When it comes to the best places that solo travelers can visit, Japan is an incredible choice! Featuring huge cosmopolitan cities, extremely friendly locals, delicious food, and unique things to see and do that you can’t find anywhere else, the “land of the rising sun” truly has something for everyone.
If you have never solo traveled before, visiting Japan might be your perfect first solo trip. With accommodations geared towards solo people, convenient ways to get around the country quickly and easily, and no awkward looks when eating at restaurants alone, Japan is the perfect place to experience solo travel for the first time.
Keep reading to learn all about why our Tier One Travel Consultants highly recommend Japan for solo travel.
How To Get To Japan
Japan’s capital city, Tokyo, has two major airports that are easy to get to from Western Canada: Haneda Airport and Narita Airport.
From Calgary – WestJet will begin a three-time weekly seasonal, non-stop service from Calgary to Tokyo Narita on April 30, 2023. With Air Canada, you can fly to either Narita or Haneda (but expect a stopover in Vancouver).
From Edmonton – You can fly with Air Canada to either Narita or Haneda with a stop in Vancouver.
From Vancouver – Flying out of Vancouver will get you to either airport in Tokyo on a non-stop flight with either Air Canada or WestJet.
Haneda vs Narita: Which Tokyo Airport is best for you?
Getting to downtown Tokyo:
Distance by Car – 47 miles
Time by Car – 1 hour 30 minutes
Average Taxi Cost – ¥23,000 ($237 CAD)
Public Transit – Narita Skyliner Express/Yamanote line
Public Transit Cost – ¥2,670 ($27 CAD)
Time By Public Transit – 1 hour 20 minutes
Getting to downtown Tokyo:
Distance by Car – 13 miles
Time by Car – 40 minutes
Average Taxi Cost – ¥11,000 ($114 CAD)
Public Transit – Tokyo Monorail/Yamanote line
Public Transit Cost – ¥690 ($7 CAD)
Time By Public Transit – 45 minutes
Entry Requirements for Japan
Do You Need A Visa to Visit Japan in 2023?
A Canadian citizen holding a Canadian passport is not required to obtain a Visa to enter Japan as a temporary guest (which is defined as a person who will remain in Japan for less than 90 days, either as a tourist, on business, or to visit relatives or friends)
COVID-19 Requirements for Travel to Japan
Vaccination Certificate (or Pre-Trip Covid Test)
- Vaccinated tourists are exempt from the requirement of taking a pre-trip Covid-19 test.
- Unvaccinated travelers must complete a Covid-19 test within 72 hours of departure.
- Please see this link for more information regarding COVID-19 requirements for travel to Japan
Best Time To Visit Japan
There is no bad time to visit Japan, but it’s good to know some of the pros and cons of the seasons so you can plan your trip to Japan during the perfect season for you!
Spring in Japan
Spring in Japan is famous for its cherry blossoms and this is often considered the perfect time to visit. As long as you don’t care about the crowds and the increased prices for accommodation the gorgeous cherry blossoms will make sure that you will have no regrets. Cherry blossoms usually bloom for 10 and 14 days. Certain varieties may live more than 14 days, however Yoshi cherries, which are widely spread throughout Japan, only last about 14 days.
Best Cherry Blossom Viewing Locations in Tokyo
If you visit Tokyo, you will have the pleasure of being able to view cherry blossoms everywhere!
Here are the best places in Tokyo to see cherry blossoms:
- Sumida Park
- Chureito Pagoda
- Meguro River
- Monzen Nakacho River
- Ueno Park
- Rikugien Garden
- Shinjuku Imperial Garden
According to the Japan Meteorological Corporation’s official projection for 2023, cherry blossoms in Tokyo will bloom on March 22, 2023, two days later than the previous year.
Summer in Japan
The rainy season in Japan begins in early summer, between May and July, depending on the location. The rainy season in most Japanese locations (including Tokyo) lasts from early June until mid-July. However, it is experienced differently in Japan’s north and south. Another thing to keep in mind is that the more west you go, the more likely it is to rain. Travelers to Japan during these weeks should pack carefully and be prepared for any weather conditions.
