Hi, I’m Ema, a local Japanese who spent the majority of my life in Tokyo, and 9 years in Malaysia, China, and the US. Because of my upbringing in multicultural environments, I’ve always had an insatiable curiosity to see more of the world and immerse myself in different cultures. While I’ve travelled a lot with my family since I was little, I did not have a deep appreciation for travel until I started solo travelling in my college years. I love solo travel so much that I started a company called Travelr, with a mission to enrich the experiences of people solo travelling in Japan coming to Japan by connecting them with other travellers and locals through an app.
Tokyo Local & Entrepreneur
Ema is a Tokyo local who’s lived and travelled across the globe. She is also a passionate entrepreneur working on her startup “Travelr” to make solo travelling easier and more exciting.
Let me share my thoughts on solo travel in general, as well as tips for travelling solo in Japan.
Never considered travelling alone? Just take the leap and try it!
Travelling alone can seem terrifying—especially if you are going to a place that is far from home, exposing you to a completely new and unfamiliar culture and language. You may also worry about feeling lonely, unsafe, or insecure without company.
But after doing it for over 10 years, I can assure you that the pros definitely outweigh the cons. Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Travel when you want, where you want. Don’t let others ruin your plan!
Have you ever talked about having a dream vacation with your friends for a long time, but it never happened in the end? Because nobody took the initiative to plan, because work got busy for them, or because one of your friends is broke and can’t afford to travel anymore?
If you are waiting for that perfect moment to travel with others, it may never happen!
If you are travelling alone, you pick wherever in the world you’d like to visit, at any time of the year that you get to take days off of work. Plus, you get to travel cheaper during the off-peak seasons!
2. You will meet so many more people and your perspectives will change
Travelling solo will push you to get out of your comfort zone and meet new people including locals and travelers.
“Man is by nature a social animal,” and true enough I cannot stand being completely alone for a long time. So, no matter how shy I get sometimes, I would always, always try to introduce myself to people I meet at a hostel, chat with locals I encounter at restaurants or shops, or mingle with other backpackers I meet through apps like Couchsurfing.
These encounters with different people from around the world have influenced my views on life, big time. When I had a corporate job in Japan, for example, 90% of my life revolved around work and I did not make time for myself to explore new hobbies. I didn’t think much of it because it was pretty common for an “office lady” in Japan.
However, I met so many people during my solo trips who were working hard but also pursuing multiple hobbies, seeing the world, or working on side projects—and hearing their stories really inspired me.
3. Solo travel makes you stronger and more confident
Although you may meet some great company along the way, there may be times when you have to deal with loneliness or face problems on your own. I once got my wallet stolen during my solo travel in Rome and felt devastated because there was no one I could rely on.
However, once you overcome these challenges, you definitely feel stronger and more confident about your ability to solve problems by yourself, in any setting!
So what about traveling in Japan alone?
Let me highlight 3 FAQs I am often asked about travelling to Japan alone. I cover lots of solo travelling tips here on Travelr’s blog as well.
Why is Japan a good place to travel solo?
- Japan is one of the safest countries in the world – Even as a female traveler, you will feel safe walking around at night alone.
- Good transportation system – You can ride the train to almost anywhere in urban cities, so it’s easy to get around by yourself.
- The “ohitorisama” culture (doing things on your own) – In Japan, it is not weird to dine alone or to do things on your own. There are lots of restaurants catering to solo diners, and there are even solo karaoke rooms!
Isn’t Japan an expensive country to visit, especially by yourself?
I would say travelling in Japan is definitely more expensive compared to other Asian countries, but some things are surprisingly affordable in Japan, like food and attractions.
The quality of food you can get in Japan for the price is pretty amazing compared to other developed countries, especially if you make the most out of lunch specials offered at many restaurants across Japan for only around ¥1,000 ($10). There is no tipping either. If you want to try different types of food at izakaya, it would be best to meet some travel buddies once you are in town, and split the cost.
However, a hotel room or Airbnb in Tokyo can be pretty costly, so if you are travelling in Japan on your own, try staying at hostels or capsule hotels which are clean, safe, and surprisingly comfortable (around ¥3,000 a night). Outside of Tokyo, accommodations are much cheaper, so even getting a hotel room for yourself may be pretty affordable. You can check out other recommendations on budget travelling here.
Isn’t it hard to make friends while travelling in Japan because of language barriers?
In Japan, people who can speak English fluently are said to be less than 5% of the population, so if you don’t speak Japanese, it could be hard to go up to random people at a bar and make friends.
If you want to make local friends during your solo travel in Japan (which I strongly recommend you do to understand more about Japanese culture), you should reach out to locals on Couchsurfing or check out some international Meetup groups in Japan. Connecting with some locals before your trip can make your trip more worthwhile and fun—but make sure to personalise your message and ask specific questions rather than a broad question like “What do you recommend to do in Tokyo?” if you want to get responses.
I hope that after reading this, you are a little more excited about doing your solo travel in Japan or anywhere in the world. Adventure awaits out there, so go ahead and make the world your playground!