Budget-friendly European tours have long been a rite of passage for younger travelers heading off alone, but if you’re planning a solo adventure, there are many reasons why Japan should be top of your list. Closer to home, with no jet lag, and continually recognized as one of the safest countries to travel to alone, here’s why Japan will deliver on all of your hopes and expectations.
It’s easy and affordable to get to
Unlike many other destinations, Japan is becoming increasingly well connected to Australia by low-cost carrier options from major cities including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Cairns. Jetstar recently announced the airline will be increasing its flight frequency from Brisbane to both Tokyo (in October 2023) and Osaka (in February 2024), while in late June, Virgin Australia launched its direct Cairns to Tokyo flights with easy connections from other Australian hubs.
Australians who are keen to save on their airfare to ‘up’ their Japan experience budget are also well-serviced by other major airlines including ANA, Qantas, and Japan Airlines. While these carriers aren’t branded ‘low-cost’, as the competition on routes between Australia and Japan increases, sale fares and other promotional offers are likely to become available making it increasingly possible to snag a bargain, especially if you have flexibility on your side.
Many activities can be enjoyed without a travel buddy
From eating and drinking to cultural past times and adventure activities, you can easily enjoy a wide range of experiences in Japan as a solo traveler, and you’ll never feel alone, unless you want to.
From the busiest cities to the quietest towns, casual dining establishments are easy to find including ramen houses, izakaya (bars serving drinks and meals), sushi restaurants, open-air street food stalls, and markets selling local delicacies. Importantly, going out to enjoy quality food doesn’t always revolve around social occasions in Japan, so you’re unlikely to be the only one dining alone wherever you decide to eat.
Tours and experiences
You’ll find tours and classes for all kinds of interests in Japan which offer great opportunities to get around and learn more with the support of a local guide, as well as meet new people. For example, various food and sake brewery tours are operating in most cities including Kyoto, Osaka, and Tokyo, while cooking classes are readily available if you’re looking for a more immersive foodie experience. Joining a tour of Japan’s bustling markets such as Osaka’s Kuromon Market or Tokyo’s Tsukiji Outer Market could also be a great way to get amongst the buzz and experience some of the best local dishes on offer.
But touring in Japan isn’t all about food. You might choose to add a few other unique guided experiences to your list such as an anime and manga culture tour of Tokyo’s Akihabara district, a ghost tour, or even a bar-hopping night walking tour of Namba in Osaka.
It’s great for outdoor adventures
There are beautifully preserved national parks dotted all over Japan which invite visitors to explore the local flora and fauna. Japan’s national parks are great places to experience the diverse and varied landscapes Japan has to offer which range from tropical in the south to alpine in the north. Unsurprisingly, whether you decide to plan a solo adventure or join an organized excursion or multi-day tour, you can choose from an array of outdoor pursuits which include anything from hiking, mountain climbing and cycling, to kayaking, rafting, and even scuba diving. But your experience of the Japanese wilderness can be much more relaxed with other popular outdoor activities including bathing in volcanic hot springs (onsen) and forest bathing.
Soaking up cultural pastimes
Travelling solo without distraction can often present an ideal scenario for connecting with local culture and customs on a deeper level. Visiting some of Japan’s many museums and art galleries, which range from quirky to historic and contemporary to traditional, could be a great learning experience as well as offering an opportunity for quiet contemplation. Similarly, other mindful ways to spend your time in Japan as a solo traveller might include exploring some of the shrines, temples, and gardens – or even participating in a tea ceremony, observing a geisha performance, or enjoying a traditional meditation experience.
The Best Accommodation Options When You Are Travelling Alone
Much more cost-effective than a traditional hotel, the price of a capsule hotel in Japan usually varies according to the amenities provided. Typically, capsule hotels have specific floors for men and women with each floor offering a designated locker for your luggage, a shared bathroom, and cosy capsule pods where you can shut the world out and get some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Shukubo (temple stays)
Dating back hundreds of years, the practice of shukubo in Japan was introduced to offer accommodation to other visiting monks. Today, temples are still offering modest and affordable accommodation to all kinds of travelers. A temple stay could offer a truly immersive cultural experience with meditation ceremonies and traditional ‘shojin ryori’ Buddhist cuisine.
Minshuku (Bed & Breakfast)
Usually found in rural or regional areas and including farms and ski resorts, guest houses are typically family-run and offer guests a taste of the traditional way of life in Japan. Guest houses usually feature futon beds, communal dining areas, and home-cooked dinner and breakfast – and they’re also great places to connect with other solo travellers.
Somewhere between a standard hotel and a capsule hotel, hostels are a great in-between option for solo travelers to Japan. There are many excellent quality hostels in Japan that typically feature trendy or themed minimalist interiors, dormitory-style rooms, and shared cooking areas, they also provide a great place to socialize with fellow travelers without having to spend money.
Ryokans cater to all budgets from affordable to luxury. While ryokans were traditionally established along roadsides to provide accommodation to travelers, they’re now found all over Japan and allow guests to experience traditional Japanese hospitality. By staying in a ryokan, you can look forward to soaking in an onsen, delicious cuisine made with fresh local ingredients, and the chance to relax in cosy homely living spaces or among beautiful, manicured gardens.