The rainy season is the low season for travel to Japan, so expect prices for accommodation and transportation to be lower than during peak seasons such as cherry blossom season and the fall foliage season. But, an advantage of visiting Japan during the rainy season is the beautiful flowers that blossom! It’s hydrangea season, which means you may see the lovely hydrangea that blooms in this part of Asia.
After the rainy season ends in August you can expect hot temperatures all around the country. Here are some average summer temperatures for the month of August, the hottest month of the year:
- Sapporo: High 26°C / Low 18°C
- Nagano: High 31°C / Low 21°C
- Tokyo: High 31°C / Low 24°C
- Kyoto: High 33°C / Low 24°C
- Osaka: High 33°C / Low 25°C
- Hiroshima: High 32°C / Low 24°C
- Okinawa: High 31°C / Low 26°C
Fall in Japan
As summer gives way to fall, Japan begins to wind down, providing pleasant weather ideal for outdoor excursions. Cool temperatures and stunning scenery make autumn a fantastic time to visit Japan. Humidity lowers and temperatures begin to fall in autumn. Even if the weather is usually beautiful, bring a couple of additional layers for the chilly evenings.
In general, the amazing autumn foliage with brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges begins in mid-September on the northernmost island of Hokkaido. The finest viewing dates in other parts of Japan, like Tokyo and Kyoto, are normally from mid-October to early December.
In late September many Japanese people go on their holidays so consider timing your trip to avoid peak crowds.
Best Places to See Fall Foliage in Japan:
- Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Avenue (Tokyo)
- Ueno Park (Tokyo)
- Rikugi Garden (Tokyo)
- Eikando Temple (Kyoto)
- Arashiyama (Kyoto)
- Tofukuji Temple (Kyoto)
- Oze National Park
- Mount Nasu (Tochigi / Fukushima)
- Daisetsuzan National Park
- Lake Kawaguchiko
Winter in Japan
Japan is the ideal winter trip, with powdery snow and lots to do both inside and outside. Traveling during this time of year, when crowds are less and temps are lower, is a terrific way to explore Japan without the crowds. From skiing in Hokkaido to experiencing the Sapporo Snow Festival, there are many winter activities to enjoy in Japan as a solo traveler.
Because fewer tourists visit Japan during the winter, hotel room costs tend to fall to reflect this. So, if you’re searching for a low-cost way to visit Japan, winter is a terrific time to go!
One exception to this rule is during New Year’s when many Japanese people take vacations and travel around the country, so it does get pretty busy in the more popular tourist attractions.
Here are some average winter temperatures for the month of January, the coldest month of the year:
- Sapporo: High 0°C / Low -8°C
- Nagano: High 3°C / Low -5°C
- Tokyo: High 10°C / Low 2°C
- Kyoto: High 9°C/ Low 1°C
- Osaka: High 9°C / Low 2°C
- Hiroshima: High 9°C / Low 1°C
- Okinawa: High 19°C / Low 14°C
Is Japan Safe?
Japan is a remarkably safe place for a solo adventure, ranking among the world’s safest countries, including solo female travelers. Even as a solo traveler, you won’t have to worry as much about pickpocketing or walking alone at night as you would in other countries.
Most visitors to Japan who keep an eye on their belongings and exercise common sense should have no safety concerns, since Japan has a really low crime rate.
Solo female travelers enjoy vacationing in Japan because there is almost no catcalling. In a world where you are catcalled practically everywhere for no reason, it’s refreshing to be able to stroll down the street in Japan without having random men yell at you.
There is only one place where women need to be especially cautious: subways at rush hour. There have been instances of men harassing women on the trains (called chikan), and as a result, there are specific women-only cars in transit that are used during rush hour. The entrances of these cars are marked in pink on the platform.
The most essential thing is not to become too comfortable. While crime in Japan is quite minimal, you should still practice the same safety precautions you would in any other country. Keep a close eye on your valuables, limit your alcohol consumption, and keep in touch with someone back home who knows your itinerary, etc.
