I have ALL of the good things to say about Tokyo, but I wanted to summarise some of the best tips I received and add some of my own in one place to encourage you to go!
Are you thinking of travelling solo in Tokyo, but have all of the worries and concerns? Me too. But here’s the truth. My first time in Japan, my first time travelling outside of Europe on my own, I speak no Japanese and I was BLOODY petrified. Now…. I want everyone to go and I loved, LOVED. LOVED it.
Solo in Tokyo: Before you fly
I’m always a planner, I can’t pitch up in a country and hope for the best. Long Haul holidays are a case where I urge you to do the same. The biggest tip I can give you is to preorder a wifi dongle and collect it at the airport, so you have internet all the time. Honestly, this makes everything easier, more relaxed and you can feel comfortable and confident. Google maps will tell you how to get anywhere and Google Translate comes in very handy when you friend is bed bound from chafing wounds and baby bum cream in sign language isn’t working.
If you are foodie (high chance if you read my blog) then get this book: Two food writers devour Tokyo. Amidst all the shit that happened before my trip this finally got me excited.
Download podcasts for the flight, its a long way. And take snacks, unless you really like pot noodle. Matthew Amster-Burton, author of above book records the excellent podcast Spilled Milk, this episode would be particularly apt.
Money – I am normally a ‘pre-order from the post office’ girl, but I recently got a Halifax Clarity card. You get the best rate on the day. Simply nip to a cash machine in the airport on arrival get cash out and then go on your online banking app within 24 hours and transfer the money back to yourself and you pay zero fees. Unlike Europe, where I just use contactless everywhere. You must get cash out, get it at the airport because you can’t really get cash out anywhere, but there are free to use cash machines in every 7-11. Everything is cash, cards aren’t widely used at all.
Solo in Tokyo: Transport
You have many options, if you are rolling in yen, you can Uber everywhere .
Solo in Tokyo: Accommodation
Solo in Tokyo: Etiquette
- Never do anything with your chopsticks apart from hold them or lay them flat on the table.
- Bow all the time.
- Take money/cards/anything really with two hands and give with two hands. It’s respectful.
- Don’t eat on the go – it’s seen as really rude! – apart from on Shinkensens (bullet trains)
Solo in Tokyo: Language
Solo in Tokyo: What to do
Cathy stayed in Shibuya – it’s very busy and but full of clubs, places to eat, shops, weird stuff… it’s ace.
I’m keen not to tell you too much, but do these…
- The fish market, have the 100 yen omelette thing, just trust me.
- Sake Tasting
- Tea Ceremony
Solo in Tokyo: Beyond Tokyo
In terms of other places to go, Kyoto is definitely worth a visit, and you could easily spend a couple of days there, especially if you like temples. It’s a bit of a tourist trap, so go early to avoid the crowds and their cameras. We went to Hiroshima, and it was really interesting and well worth going. We also based ourselves in Osaka for a few days as Kyoto and Hiroshima are more accessible from there. Mark (my other half) went to Chiba whilst I was working, which is the seaside area not far from Tokyo. He loved it. We also went to Fuji, and although it was out of season (April), it was still ace and definitely worth a trip. This section is thanks to Cathy as I didn’t get out of Tokyo!
Solo in Tokyo: Tips and tricks
- Download the Tokyo subway app. City mapper is in Beta but I found this app and Google Maps better.
- Eat from sushi go-rounds
- Visit Yoyogi park
- Use the Tokyo Metropolitan Gym if you want a workout – it’s got a big pool too.
- Ask if you get stuck! People are really friendly and helpful
- The convenience stores are brilliant
- Take something waterproof