Geisha district? Or maybe experience the delights of a tea ceremony? It’s all here…
Make sure to check out my best places to visit in Japan and top activities here
How to get around Japan
Planning a trip to Japan alone does not need to be stressful. I’m confident in saying that Japan tourism is pretty easy! The main mode of transportation in Japan is by train and its service is brilliant! All signs are in Japanese and English. For solo female travelers, it’s efficient, budget-friendly and most importantly, safe. Security is at every train station and there’s CCTV also on board the carriages.
To get around Japan, I wholeheartedly recommend the JR Pass.
Get a Japan Rail Pass
The JR Pass is the most economical way of traveling throughout Japan by rail. It allows you to travel on all JR national trains in Japan, including the Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express. You can travel for free on the Yamanote Line in Tokyo and the Loop Line in Osaka too. You can choose a ticket for 7, 14 or 21 consecutive days. It’s quick, fun and a great way to travel. Please note that you cannot buy this ticket once you’re in Japan! It must be bought before you arrive in the country.
Get your japan rail pass
When you order your ticket online, you will get a free Japan travel guide and map to help you plan everything. Yet, Japanese people are extremely friendly, so they probably won’t mind helping you out if you do get a little lost! I had to ask for help many a time in Tokyo when using the metro because Shinjuku is craaaaaazy! But everyone I asked helped me as best as they could.
Make sure to bring cash
One of the most important Japan travel tips is having cash with you. Many businesses do not take credit or debit cards, so carrying cash may be your only option in some places. Some ATMs do not also take foreign cards. The ones that definitely do are Citibank and Standard Chartered.
Wander through the streets of Japan and enjoy the quirky things you will find! Just remember to bring cash!
While Japan is a pretty safe place to be, it is a good idea to make sure you keep your cash hidden, safe, and near you at all times. Be alert and follow my other solo female safety tips to ensure you are prepared as much as possible.
Safety in Japan
Japan is considered to be one of the safest places in the world. There are many women out on the streets of Japan who are eating alone, walking alone and traveling alone; so you will definitely not be the only one going solo!
I also hiked off the beaten paths just like my friend Richelle did on the Kumano Kodo Iseji, and didn’t feel unsafe. I just had to ring the bells to keep the bears away!
Being the curious character that I am, I even headed to the Red Light District in Tokyo by myself. I couldn’t resist seeing this side of Japan and I felt completely safe doing so. Naturally, be careful if you are out late after dark. Make sure to check my FREE self defense course to get some self-defense moves under your belt and boost your confidence.
Whilst travelling from A to B, you may prefer to travel in the ladies’ only carriages on the trains and metro during peak times. Gropers are known to take advantage during peak hours on public transport.
I also recommend taking the business card of your accommodation and carrying it with you. If you really do get lost, you can show this to a taxi driver to get you back.
Can you drink the water the tap water in Japan? You sure can! If however, you do feel better using a water filter, I recommend investing in a water filter bottle before you go. You can fill it from hotel sinks and even dirty rivers, and what is produced is freshly filtered water. All Teacake readers get 15% off with the code TEACAKE15.
Get a Japan SIM Card to stay connected 24/7
For emergency services, call 110. There are some great SIM card deals that you can get before leaving your home country so that you hit the ground running and are connected when you land in Japan.
Mobal offer a simple, fast option for tourists visiting Japan! You have a choice of 3GB or 10GB of high speed data, shipped worldwide for free. Find out more here.
Or you may prefer the holy grail of SIM cards for your Japan trip with Mobal’s Japan Unlimited. Grab your unlimited data, with a brilliant voice and text plan. Click here to find out more.
Women only accommodation
Wondering where to stay in Kyoto? There are options that are just for women travel on your Japan vacation. Women-only places to stay include Nine Hours Kyoto and Nine Hours Tokyo. They are less expensive than other places and safe. You also have the opportunity to meet other women traveling around Japan alone. This is a great opportunity to meet up with others who are looking for a similar experience!
Best Japan accommodation deals
For the best hotel deals in Japan, check out prices with Agoda
Looking for a hostel instead? Check prices with Hostelworld
The best time to go to Japan
Japan is beautifully different in every season. I went to Japan in the thick of Winter and it looked flawless with all of the snow upon it. I cannot wait to return in Spring, Summer and Autumn so that I can see the other sides to Japan’s character.
Are you on a budget? I advise you to watch out for the peak seasons in Japan if you are. The Sakura Cherry Blossom and Autumn Leaves seasons are incredibly popular and accommodation at this time is not only usually fully-booked, but expensive. Avoid Golden Week and the Obon Festival and watch out for school holidays; all the kids will be out at the big theme parks and attractions!
Language in Japan
When traveling to Japan alone, you may be worried about speaking English and how you will be understood. While some places in Japan do speak English, not everyone from every region does. If you can make the effort, I recommend learning a little Japanese before you go with some YouTube videos. If you can’t, it helps to travel with translation apps, so you can understand the signs and what other people are saying.
The people who live here are incredibly friendly and open though, so you should be able to call on them for help if you are lost or having trouble understanding signs or signals. Japanese people will always help you as best as they can. Don’t underestimate the power of body language and good hearts! Be kind, patient and speak clearly and the Japanese will do their best for you in return.
Etiquette in Japan
Etiquette is very important no matter where you travel. It is best to do some research before you go to see what the native people expect from visitors. Some gestures or things you do in your own culture can have the opposite meeting in another culture and Japan has many!