How To Get Around in Japan
One of the best things about traveling to Japan is how convenient it is to get around, not only in the major cities but the entire country! The reliability of Japan’s train system is legendary. Despite being crowded during rush hour, the rail networks of Japan’s three main cities – Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka – are among the most efficient in the world! Solo travel is made easy in Japan.
Japanese Metro System
The Japanese metro systems are the best way to get around the big cities. These subway systems make it extremely simple to navigate these huge cities, whether you’re sightseeing or simply wanting to get to your accommodation from the main train station. The Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto metro systems are some of the most popular among tourists.
The metro systems can seem very daunting but don’t worry, down in the Tokyo Metro stations there will be blue overhead signs in Japanese and English that will direct you to train lines, while yellow signs direct you to the various exits.
In Tokyo, there are two subway systems (Tokyo Metro and Toei Subways). You don’t have to worry about this because they’re interconnected. The JR Yamanote Route, also known as the “Tokyo Loop Line” or simply “Loop Line,” is the most useful train line in Tokyo. This line accepts Japan Rail Passes. A prepaid Pasmo or Suica card is the best way to pay for all trains and subways in Tokyo.
Japan Rail Pass
The Japan Rail Pass (also known as the JR Pass) is a low-cost rail pass for long-distance train travel in Japan; this is the best way to get around Japan! It’s stress-free and convenient for solo travelers.
The pass is solely available to foreign tourists and provides unlimited rides on JR trains (including the bullet train) for one, two, or three weeks at a price that Japanese citizens can only dream of. It is available in two varieties: ordinary and green cars. The latter applies to green automobiles (first-class cars), which have more spacious seats than ordinary cars.
What is Included with Japan Rail Pass?
- Trains operated by JR: The pass is applicable on practically all trains on JR’s nationwide network, including shinkansen, limited express, express, fast, and local trains.
- JR Ferry to Miyajima.
- JR Monorail to/from Haneda Airport.
- Some non-JR trains that are used to access isolated JR lines.
- JR local buses
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Japan
Japan has so many unique accommodation options, from traditional Ryokans to unique futuristic capsule hotels, and luxorious high-end hotels.
Why not stay in a traditional ryokan for an authentic Japanese experience? Ryokans, or traditional Japanese cottages, are popular among both Japanese and foreign visitors. They are traditionally built from wood and feature tatami-mat flooring, communal bathing and dining facilities, and communal bathing and dining areas. They are pricey in comparison to Tokyo’s capsule hotels and chain inns, but experiencing tradition in the Land of the Rising Sun is priceless. It’s important to note that as a solo traveler, you might have to pay for double occupancy since some Ryokans don’t book solo travelers at a single supplement.
Perfect for solo travelers, this modern minimalist-style hotel, where the ‘room’ you sleep in is about the size of a single bed, stacked upon and below another such ‘room’, like a bunk bed! Expect shared facilities such as showers and toilets. Capsule hotels are a terrific option and a pleasant experience for an affordable price, perfect for budget-conscious solo tourists, especially since some of the newest capsule hotels feel pretty futuristic.
Unique Hotels in Japan
Imagine staying in a hotel room in Tokyo, looking out your window and your view is of a Godzilla! Well, that’s a possibility in Japan at Hotel Gracery Tokyo. Stay in a Hello Kitty Hotel (Keio Plaza Hotel Tama), or in the first hotel staffed by robots, did we mention the robots are also dinosaurs(Henn Na Hotel Kyoto)?
Best Things To Do in Japan
Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka are the perfect cities to visit for first-time solo travelers to Japan. Here are just a couple of the best things to do in each city!
Tokyo, the capital of Japan, dazzles with its historic culture and love of all things modern. Tokyo is ideal for solo travelers, it is safe, solo dining friendly, helpful, and kind locals and there is so much to see and do. Keep reading see learn about just a few must-see attractions and landmarks in this incredible city!
