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Solo in Tokyo - top tips

Whether you’re a food fanatic, love going on ­temple pilgrimages or after the latest in fashion or modern art, Japan lends itself particularly well to solo travel. It’s safe and efficient and nobody raises an eyebrow at someone dining out or taking in the sights alone.

Iranian-American Azadeh Rashidi, an architect living in New York, has traveled Japan alone, going to all corners of the country. She says, “Japan is perfect for solo travelers. The people are incredibly accommodating. It is safe and easy to get around. It also doesn’t have to break the bank. I stayed in hotels the whole time and could always find nice hotels for my budget as a solo traveler. There was just so much on my agenda, especially as an architect, in terms of things that I absolutely had to see in Japan, so every day was very full and rewarding. Eating by oneself in a restaurant is easier in Japan than in some other countries. It is already part of the culture.”

Here are Rashidi’s tips.

Go feast along the Omoide Yokocho

It’s easy to miss, but just off of one of Shinjuku’s busy streets is this little portal to what feels like another era – a maze of narrow streets lined with tiny food stalls cooking up delights everywhere you look. The number one thing to order is yakitori (fried meat on sticks), but you can spend an entire evening bouncing from stall to stall sampling a variety of classic Japanese dishes.

Omoide Yokocho

1 Chome-2 Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku

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Photo: Shutterstock

Explore the Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

Fancy a taste of Japanese hot springs, but don’t feel like taking the bullet train out to the mountains to do the full experience? Then this almost-over-the-top theme park may be perfect. There are plenty of baths to soak in, as well as a recreation of an Edo-period village where you’re free to walk around in a robe and sample ramen.

Ooedo Onsen Monogatari

2 Chome-6-3 Aomi, Koto

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Escape the hustle in the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

Many visitors to Tokyo head to the Imperial Palace or Yoyogi Park for a dose of greenery; these are great options. For an especially relaxing and beautiful park stroll in a less-trafficked area (and to get away from other tourists) though, head to the Shinjuku Gyoen, a large expanse of landscaped green space with quite a bit of variety. There’s the traditional Japanese section as well as English and French gardens, plus a greenhouse full of tropical plants. Also, here is one of the highest concentrations of cherry trees in Tokyo.

Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

11 Naitomachi, Shinjuku

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Photo: Shutterstock

Visit the Ghibli Museum

For those familiar with the work of Hayao Miyazaki and his animation company Studio Ghibli, no trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to this museum, situated in the quiet suburb of Mitaka. Come to see special short films you won’t find elsewhere, along with exhibitions on the making of the films and of course plenty of life-size recreations of characters from the films. One of the latest is a full-size Cat Bus (as seen in My NeighborTotoro) that visitors can climb aboard. This museum is popular, so make sure to purchase tickets in advance.

Ghibli Museum

1 Chome-1-83 Shimorenjaku, Mitaka

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Photo: Shutterstock

Walk the canals of Nakameguro

This is a charming, calm and very local-feeling neighborhood whose canals – its distinctive feature – make it a lovely strolling destination. Add in the vintage shops and cozy cafes and restaurants, and you’ve got yourself a perfect, unhurried Tokyo afternoon. Be there in cherry blossom season for an especially beautiful scene, but it’s good year round.


Photo: Park Hyatt

Have a drink at the York Bar in the Park Hyatt

This will look familiar if you’ve seen Lost in Translation. Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson had a number of conversations at this bar, perched on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Hotel in Shinjuku. Though newer, more glamorous hotels at the tops of tall buildings have since opened in Tokyo, and it’s a bit of a walk from central Shinjuku, there’s something extra-special about this bar – listening to the jazz band that’s usually playing, an old-fashioned in your hand, and gazing out at the thousands of blinking red beacons atop the buildings way below.

York Bar in the Park Hyatt

3-7-1-2 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-Ku

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Cuddle a bunny and have tea at Hutch Asakusa

Chances are you’ve heard of that Japanese invention, cat cafes, where cute felines slink around while you sip a cappuccino. But these days you’ve got more choices from the animal kingdom. To have a fuzzy friend sit with you for a while, look no further than the bunnies of Hutch Asakusa. You can have one to yourself for 30 minutes up to two hours, and for an extra fee you can take your short-term pet for a stroll on the lovely rooftop terrace.

Hutch Asakusa

1-7-1 Hanakawado, Taito-ku

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Photo: Shutterstock

Get some sea air in Kamakura

Just an hour from town on the Yokosuka Line, this small city feels like a world apart from the concrete jungle. Full of temples, bamboo forests and Buddha statues, it’s also a popular surfing spot – in case you’ve been yearning to hit the waves. You could spend multiple days here, but it’s also a nice and easy day trip that gives you a glimpse of a different side of Japan.


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