I should begin by saying I didn’t know what to expect from Tokyo. I was unsure whether I would feel safe to walk around by myself or if I would be constantly lost and consumed by the massive crowds. I also didn’t know if I would be treated differently for being a Westerner. I have heard this happens in other Asian countries; specifically China. But Tokyo surprised me. So here are four reasons why I believe all solo female travellers should visit Tokyo.
Safety is perhaps the most important aspect of whether a city is good for solo female travellers or not. As for Tokyo, I felt safe the entire time I was there: day and night. Because the city has such a large population (13 million a.k.a half of Australia in one city) there were always people around. Even out in the suburbs where I was staying. My hostel was a 10 minute walk from the Minowa metro station and I felt comfortable walking there early in the morning and later at night. I do not know if this is the same in the busy city, as I didn’t go out into this area at night.
I have heard stories regarding other Asian countries about Westerners being treated differently and ostracised. However, I always felt welcome. Even being the only Westerner in a crammed metro carriage – no one’s eyebrows lifted. And for that I was very thankful.
Now, I am the first to admit that I am sometimes pretty hopeless when it comes to using public transport in foreign cities. But Tokyo’s metro system is so easy to use. Hence you know that when I say that it is super easy. There are buses, above-ground trains and the below-ground metro you can use, and different passes that go with them. You can pay as you go, get a daily pass or purchase a card that the locals use and top up if needed. Depending on my plans for the day, I just purchased a daily ticket.
Alternative Japanese transport
All signs are in Japanese characters and English, and there are constantly arrows pointing you in the right direction of each specific line, so you won’t get lost. The map is also very user-friendly and you can either pick up an English version at your accommodation or your station. And as I mentioned earlier, be aware that the metros during peak hour in the morning and evening are usually 300 people over capacity, so you just have to push through and try and grab something to hold onto (preferably not the hand of the man beside you). It was amazing the difference of travelling during the day, as I nearly always got a seat.
So I highly recommend the use of the Tokyo Metro during your visit to the city.
3. Friendliness of Locals
I wasn’t too sure how friendly the Japanese would be. But Tokyo surprised me yet again with its generosity and assistance. I found the restaurant staff all spoke good English. So if something was only in Japanese I asked for a translation and they were more than happy to help. This was also the same with the tour guides I had on my two different trips. They generously answered all my questions.
On tour (solo) at Mount Fuji
I decided to visit Madame Tussauds because I had never been and really wanted to tick it off my list. The staff and locals were really nice and took photos for me with all the celebrities, so they weren’t all totally hopeless selfies. It was nice to feel welcome in such a large city. I think this is definitely another reason why I believe Tokyo is great for female solo travellers.
There is so much to see and do in Tokyo. Luckily it is all easily accessible and safe for the solo girl. I hopped on a train to go over to Tokyo Bay, for some shopping and Madame Tussauds. I safely struggled my way through the sea of Japanese at that famous crossing outside Shibuya Station. Turns out it is used in many films and music videos.
I comfortably talked to an American man selling streetwear in Harajuku amongst so many colourful and “walking-to-the-beat-of-their-own-drum” Japanese teenagers. I walked through Electrical Street in Shinjuku and blocked my ears as I visited a gaming arcade for the one and only time (seriously those places are LOUD).
I window shopped in Ginza and was once again consumed in the crowd of teenagers in Asakusa at Nakamise Shopping Street. But they were happily posing for their cheesy photos as I tried hard to not shop for souvenirs. I failed, but only slightly. I also took a morning walk through Ueno Park, which was great for my people watching.
Tokyo, I Heart You
Throughout Tokyo I walked and walked, visiting so many different suburbs and areas. Some of these were crowded, while others were not. Yet through it all, I not once felt unsafe or uncomfortable. Tokyo, I will definitely be back. Whether or not it will be solo, I’m unsure. But I wouldn’t hesitate to come back on my own again.