Solo Traveller's Guide to Tokyo - Things To Do Alone

By Arezki Beloucif, he Parisian jazz vocalist who manifested his love for Japan in making the sprawling, organic and enchanting city of Tokyo his new home.

Edited by Holly Stark

When planning an independent Japanese adventure and travelling to Tokyo alone, it’s crucial to see everything you were hoping to. Whether you’re taking the plunge with your first ever solo trip or are already a keen independent traveller, discover how to make the most out of your trip, uncover the best when seeking where to go in Tokyo alone and enjoy a Tokyo solo travel guide that encompasses the ideal mix of Tokyo’s temples and shrines, dynamic and electric neighbourhoods, food spots and nightlife. Tokyo’s traditional restaurants and charming cultural attractions provide some of the many great things to do in Tokyo alone. Navigating independently is no trouble at all as Tokyo transportation is efficient with good train links. Regardless of how you travel, make this trip for you and relish in the eclectic mixture of well-lit verandas, izakaya, green space, high-rise buildings and shrines. Whether your priority is sweet Harajuku treats, great city views or quirky neighbourhoods, you won’t be stuck for what to do in Tokyo alone as you uncover its many layers. So long as you’re travelling with an open mind, you will be sure to have fun.

Travelling Solo

If you find yourself wondering “how safe is Tokyo?”, there’s no need to worry. Tokyo solo travel is perfect as Tokyo is generally a very safe city. The Land of the Rising Sun is known for its safety and is largely brought about by the integrity standards that the Japanese observe. The locals work hard to ensure a safe, respectful environment, by taking responsibility together. You may see small children taking public transport and walking home on their own. For solo female travellers in Tokyo, it’s good to know that many trains have female-only train cabins at peak and super peak times. You can walk safely and feel free but as with any major city it’s never a good idea to walk alone late at night at dark in secluded places. Here’s my top Tokyo solo travel tips of the best things to do in Tokyo alone.

Nakamise Shopping Street And Asakusa Temple

An ideal day in Tokyo would begin for me with browsing the Nakamise shopping alley which leads to the Buddhist Asakusa Temple. Wandering past the windows, I’d browse crafts, sweets and typical Japanese souvenirs such as yukata and folding fans, perhaps buying various traditional local snacks or items which protect from harm and bad luck. Then I’d head to Sensoji or Asakusa Kannon Temple; a Buddhist temple located in Asakusa. It is one of Tokyo's most colourful and most-loved temples and legend says that in the year 628, two brothers fished a statue of Kannon, the goddess of mercy, out of the Sumida River, and even though they put the statue back into the river, it kept returning to them. So, Sensoji was built nearby for the goddess of Kannon. It’s completion in 645 makes it Tokyo’s oldest temple. It has an impressive atmosphere with a spiritual calm and makes a great stop off on your Tokyo solo travel itinerary.

Akihabara Electric Town

Gadget, electronics and anime lovers will want to head to Akihabara. The so-called electric town is the centre of anime culture; home to cafes, video games shops, specialised shops selling DVDs and manga. It’s very dynamic and you can check out lots of cool anime drawings of famous characters. These stores make up a huge part of the area’s electric charm. Larger venues specializing in manga, anime and video games include Tokyo Anime Center. Exhibits and souvenirs are available and Radio Kaikan is worth a visit with ten floors of toys, trading cards and collectibles. Head onto side streets for smaller stores with even more specialised wares. Tiny shops hone in on microscopic niches of the electronics world. If quirky, fluorescent, over-lit stores, cosplay cafes serving tea and cakes are your thing, you won’t want to miss this neighbourhood. Akihabara is one of the best things to do in Tokyo alone. It epitomises what Tokyo is all about; condensing a whole lot of something into a small space, with an added a dash of madness, weird and wonderful.

Meiji Shrine And Forest Walk

Dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken, the Meiji Shinto Shrine is one of the best places to visit if you’re seeking what to do in Tokyo alone. Close to the JR Yamanote Line’s lively Harajuku Station, Meiji Shrine is adjacent to Yoyogi Park; a spacious, green, forested area and peaceful break from the dense city. The grounds and walking paths are a peaceful haven and 100,000 trees make up Meiji Jingu's tranquil forest. Visitors to the shrine can take part in traditional Shinto activities, such as making offerings at the main hall, buying charms and amulets or writing out wishes on an ema. It’s well worth a visit and a must-see Tokyo for those seeking the spiritual heart of the capital.

Harajuku Sweets

There’s plenty of shopping to do on Takeshita-dori, but all the browsing can work up an appetite. Luckily there are plenty of characteristically Harajuku sweets to be tried; from world-famous crepes to gourmet popcorn to rainbow delights and cute cake pops which are much loved by locals. In the world of Harajuku, fluffy candy floss comes in rainbows and each flavor tastes distinctly different; choose from one, three or five colours. Try Zaku Zaku which means crunchy in Japanese. The choux cream puff is an unusual shape; but has a yummy almond crust with a real crunch, and inside, a quality creamy custard from the farmlands of Hokkaido in the north.

Shinjuku Nomura Building

The observatory at the top of Shinjuku is a hidden gem; despite its huge height of 209m. The observatory at the top of the skyscraper features restaurants, shops, clinics and offices and is relatively unknown to tourists. The restaurants are great places to eat if you’re looking for things to do in Tokyo at night. Located on the 49th and 50th floors, the restaurants serve great food and have romantic views of Tokyo’s skyline. Head up to the 50th floor observatory for picturesque views of the Shinjuku area and north-west Tokyo. On a clear day (or evening), the view of Mt. Fuji can be seen. Access is free and the Shinjuku Observatory provides a truly beautiful view of Tokyo.

Essential Tips

My essential tips are to try to understand how the metro system transport works, as it is super useful once you know how to use it. Keep your money in pocket, as even though Tokyo is very safe, it’s always good to keep money hidden. It would be wise and respectful to know a few words in Japanese. Useful phrases are arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) meaning ‘thank you’, onegaishimasu (お願いします), which means ‘please’, sumimasen (すみません) ‘excuse me, hai (はい) ‘yes’, iie (いいえ) ‘no’. And finally, nani ga oishii desu ka (お勧めは何ですか) ‘what do you recommend?’ The last tip: have a great trip!

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