8 Best Activities For Solo Travel in Japan

By The byFood Team
Updated: May 14, 2024

Single ramen booths, capsule hotels and gliding bullet trains: when it comes to solo travel destinations, Japan tops the list. Often regarded as a haven for introverts and, subsequently, independent travelers, the list goes on for places to be and food to eat here, from the packed Tokyo and culture-rich Kyoto to lively Osaka and scenic Hakone. 

Still, looking at Shibuya Crossing or the labyrinthine space of Shinjuku Station (where simply finding an exit is a challenge) might make anyone question whether it’s a good idea to explore Japan on their own terms while staying safe — and without getting lost.

That’s why we’ve looked into some of the best experiences in Japan for solo travelers looking to set out on a solo adventure. Whether you’re out for some zen pilgrimage or simply can’t find a friend to tag along with, skip the typical group-oriented spots and explore the destinations that truly shine when explored alone in Japan.

1. Go on a solo museum date in Tokyo 

The wall of a museum, showing art in golden frames.

Linger longer or go faster — the true charm of going to a museum solo lies in the freedom to enjoy art at your own pace without outside pressure. It just so happens that Japan's rich but often-overlooked tapestry of art galleries and museums spans every conceivable genre.

The Mori Art Museum in Roppongi tends to feature exciting, emerging artists and contemporary pieces, while devotees of Yayoi Kusama’s iconic polka dots can head to the immersive artworks at the Yayoi Kusama Museum

If you have a full day to spare, park yourself at Ueno Park, where six galleries housed under the Tokyo National Museum are scattered throughout. Smaller, local museums are dotted around districts like Ginza and Shibuya. 

Heading to Hakone? Visit the Hakone Open Air Museum and check our 2-day itinerary for Hakone

2. Take on an (easy) hike

Shrine donations by the side of a hike.

Before you dismiss the idea that hiking, being alone, and staying safe do not go together, consider the more accessible mountains around Tokyo — far from the daunting trails of Mt. Fuji. These smaller peaks are perfect for solo adventurers and are easily reachable by train and a short bus ride.

A pathway through the woods of a Mt. Takao hike.

One of the most popular is Mt. Takao, sitting just an hour away from Tokyo. The trailhead begins right outside Takaosanguchi Station, and the path is welcoming for beginners. If you're not up for a full hike, a chair lift can take you halfway, and remember: it’s not cheating if you’re doing it alone. 

Further, about two hours from Tokyo in the Okutama region, lies Mt. Mitake. The hike here is longer than Mt. Takao’s 90-minute journey to the summit, but more rewarding. It’ll take you through a quaint village inhabited by Shinto priest families, past shrines and waterfalls. 

Other beginner-friendly — which often means solo-friendly — mountains in Japan are Mt. Kobo and Mt. Tsukuba. 

3. Spend the night at a capsule hotel

The rooms of a capsule hotel, showing small capsules with a bed, pillow, and sheet.

Yes, capsule hotels have evolved into an experience in their own right, and are one of the few places where bringing a plus-one might actually be inconvenient. These compact pods, approximately two meters long, provide just enough space for an adult to sleep comfortably. 

With a recent surge in popularity, several capsule hotels now offer a luxurious twist to this unique lodging style. Take the Millenials’ ‘smart pods’, for example. Located in Tokyo and Kyoto, everything inside the high-tech room is controlled with a few clicks on a pad. 

4. Take a day trip to Kamakura and Enoshima

The Enoden train in Kamakura, heading to Fujisawa.

Located about an hour from Tokyo Station by train, Kamakura and Enoshima are two day-trip destinations worthy of your time. 

Kamakura has a bit of everything under one beachside bubble: retro and Insta-worthy electric trains known as Enoden, temples, shrines and all-day shopping with must-try street foods. Plus, during the summer, its beaches become a prime draw for visitors!

Connected to Kamakura by a bridge, Enoshima is a smaller, equally picturesque island. The Benzaiten Nakamise-dori Street spans across a part of the island and is decked out with traditional stalls and souvenir shops, alongside local food joints.

