My first ever solo trip to a foreign country!
Imagine how excited I was– of the freedom, independence, and adventure; and how frightened I was– of being alone with no one to depend on but myself. Of being in a place where it’s the total opposite from where I live (California). I guess you can say I did experience culture shock.
I have been wanting to travel solo for the longest time, so this trip was a huge deal for me because I have always been afraid of going to unfamiliar places alone up until a few years ago. It happened earlier than anticipated but it just proves that waiting ’til you’re ready might as well mean waiting for the rest of your life. So I took the opportunity, trusted myself, and had the best time!
Japan has always been one of the places I have been wanting to go to, and I was able travel there with my friend last 2016. We only had a week and wanted to go to as many cities as we possibly can, so we ended up travelling from Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo. This time, I went to Tokyo only and stayed for 6 days.
One of the reasons why I crave for solo travel was because I wanted to go my own pace. During this trip, I changed my itinerary a lot, I went to places that weren’t even on my list, I didn’t go to several places on my list, I let myself wander and ended up in the most amazing places, and most importantly I enjoyed my own company. Japan is a country where going around and eating solo isn’t weird at all, and I really appreciated that.
Tokyo attracts a ton of tourists, and I had fun people-watching! It’s interesting to see how locals hustle in this city, and how some of them become tourists in their own country as well.
I absolutely enjoyed riding the subway, going to tons of observatories (I think I went to 5?), getting lost for the good, and of course the food. Never mind my sore feet every night.
On my last night, I moved closer to the airport (Haneda) since I had a morning flight the next day and didn’t wanna rush. I stayed in a capsule hotel for experience, and boy was it one! The pod is actually spacious and I felt comfortable. They also require you to wear a “uniform” or PJs that they provide. It was really a different experience and I would recommend it for one-night stays. It’s because for stays longer than a day, they require you to check-out in the morning, and check back in later in the day, every single day. It’s a bit of a hassle if you ask me. Though I believe you should be able to leave your stuff in the locker if you choose to stay longer. From what I’ve read, these capsule hotels are originally meant for those who didn’t catch the last train and needed a quick and cheap place to sleep in.
One downside was there was no aircon inside the pod, which I found odd. Not sure if all capsule hotels are like this. At one point it got too hot for me, so I had changed out of the PJs and into my shorts and short-sleeved top (shhh) so I could sleep. So be wary of that.
These may seem like a lot of photos, but during this trip I’ve taken 400+ PLUS videos too! You can’t imagine how much I ate there (I’ve had several 2nd lunches and dinners). However it’s important to have a ‘free day’ too where you can just slow down and fully appreciate life. This was truly an unforgettable experience– I learned to trust myself and my own abilities, and I’m really thankful for that.
Will definitely be back in Japan to explore other cities! I’m hoping to see some cherry blossoms next!
Some tips I feel are useful:
- If you’re going to Tokyo, book your flight to Haneda Airport instead of the more famous Narita Airport. It’s way closer to the city.
- If you’re taking a long-haul flight like I did, make sure to sleep on the plane! This is to fight jet lag once you arrive. I landed early afternoon and got to my accommodation by mid-afternoon. So I still had the night to explore around and I had the energy to do it.
- I planned my itinerary first before choosing an accommodation. I made sure that I was near a subway station that had the least transfers to the places I was going to (Shinjuku area is probably your best bet).
- As a tourist / foreigner, I am eligible to buy the 72-hour Tokyo subway card (photo below) which allowed me to have unlimited rides on the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. They have 24-hour and 48-hour ones as well. The lines covered are pretty easy to memorize since they are color-coded, so planning my trip wasn’t as hard. Take note that you cannot use these on JR lines, which I avoided because they are more expensive. I bought mine in Haneda Airport and they ask for your passport.
- Rent a portable wifi (they have tons in the airport) because you will be referring to your map a lot. My network provider is T-Mobile and my plan covers free unlimited international data, so I was lucky and I survived with just that.
- Print out your itinerary! I’m glad I did! My laptop battery died and I was not able to bring an adapter (another tip).
- Convenience stores are your best friend. They are everywhere! Sometimes when I needed breakfast on the go, I just bought whatever they have for the day and they don’t taste bad at all.
- Speaking of food, they are not allowed on public transport. As well as loud noises.
- As for food in public places, walking around while eating or drinking is frowned upon. You may encounter vendors telling you to finish your food by their stall.
- For cheap food, department stores are a good choice. The big ones have food courts with a variety to choose from. Before closing, they are usually discounted. Downside is they are taken to-go, so you might end up eating them back in your accommodation.
- There are several free walking tours in famous tourist spots so don’t forget to research meeting places and times.
- Take note of establishments’ closing hours and days as sometimes they are closed on a weekday.
- For souvenirs, I loved Tokyu Hands and LoFt. For more traditional items, I found nice ones by Senso-ji Temple (or other famous tourist spots) though I’m sure they are on the expensive side, so stalls farthest from the actual temple are your best bet.
Got any tips for my future travels to Japan? Just comment down below. I would love to hear them! ❤