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8 Tips for a Solo Japan Trip

Solo Japan Trip

The Land of the Rising Sun is by far one of the most rewarding places for a solo adventure. Crammed into the island nation is old-world architecture, delicious food, stunning metropolises, incredible nature, and a culture unlike any other. Even though you’ve likely heard the adage “happiness is only real when shared,” we politely request that you disregard that: here are eight tips to ensure your first solo trip is filled with happiness.

Learn Some Basic Japanese Phrases

Learning Japanese

Although English (Eigo) is taught in most public and private schools throughout the country, everyday people are not usually well-equipped to have a full conversation. Japanese people are extremely helpful and will go out of their way to help, but just know that the language barrier is very often there. Things are manageable in the urban centers, but if you plan on heading out to the countryside, communication becomes increasingly difficult.

Knowing this, one of the best things you can do prior to your trip is to learn some basic Japanese phrases. There are plenty of apps out there, but JapanesePod101 is an excellent resource for fast-paced content that will get you up to speed before your trip. Take a quick scroll through their lesson library to discover survival phrases and other must-knows before taking off.

Know About Japanese Taboos

Sushi

There are entire articles (and books) written about navigating the nuances of Japanese culture, but here are a few major things to keep in mind while on your solo trip.

  • Take your shoes off when appropriate. This is especially common in homes but can be expected in public establishments as well.
  • Don’t talk on the phone while on public transportation.
  • Never stick chopsticks vertically (i.e stab) into your food, as this represents an offering to the dead.
  • Don’t point or gesture at people with just one finger.
  • Generally do your best to avoid loud and distasteful behavior in public. Japan is a place that prides itself on respect and order, so do your best to not stand out.
  • Tattoos are still associated with the nefarious underground culture of Japan, so err on the side of covering up anything that may be offensive.

Make Use of Exceptional Public Transportation

Transport

Public transportation in Japan is incredibly efficient and makes for an excellent solo travel experience. Japan Railways (JR Pass) is the public option that has routes all throughout the country, but you can also find private railway companies like Tobu, Meitetsu, Kintetsu, and Seibu.

Within the city centers, most people get around on subway lines. If you’re staying in Japan for a long period, consider purchasing a prepaid card ahead of time.

Always Carry Cash

Japanese Yen

For as advanced as Japanese society is, a surprising number of establishments still don’t accept credit cards. This has got better in recent years, but it’s still best to travel with a solid reserve of cash in case you get caught short.

Additionally, many ATM’s do not accept foreign bank cards. Consider bringing the cash you’ll need in your home currency and exchanging upon arrival (or doing so beforehand).

Where to Should Stay

Japanese House

For the solo traveler looking to link up with other friendly souls and adventure together, Japan has a great collection of hostels. They cater to the social crowd, they will help you organize tours, and they’ll be more affordable and allow you to stretch your budget.

If you’re looking for an authentic experience, consider booking a room in a traditional ryokan. Ryokans are Japanese-style inns found throughout the country, but commonly near hot spring (onsen) resorts. They usually incorporate elements such as tatami floors, futon beds, modern baths, and plenty of pillows.

Get Outdoors

Mount Fuji

Speaking of hot springs, one of the best things to do as a solo traveler in Japan is to explore the country’s illustrious collection of parks and natural treasures. Stunning mountains, dense bamboo forests, bucolic countrysides, and colorful springtime flowers.

Some of the most amazing outdoor experiences you can have in Japan include skiing on mountains with more snow than anywhere in the world, hiking through the Oirase National Park, dropping into waterfalls in Minakami, white water rafting at Okutama, and diving at Izu and the Ogasawara Islands. If you’re visiting during the winter months, check out Christmas in Japan: How to Celebrate the Holidays in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Get a SIM Card or Pocket WiFi

Pocket WiFi

Before setting off, be sure to establish a plan of action for communication. One route is to go with your local carrier’s travel package, but those can sometimes be quite pricey. Mobal is the most popular option for a SIM card, and the prices are fairly reasonable.

Another option is to rent or buy a pocket WiFi. Free WiFi in Japan is still fairly rare, so the safest bet (especially as a solo traveler) will be to always have a WiFi connection on the go. There are services that will allow you to pick up your device (a small rectangle about the size of your phone) at the airport upon arrival, or have it delivered to your hotel room.

Pack Light

Kyoto

As a solo traveler, you won’t have anyone else with you to share the load of your possessions, so packing light is a must. It’s definitely on the list of What You Should Know as a First-Time Solo Traveler, and in Japan it especially makes sense. Storing your luggage on trains, planes, and automobiles becomes that much less of an ordeal, and will allow you to move around with your hands-free. You should also be sure to make use of your accommodation’s lockers and safes if they are available.

Writer Dillon is a travel-hungry outdoor enthusiast originally from Encinitas, California. He recently moved to Medellín to begin his next chapter as a content writer for AllTheRooms. Besides writing, Dillon enjoys live music, fútbol, cooking, and backpacking.