The Tokyo Skytree is a television broadcasting tower and a famous Tokyo landmark. It is the tallest structure in Japan and, at the time of its completion, the second tallest in the world! The Tokyo Skytree’s two observation decks, which offer amazing views of Tokyo, are the main selling points to visiting the Skytree. You can also find a big shopping center and an aquarium at the base of the tower.
Senso-Ji is a must-see temple in Tokyo! If you’re at all interested in Japanese Culture you will love exploring this incredible temple located in the Asakusa district. It is Tokyo’s oldest temple, and one of its most significant.
Right outside the temple is Nakamise Dori, the oldest shopping street in Japan, which is always bustling with visitors to the temple. Here you can find souvenirs and Japanese confectioneries. Snacks like the Asakusa specialty imo yokan (sweet potato jelly) and ningyo yaki (doll-shaped cookies), as well as Japanese accessories, can be bought here, making it an excellent place to browse for souvenirs.
You can even buy official Sensōji merchandise like omamori amulets, scrolls, incense to burn at the massive burner in front of the temple’s stairs, and omikuji fortunes. Alternatively, you can collect Goshuin which are large stamps, handwritten by monks, that show that you have visited a specific temple or shrine. You can collect Goshuin all over Japan!
Travel Tip: It is best to arrive early to avoid crowds.
Shibuya Crossing is the world’s busiest and probably most iconic crossing. Massive television screens with flashing advertisements rise over every intersection, as black-suited salarymen, wide-eyed tourists, and busy shoppers all wait and cross together. The best time to go is around dusk when the scramble is at its busiest! The Shibuya Scramble Square tower, located above Shibuya station, provides a birds-eye perspective of the iconic crossing, as well as panoramic views of the city from the Shibuya Sky rooftop observation. This is a must-see to experience the hustle and bustle of amazing Tokyo! And don’t forget to walk Shibuya Crossing for yourself.
Attend a Kabuki Theatre Show
Kabuki is a Japanese dance and play with extravagant makeup and costumes. The finest venue to see it is Ginza’s Kabuki-za Theatre in Tokyo. Kabuki performances can take up to four hours or more. They are separated into two or three parts that take place in the afternoon and evening and are further broken into acts. Tickets for Kabuki are typically sold by segment, though some theatres also offer them by the act. If you want to see a complete segment, you can buy tickets online, or you can get tickets for individual acts, which are usually only sold at the theatre on the day of the performance.
Tsukiji Outer Market
Tsukiji Market is once again one of the top places in Tokyo for street food. Tsukiji is famous for its raw fish, but there is also plenty of cooked seafood available, grilled fresh to order, as well as non-seafood selections, sweets, and drinks.
Japanese Food You Must Try in Tsukiji Outer Market
- Ichigo Daifuku
- Menchi Katsu
- Dried Pineapple
- Matcha Latte
teamLab Planets is both a museum and a garden. It has many Instagrammable, opulent, and surreal art installations that you will never forget! Enter barefoot and become immersed in the artwork from maze-like, gloomy passageways that lead to wide-open, bright places, a knee-deep wading pool filled with digital carp that morph into flowers to a room full of crystal lights, you will never forget these amazing exhibits! As a solo traveler, don’t forget to bring a tripod so you can take photos of yourself in the exhibits.
More Things To See and Do in Tokyo:
- Feel like a kid at Tokyo Disney Sea
- Explore Harajuku, the street fashion capital of Tokyo
- Shop at Nihombashi Mitsukoshi, Japan’s first department store
- Relax in a traditional Japanese Garden like Hamarikyu Gardens
- Learn about Sumo Wrestling at Ryogoku Kokugikan
Kyoto is the epitome of old Japan, with dramatic temples, magnificent gardens, and quaint teahouses.
Traditional Japanese Tea Ceremony
A tea ceremony in Kyoto is one of the most memorable experiences somebody may have in a lifetime. Kyoto is Japan’s cultural capital and home to the three major schools of the tea ceremony. Whether it’s cherry blossom or fall foliage season, the matcha sipping ritual in this old city is unquestionably magical. Some tea ceremony experiences will let you wear traditional Kimonos. This is a great way for solo travelers to meet other tourists!
Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine
Outdoorsy solo travelers will love making their way to this photogenic shrine. The Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, Kyoto’s most distinctive treasure, is placed at the end of a flamed-colored walkway made up of thousands of traditional torii gates. Visitors can easily spend an entire day exploring the pathways that surround the network of magnificent shrines. At the Yotsutsuji Intersection, halfway up the mountain, expect breathtaking views of Kyoto.
It’s important to note that this is a hike that takes roughly 2-3 hours walking under 10000 torii gates and climbing 12000 steps. There are several smaller shrines along the path, as well as a few restaurants that serve locally themed foods like Inari Sushi and Kitsune Udon.
Gion is Kyoto’s entertainment district, well-known for its artists, theatres, and geishas. It’s easy to spend the entire day in this area, experiencing everything it has to offer. Gion is home to the Minamiza Theater, which is well-known for its kabuki performances. Visitors can also walk down Hanami-koji, the cherry tree-lined main street, and visit Yasui Kompira-gu Shrine which is known for its power stone said to end bad relationships or start good ones. Hundreds of cafes and food vendors can be found in between cultural attractions. The Gion District is the best spot for solo travelers to get an intriguing, cultural, and well-rounded view of Kyoto.
The Nishiki Market is a fun place to spend the day. Delicious sweets, handmade traditional crafts, ceramics, textiles, and more can all be found here. The market is a perfect place to try street food! Foodies will enjoy the fresh seafood section as well as enjoying local foods from the food vendors such as dumplings, pickles, freshly roasted tea, fish cakes, and yakitori. Because the entire market is shaded, this is an excellent visit on very hot or wet days.
The Kyoto Tower is the tallest building in Kyoto and a modern juxtaposition in a city of temples. Panorama views of the city extend all the way to Osaka for visitors. Kiyomizu-Dera Temple, To-ji Temple, and Chion-in Temple can all be seen from 100 metres up from Kyoto Tower. Plan your visit at sunset, the best time to experience Kyoto from above!
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
The thick green bamboo stalks seem to go on forever in every direction, and the light has an odd character at this famed bamboo grove, which has become one of Kyoto’s must-see attractions. It’s most atmospheric on the way to Ōkōchi Sansō villa, and you won’t be able to resist taking a few shots, but you might be disappointed with the results: photos simply can’t portray the charm of the location. To avoid crowds, go early in the morning or on a weekday.
More Things To See and Do in Kyoto:
- Wander The Philosopher’s Path and find Nanzen-ji, a large Zen temple
- Rent Kimono for a day of exploring Kyoto
- Take a Japanese cooking class
- Experience Kyoto’s International Manga Museum
- The Museum of Kyoto is a great place to learn about Japanese art and culture
Osaka is the second-largest city in Western Japan, after Tokyo. It is affectionately known as the Nation’s Kitchen. However, Osaka is much more than just food. Japan’s rich history can be found in temples, museums, and other monuments, as well as in the people themselves.
Dotonbori is recognized in Osaka as the spot to go to enjoy the best of the city. This area of Osaka is the major center of bars, restaurants, and cafes, and it’s a great place to unwind in the evening. Many of the cafes and restaurants here also have their own roof terraces, so you can sit outside, listen to live music, and gaze out over glittering Osaka all at the same time.
Be Relaxed and Rejuvenated at Spa World. As the name suggests, Spa World is a complex that includes a variety of spas, saunas, and pools. The facility is available 24 hours a day, and you may come here to test out the onsen (an outdoor bathing pool) where you can also enjoy the fresh air and beautiful views. You can also choose from a variety of spa services such as massages, and if you get a complete Spa World pass, you can even stay here overnight.
One thing to keep in mind is that some places in Japan have a very strict tattoo policy, so if you have any visible tattoos on your body, you will be unable to use the facilities at Spa World.
Osaka Castle was established in 1583, but like many other castles in Japan, it was demolished, and the one that exists now was built in 1931 and has been modified over the years. Despite the fact that it is not the original, the castle is nevertheless one of the most impressive buildings in Osaka, sitting in the heart of a lush park and surrounded by a beautiful moat.
