Spend time wandering Tokyo’s many backstreets | ? Astemir Almov / Unsplash
Culture Trip brings you The Wishlist – a ready collection of travel ideas inspired by what you love. Discover things to do, where to stay, and the best spots to eat and drink.
Quirky capsule hotels, intricately designed temples, mouthwatering bowls of ramen… Of all the places in the world to travel solo, Tokyo is one of the best, and there are plenty of restaurants, hotels and activities that cater specifically to the lone adventurer.
Whether you’re looking to explore ancient temples, try an endless list of local delicacies or simply hoping to see the city through the eyes of a local guide, here are some of the best things to see, do and eat if you’re visiting alone, along with a selection of the most solo-friendly hotels thrown into the mix.
From ancient Buddhist temples to cutting-edge technology, Tokyo embraces modern subcultures and spiritual traditions in equal measure. This guided tour of the city’s most contrasting districts is a great way to discover more about its history. Start by visiting the serene Meiji Jingū shrine, shrouded by evergreen broadleaf trees, then venture on to Harajuku, perusing food stalls, technicoloured clothing shops and the latest in kawaii fashion. From here, it’s on to Akihabara, the home of everything otaku and tech. Make the most of electronic bargains and browse seven-storey-high manga emporiums before ending the tour at one of the area’s popular ‘maid cafes’, where cosplay has been taken to the next level.
If you’re after a more tranquil experience, take a trip to Asakusa’s Sensō-ji Temple, one of Japan’s most popular destinations. Here, you’ll be able to explore every corner of Tokyo’s eldest temple complex, including the five-storey pagoda and a traditional Japanese garden. The red hue of the buildings makes for the perfect photograph, and the whole site has a buzzing and infectious atmosphere as it’s also home to dozens of stalls selling traditional food and intricate trinkets.
Back in the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, head to the colourful and vibrant district of Shibuya. Resplendent with neon lights and giant TV screens, Shibuya is best known for its chaotic scramble crossing, but there’s also an extensive traditional food scene waiting to to be explored. This walking tour takes you on a culinary journey; you’ll sample Kobe beef skewers – a local favourite – as well as takoyaki, (ball-shaped snacks made with octopus) okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes), Japanese desserts and more, before finishing up at Shibuya’s underground food market. Remember to bring your eating pants.
In addition to baseball games, the Tokyo Dome also hosts concerts and other events | ? Nicolas Maderna / Alamy Stock Photo
Known locally as ‘The Big Egg’, Tokyo Dome is a futuristic sports stadium home to the Yomiuri Giants, the city’s baseball team. As well as holding baseball matches, the Dome is also a cultural hub, hosting everything from New Japan Pro Wrestling to international music concerts. It’s easy to spend the entire day here, with endless entertainment to be found in the Dome’s amusement park, spa facilities, shops and restaurants – and if you can’t bear to leave, you can even spend the night in the Tokyo Dome Hotel.
If you’re after a truly personal experience of Tokyo, why not go on a customised tour run by a local? If there’s a rare Japanese delicacy you want to try, you need help navigating a particular district, want to discover more about daily life in the city or are simply short on time, Fumitaka-san is an experienced local guide who’ll put together an itinerary based on your needs.
Sushi Dai is one of the most popular restaurants near the market | ? brandon chu / Alamy Stock Photo
No trip to Tokyo is complete without a visit to the world-famous Tsukiji Fish Market. Aim to get there early (most restaurants and stalls close around noon), and head to Sushi Dai near the main gate on Shin-ohashi Street. Behind the unassuming green doorway you’ll find fresh sushi so popular that queues for it often wrap around the corner. Make sure you try the sushi breakfast selection, including a simple nigiri set or one that also includes sushi rolls, for a fresh taste of the city.
Little Nap Coffee Stand serves freshly roasted coffee | ??amabird / Shutterstock.com
If you need a caffeine boost, you’re in luck – Tokyo is currently in the midst of a vibrant third-wave coffee movement and the city is fast becoming one of the most respected coffee hubs in the world. If you find yourself in Yoyogi Park, head to the small but lively Little Nap Coffee for a perfectly caffeinated pick-me-up.
As a solo diner, there is nowhere more accommodating than the Moomin Bakery and Café. Having enthusiastically embraced the Swedish-Finnish comic strip series, this cafe in the LaQua Mall near Korakuen station offers a Japanese-European fusion menu – think Finnish waffles and Moomin-shaped Japanese sweets. Oh, and the best part? You’ll be seated with an enormous Moomin stuffed toy who will keep you company as you enjoy your treats!
Hoping to head out and make the most of Tokyo’s nightlife? As a solo traveller, venturing out as part of a group is a great way to explore Shinjuku once the sun’s gone down. On this bar-hopping night tour, you’ll be guided through the district’s lively streets to the spots tourists often miss. Visit a traditional Japanese izakaya bar where you can drink to your heart’s content while enjoying delicious smoky yakitori (chicken skewers). Then it’s on to Kabukicho: a vibrant and cheerfully grungy entertainment district where you’ll rub shoulders with a diverse crowd looking to party the night away.
Just a few minutes from Shibuya’s scramble crossing is The Millennials, an innovative and trendy capsule hotel combining the community vibe of a hostel with the private feel of a hotel. Every facet of the design here is artistic and appealing, and with lock boxes under the beds, communal fridges and a 24-hour business centre, it’s the perfect base from which to explore this vibrant part of Tokyo.
If you’re after accommodation that’s super-Instagrammable, look no further than Tokyo’s Book and Bed capsule hotel. The space is part library, part hostel; guests sleep in small capsules behind the venue’s bookshelves. A five-minute walk from Shinjuku station, Book and Bed offers solo travellers a cosy respite from the city crowds.
Looking for a little more luxury? Just 15 minutes’ walk from Tokyo Tower, Hotel The Celestine Tokyo Shiba is a great choice for a solo stay. Close to Haneda airport and the Tokyo Bay area, the hotel balances modern functionality with traditional Japanese design aesthetic. With relaxing spa treatments to indulge in after a long day of exploring and French-Japanese fusion cuisine on offer in on-site restaurant La Pelouse, The Celestine offers a decadent retreat in the heart of Tokyo.