Japan for Solo Female Travel
A female traveling by yourself in Japan? Here's what you should know.
For the uninitiated, traveling solo might seem extremely daunting. If you’re a woman, this doubt doubles. Concerns about safety, discomfort, or even just loneliness can discourage you from taking a trip.
If you’re working up the nerve to embark on your first solo journey, there’s good news: Japan is a fantastic destination for pretty much everyone, but as one of the safest and most convenient countries in the world, it’s particularly ideal terrain for women who are traveling alone. Here’s a brief guide to help you make the most of it.
Safety is generally the number one concern for women considering solo travel (or their loved ones who might be worried about them). But Japan deserves its reputation as one of the safest countries in the world. Women often walk alone and completely unbothered, no matter the hour.
That being said, don’t let your guard down. The best way to do that is simply to stay aware of your surroundings, and err on the side of caution if you’re feeling unsure about something. If you receive unwanted attention, which can be a common experience for foreign-looking women, firmly express your disinterest or tell the perpetrator to stop. Being loud and showing strength are often enough of a deterrence.
If you’re used to splitting a hotel room with a partner or friends, figuring out where to stay can be tricky. Luckily, Japan has tons of options for those flying solo. Hostels are the traditional choice, and Japanese hostels are safe and comfortable, though a bit on the expensive side compared to other countries. Lots of hostels have a women-only room, so ask if you’re interested.
Capsule hotels are a popular recommendation for tourists seeking a uniquely Japanese experience, but beware that many capsule hotels are only for men. If a capsule hotel does allow women, it will split the floors or rooms between men and women. If booking online, make sure you can actually stay in the bed you reserve!
Manga cafes are another unconventional option for accommodation. Popular with transients and people who missed the last train home, they’re cheap and easy to enter without a booking. They’re best left for when you’re traveling without a lot of luggage—or if you really did miss the last train back to your actual accommodation, and you’d like to stay in a safe, cozy place instead of roaming the streets.
If you’d like a room to yourself, business hotels are no frills accommodations that won’t hurt your wallet. Don’t feel guilty for splurging on luxury hotels or traditional ryokan either, but take note that some (not all!) places don’t offer rooms for singles, so you’ll have to book for two.
Transportation in Japan was made for people travelling alone. There’s no need to figure out a carpool or split a cab, as the train system is extensive and reliable. Talking loudly on trains is discouraged, making long train rides the perfect time for a solo passenger to observe and reflect. Some local trains in major cities have women-only cars during peak hours; signs or markings on the ground will indicate the boarding area.
For where trains don’t go, you can usually find a bus. Highway buses are a cheap way to travel between cities, for those without a rail pass. If riding at night, again there are entire buses for the use of women only, for that extra peace of mind.
Hostels and social spaces like bars are still great places to make friends, but websites like Meetup and Couchsurfing make it easier to meet people, even before you’ve set foot in the country. Japan is a country of devoted hobbyists, and whatever your niche interest is, you’re likely to find a group for it here. If you’re lucky, there will be an event planned during your stay. Japanese people also tend to be shy, but genuinely interested in talking to foreigners. If you break the ice and start a casual conversation, it will nearly always be appreciated.