Asia

Solo Tokyo! 7 Must-Do Activities For the Independent Traveler

Solo Tokyo

Even if you step off the plane by yourself, you’ll never really be alone in Tokyo.

In many ways, Tokyo is built for the adventurous solo traveler. You’ll step outside your comfort zone in Tokyo, but this massive city is still shockingly safe and accessible. Although few people speak English, Tokyo has added signs and announcements in English to its extensive public transit system. Trains are always on time. Strangers are always willing to help with directions (although you might need Google Translate to facilitate your conversation). Restaurants offer bar seating where you can enjoy a solo meal with a view of the chef. And fellow drinkers will be eager to jump into discussion at a tiny izakaya pub.

A solo traveler can do almost anything a couple or group can do in Tokyo. Just don’t forget your selfie stick to capture special moments from your trip! We do, however, have a few special Tokyo suggestions that might actually be best on your own.

1) Start your day at Mejiji Jingu Inner Shrine

Arrive at the main entrance to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Gardens at the first light of the day to avoid crowds and embrace solitude in the cool dewy park full of lush tall trees. You’ll be greeted by a tall wooden torii gate and then proceed along a wide trail for about fifteen minutes. It will become easy to forget you are in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities. Watch for signs directing you towards the shinto Mejiji Jingu Shrine. This shrine is dedicated to Emperor Mejiji, Japan’s first modern emperor.

If you’d like to experience this early morning activity with a guided tour that can provide you with additional historical and cultural context, check out our recommendation. Half-day tours can be a great choice for the solo traveler that wants some built in human connection.

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2) Eat standing sushi in Shinjuku

Don’t miss out on a fantastic sushi lunch while in Tokyo! Uogashi Nihon-Ichi is a great choice for a solo traveler because it is a “stand-up sushi bar.” Turn west as you exit Shinjuku Station and you’ll find a row of restaurants. Look carefully because Uogashi Nihon-Ichi is quite small! When inside, you can grab a hot green tea and browse the English menu or simply point to what you want.

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3) People watch from Shibuya’s Starbucks

Grab coffee and a front row seat Tokyo’s most famous intersection at the Shibuya Crossing Starbucks. The Shibuya Crossing unleashes massive crowds crossing from every direction when the traffic stops. It’s definitely worth crossing and blending with the crowd at least once. Then you can head up to Starbucks where you can watch the intense and iconic crossing from above.

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4) Go Shopping in Ginza

Sometimes shopping is most fun alone because you can set your own pace! Head to Ginza to see Tokyo’s most famous shopping area. If you are able to schedule your visit for a weekend day, you’ll find the central Chuo Dori Street closed to traffic and you can wander the street safely. Check out Ginza Six, the largest shopping complex, for a wide range of shops. For an overwhelming but affordable experience, visit the massive twelve story Uniqlo store.

5) Visit Kan’ei-ji Temple & Tosho-gu Shrine

A visit to the Kan’ei-ji Temple inside Ueno Park is another chance to transition from the hustle bustle of modern Tokyo to the tranquility of old Tokyo. This buddhist temple is a classic five story pagoda and was actually built in 1625.

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Nearby you’ll find the Ueno Tosho-gu Shrine. This stunning shinto shrine stands out because of its elaborate gold foil and traditional Karamon gate.

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These temples and shrines are made all the more special because so much of Tokyo’s original architecture has been destroyed in earthquakes and wars.

6) Make friends in a izakaya pub

An izakaya is a small Japanese pub. The best place to find pubs with old world traditional charm is in Toyko’s Golden Gai district. This alley is home to the tiniest pubs you can imagine– many can only seat less than ten visitors. These extremely cozy pubs are decked out in quirky unique decorations so we recommend checking out more than one to get the full experience. For example, Zucca is decorated for Halloween every day of the year!

And take it from us– a pub with only a few seats and no elbow room is a fantastic way to make fast friends!

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7) Sleep in a capsule hotel or ryokan

Many of Tokyo’s accommodations were designed with the solo traveler in mind.  

If you are on a budget, check out one the city’s famous capsule hotels. These hotels provide only what you need to get some rest– a private sleeping capsule!

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If you’d prefer a more traditional experience, try out a ryokan. These hotels are in the old Japanese style. You’ll comfortably sleep on a mattress resting on a tatami matted floor. You will be able to bathe in a communal bath and explore the ryokan space wearing a yukata (a casual lightweight kimono for both men and women). Many ryokan also offer up a traditional Japanese breakfast in the morning.

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As you can see, Tokyo welcomes the solo traveler with open arms. You’ll never be bored in this eclectic city, even if you are on your own.

If you do happen to be traveling with your significant other or a larger group, check our our suggestions here and here. 

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