Never wear your outdoor shoes inside a Japanese family home or traditional ryokan. Change into the indoor slippers you’ll see as you enter. When using the bathroom, take off the indoor slippers and make sure you put on the shoes specifically for the bathroom. Change back into your indoor slippers once you are finished.
Temples and Shrines
When visiting temples and shrines, be especially respectful all the time, but more so when there is a service going on. Make sure to wash your hands in the fountain before entering and saying a prayer. You will also probably be required to take your shoes off.
Other forms of etiquette include not eating or speaking on your phone on public transportation or blowing your nose in public. Don’t stick your chopsticks vertically into your food either; it signifies an offering to the dead! Tipping in Japan is not customary as the Japanese believe that excellent service is the standard.
Tattoos can be a problem
Tattoos are associated with Japanese bad guys – and some spa establishments are very clear about not letting you in if you’re inked unfortunately. You might be able to get away with small ones but full on tattoos covering large parts of your body might be a problem. I advise you to talk to the staff to double-check if everything is OK before you head on in.
If your tattoos are rivalling record holders for the most tattoos in the world, there is a way around this. You could pay a little extra for your accommodation and enjoy your own private onsen room. Check out the best prices on Agoda here.
Smoking in Japan
The Japanese have very strict rules about smoking in public. If you are caught smoking outside of designated smoking areas, you will be fined heavily. Watch out!
Using the bathroom
While bathrooms in private establishments are mostly the advanced Japanese toilets as you see on TV, many of the bathrooms in public parks in Japan are a literal hole in the floor. This might seem different from what you are used to, but this is the way things work. You will have to be able to get low to the ground, so wearing a skirt might be helpful. It is also important to remember to carry toilet paper or tissues in your purse as this is not provided in public restrooms. Get ready to squat girls!
Using the buses in Japan
Using the buses in Japan can at first appear to be incredibly baffling. Yet, after this explanation, you will be a Japan bus pro! This is how you do it…
Firstly, get on the middle of the bus and take your ticket from the dispenser next to the entrance. At the front of the bus above the driver you will see an electronic board, which updates at every stop. When you get to the stop you need to get off at, look at the number on your ticket. The price you need to pay will be on the electronic board, underneath your number. Drop your fee and ticket into the box next to the driver before getting off and say thanks! If you have big notes, you can also break them down using the same collection machine. Not bad at all eh?
Luggage Storage Space
Solo holidays in Japan mean not having someone to share the load of your possessions with. No problem though! First and foremost, I really recommend you pack light following my backpacking packing tips. If you do need to store your luggage, there are many lockers in the bus, train and metro stations. If you somehow cannot find any space; apartment stores, attractions, museums and parks might be able to help you out.
For really big bags, I recommend paying for takuhaibin delivery services. Your luggage will be collected from you and then delivered to you the next day. It costs more than just packing light and going with a backpack; but it’s definitely an alternative to consider!
The best place to buy gifts in Japan
You will find endless shops on your travels with the weirdest things, but I had a lot of fun personally shopping in Don Quijote. It’s a big discount store in Japan, with many locations throughout the whole country. They are definitely in Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka.
How to travel to Japan
If you’re flying into Tokyo at the beginning of your Japan itinerary, there are two airports: Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport. Most flights come into Narita, which is 60km from Tokyo city centre. Haneda is 14km away. To find the cheapest flight tickets to fly to Japan, I highly recommend searching with Skyscanner.
From Narita International Airport, there are plenty of ways you can get into Tokyo city centre. The Narita Express Train (N’EX) will cost you between ¥3000-5000 return but with the JR Pass (recommended earlier in this article), your ride will be free (wahey).
Don’t forget your rail pass
If you want to get into Tokyo from Narita International Airport by bus instead, the Keisei Bus costs between ¥900-1000 one way.
Just so you know…
There’s a good chance that the Japanese immigration officer is going to ask you for proof of onwards travel. Make sure that you have evidence in your hand of your flight or boat ticket out of Japan for when you leave. For extra brownie points, dress smartly and have the address details of your first accommodation.
Need a travel hack to show proof of leaving when you’re not sure how or when you will be leaving? You can buy a really cheap ticket from Skyscanner that you don’t mind losing if you don’t use it. You could buy a refundable ticket.
The good news is that there is free WiFi in the airports for when you arrive in case you need to take care of anything.
Invest in portable WiFi
To make your journeys in Japan extra easy throughout the whole of your stay, I recommend purchasing 24/7 portable WiFi! I love using Solis Hotspots to keep me connected and safe wherever I go, around the clock.
All Teacake Travels readers get 10% off with the code TEACAKETRAVELS
Your departure from Japan
One of my favourite ways to leave Japan (if you have the time and want to explore more!) is to get a boat to Busan in South Korea. South Korea is an amazing country with glorious food, hiking, crazy city life, kpop and the best beauty products I’ve ever laid my hands on. Highly recommended!
Take a boat to south korea
Extend your trip and go to South Korea next! Check routes and prices for ferries from Japan here!
Traveling solo in Japan can be an amazing experience. Knowing and understanding the culture before you go can make your experience even better. When travelling alone, it is especially important to make sure you keep yourself safe, but also enjoy the time you are there. Japan is one of the best places to travel alone because it is safe, and there is so much to see and do! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Japan travel guide and my Japan travel advice. Now go out and venture!
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