Pro tip: Use the Enoshima-Kamakura Freepass for unlimited rides around the area and special perks at select locations like the Enoshima Aquarium and Enoshima Lighthouse Observation Tower.

5. Shukubo: Stay at a temple and live like a Buddhist monk 

The hallway of a traditional Japanese temple, with its own interior garden.

Surrounded by mountains and nature, a peaceful retreat and a few days of living as a Buddhist monk might be what you need to completely get away from the world.

Shukubo refers to traditional temple lodgings in Japan where visitors can stay overnight. Originally, these accommodations were intended for pilgrims and traveling monks, but overtime, shukubo have opened their doors to the general public. 

These spiritual experiences are guided by centuries-old Buddhist practices and are abundant in Japan. One of our favorites is the Kakurinbo in Yamanashi Prefecture. Arriving here, the night begins with a private festival where participants beat drums and chant alongside the head monk. 

The following day starts with a morning ritual at Kunonju Temple and a yoga session. Breakfast is a delicate vegetarian shojin ryori (Buddhist cuisine) made by and for monks. 

6. Take advantage of that single-rider privilege in Tokyo DisneySea

The Tokyo DisneySea monorail, dwarfed by a fake mountain decoration in the background.

As soon as you overcome the fear of going to the Tokyo DisneySea alone, you’ll realize the idea of wandering inside the giant park without anyone stopping you is a liberating feeling. For one thing, you get to enjoy all the DisneySea treats, like the three-piece Toy Story mochi or savory chicken leg, without having to share. 

For another thing, the availability of single-rider lines, which can reduce waiting times from 1.5 hours to a fraction of the time. Currently, this option is only available at two attractions — Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull and Raging Spirits — but look at it this way: you’re saving a couple of extra hours that could be used doing something else. Plus, the ability to bypass groups stuck in a long line? Priceless. 

7. Head to a bathhouse or onsen

An outdoor onsen. Steam is floating off the surface, with grasses and mountains in the distance.

Granted, you might be sharing the space with a few other people, but nothing screams “ultimate me-time” more than soaking in an onsen (Japanese hot spring).

You can go about this two ways: get a hotel room with an in-room onsen at a heftier price if you’d prefer some privacy, or search around the local area for a public bathhouse. 

For the latter, we recommend trying something more unique: visiting an onsen ‘theme park’ like Spa World in Osaka. Although it does offer hotel stays, you can purchase a ticket to access their unique, internationally inspired onsen baths for just ¥1,500. Floors swap by gender every month, so the specific baths you’ll have access to will vary, but you can take a dip in everything from Greek herbal baths and Finnish sauna baths — ideally only suited for solo bathers — to Bali jacuzzis and traditional Japanese cypress hinoki baths. 

There’s also a food court and multiple restaurants if all that relaxing worked up an appetite.

8. Take your time in eating alone

The notion of eating alone in Japan isn’t just normalized; on some occasions, it’s encouraged. Walk to any shopping street in Japan, and you’ll find single-person eateries catering to everyone from busy salarymen to backpackers. 

For solo dining in Tokyo, options are abundant. There’s always a line forming outside the famous Ichiran Ramen, but you might beat the crowd by going to similar places like Ramen Break Beats in Meguro or Uogashi Standing Sushi Bar (for those sushi cravings).  

Want an easy, no-speaking option? Head to a “family restaurant” like Saizeriya or Gusto, where you can order via a tablet and not have to talk to anyone!

Caught the solo travel bug? Check out our other tips for solo travel in Japan! Or, make new friends in our Harajuku street food tour with the energetic Shizuka or meet locals and travelers alike in our Shinjuku back-alley bar-hopping tour.

We strive to be as accurate as possible and keep up with the changing landscape of Japan's food and travel industries. If you spot any inaccuracies, please send a report.
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The byFood Team
Sharing our love of Japanese cuisine and culture, with the mission of spreading happiness through food.
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