With its glorious tapestry of remote mountain temples and thriving cityscapes, Japan hits the sweet spot on many a bucket list.
From rich cultural traditions to dazzling cuisine (give us a fiery miso ramen any day), this is a country that was made to surprise and delight at every turn.
Even the travel-weary can’t fail to be charmed by Japan’s beguiling fusion of achingly beautiful landscapes and hi-tech hubs that pulsate with colour and energy.
Now, the folks over at Japan Info – a tourist destination site offering “genuine information about Japan by the Japanese” – have put together a list of reasons why their country is particularly suited to solo travellers.
Here are four of our favourite nuggets from their list that show exactly why Japan is a country to savour… entirely by yourself:
Japan is very safe
“Safety is a top concern of all solo travellers and they are in luck with Japan, because the crime rate is pretty low and you can sense the overall safety of the place,” says Japan Info. “Even if you lose something, it is very likely that you will be able to get it back.”
This is supported by police data, which shows crime rates in Japan have been falling steadily for the past 13 years. The murder rate of 0.3 per 100,000 people is among the lowest in the world (and compares to 2.1 per 100,000 people in Europe).
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Advice from the Foreign Office also states that crime levels in Japan are relatively low. “It is generally safe to walk about at night and to travel on public transport, but you should maintain the same level of vigilance as you would at home and take sensible precautions,” the FCO says.
Being alone is celebrated
“In some countries, you may feel out of place if you go out to eat or drink alone, but definitely not in Japan,” says Japan Info. “Japanese society is fairly individual… being alone is absolutely normal here.”
Over 30 percent of households in Japan are single occupancy. Being alone is so common, in fact, that Japan has incorporated the concept into its language.
“Ohitorisama” refers to people living and doing things alone, often reverently so.
So-called “herbivore men” – those who have no interest in marrying or finding a partner – are on the rise, while Japanese women are revelling in their new-found capacity for solitude.
The Japan Times notes that, while at one time women in Japan were expected to “stick together like vines”, a spirit of independence is now being embraced.
“Women on their own are everywhere,” it says. “From hotels and cafes to women-only apartment blocks and urban spas, the sight of a ohitorisama getting a little respite from the business of living has become common enough that no one gives her a second glance.
“Behind the phenomenon is the low, low marriage rate. More women are opting out of long-term commitments that would almost certainly cramp their style.”
There’s food for every budget
One of the biggest bugbears of solo travel is being hit by the “solo tax” of single room rates and non-shared meals. Often, restaurants are geared to deals for tables of two. But, just as you won’t be conspicuous by dining solo in Japan, nor will you feel the knock-on effect on your budget.
“Not only is eating alone very normal in Japan, but there is also an abundance of food options to suit every wallet!” says Japan Info. “Japanese cuisine is world famous and you can try all types of food in individual portions, which is very convenient when you are alone.”
While many travellers enjoy the time-honoured art of people-watching while dining out, in Japan you can take this concept to the opposite extreme and cut off virtually all contact with others as you eat.
“Flavor-concentration booths” founded by the country’s Ichiran chain of restaurants have been specifically created to allow single people to indulge in “low-interaction dining”.
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“Founded in Fukuoka in 1960, Ichiran believes isolation eating helps people focus on their food,” explains Timeline.com. “It eliminates the need for exchanging saccharine pleasantries with servers or companions. Most importantly, it helps fight the stigma of dining alone.”
If this sounds a little intense, there are countless other casual restaurant chains in Japan that are filled with solo diners. Serving up cheap and tasty dishes that range from sashimi to tempura and beef rice, they’re ideal for eating out alone.
Japan is soup for the soul
The ability to re-gain a little head space is the crowning jewel of solo travel. Japan, with its vast array of spiritual sites and serene nature trails, is the perfect place to re-group and reflect.
“In general, wherever you go in Japan you will find that you can always find places to relax, clear your mind and experience tranquillity,” says Japan Info.
In almost every city, you will find traditional landscaped gardens once used by Japan’s lords and leaders as a prime location for dwelling and dreaming.
Away from the hubbub, make a beeline for remote temples shrouded within forest-lined mountains, or islands peppered with picturesque rivers and castles.
Ethereal waterfalls, vast flower-filled parks and striking alpine routes are also yours to marvel at.
As Rita Golden Gelman writes in Tales of a Female Nomad, “My spirit gets nourished in faraway places… I learn best and most happily by doing, touching, sharing, tasting. When I’m somewhere I’ve never been before, learning goes on all day, every day.”
Japan is a never-ending source of revival and growth, just as Gelman describes.
And more than the food, the solo culture or the safety, it’s this element of freedom that makes the Land of the Rising Sun most alluring to those travelling alone.
Get booking for a voyage of discovery – both of this wonderful country, and yourself.
Fancy two epic weeks exploring Japan? Take a look at our Japan adventure for solo travellers.