Inside the castle, visitors can see a variety of weaponry as well as artwork, and there is also an observation deck on the 8th floor with panoramic views of the nearby park and Osaka.
Tour Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum
If you want to learn more about traditional art in Osaka, consider visiting the Kamigata Ukiyoe Museum, which teaches about the art of ukiyoe, a type of Japanese print.
The prints are constructed from wood blocks, and the museum is designed to look like a traditional Japanese house. Anyone who likes art should not miss this stop on their itinerary because it provides insight into one of Japan’s lesser-known handicrafts.
Shinsekai is a vibrant neighborhood to the west of Tennoji Park famed for its inexpensive stores and restaurants, as well as the famed Tsutenkaku Tower. The Tsutenkaku Tower has traditionally been Shinsekai’s main draw. The original 1912 tower was intended to imitate the Paris Eiffel Tower on top and the Arc de Triomphe at its base. Today, the tower is crammed with souvenir stores and amusements, and it boasts two observation decks on the fourth and fifth floors from which to enjoy a panoramic view of the city. The observation decks might have huge lines on weekends and holidays, so visit during the week.
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Solo travelers will love wandering around this beautiful aquarium that is world-renowned for its unique presentation. Kaiyukan recreates the natural environment of the Pacific Rim’s aquatic wildlife to exhibit them at their most bright and lively. Kaiyukan is certain that meeting 30,000 creatures from 620 species, including otters, sea lions, penguins, dolphins, whale sharks, rays, and jellyfish, will be a truly amazing experience for any underwater lover.
More Things To See and Do in Osaka:
- Enjoy the Momofuku Ando Instant Ramen Museum
- Visit Universal Studios Japan
- Explore one of the oldest Shinto shrines in Japan, Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine
- Go up the Umeda Sky Building
- Ride the Tempozan Ferris Wheel for amazing views from the top
Go On A Day Trip in Japan
The area around Mount Fuji is located less than two hours from Tokyo. There are many beautiful spots to visit that will delight both cultural and nature enthusiasts.
A trip to this region is also a wonderful opportunity to take a break from Tokyo and get away from the city for a day or two. The majority of day journeys from Tokyo to Mount Fuji will take you to Lake Kawaguchiko or Hakone. Because they are both conveniently accessible from Tokyo, these are the two most popular regions. Solo travelers can easily get there on their own or book a tour for some added comfort.
It is recommended that you stay 2 or 3 days if you wish to go hiking, spend the day in an onsen (natural hot springs), or simply improve your chances of seeing Mount Fuji. But it is still a great way to spend a day if that’s all the time you have!
Hiroshima was the location of the first of two atomic bombs dropped on Japan during WWII. Today, Hiroshima is a bustling city, vibrant and active, with little evidence of the devastation that occurred here seventy years ago.
Hiroshima is a short day excursion from Kyoto. To get to Hiroshima swiftly, take the Shinkansen. Traveling from Kyoto to Hiroshima on these famed “bullet trains” slashes travel time in half, taking just over two hours.
Some of the must-see areas of this city are the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park and Museum, the Atomic Bomb Dome, the Children’s Peace Monument, Hiroshima Castle and Itsukushima Shrine.
Nara is famous for its hundreds of deer grazing around a vast park within the city, exquisite Japanese zen gardens, and old shrines dating back to when Nara was Japan’s first capital city. Feed the deer in Nara Deer Park, visit Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga-Taisha and go shopping on Higashimuki Shopping Street and Mochiidono Shopping Arcade.
A day trip to Nara, which is only a short train ride from both Kyoto and Osaka, might be an excellent addition to your schedule!
LET US HELP YOU PLAN YOUR CITY GETAWAY TO JAPAN
When you’re ready to start planning your dream trip to Japan, contact one of our TierOne Travel consultants. They have extensive experience in life-changing travel experiences and will be able to craft something incredible that is suited to your unique needs!
One call; endless experiences!
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