I’m a major introvert. I like meeting new people and hanging out with friends, but need a good dose of alone time afterwards to curl up in the fetal position re-energize. When travelling solo, I will almost always choose to spend time touring around on my own, rather than with a “new friend” (i.e. person I just met who I have to make small talk with).
When I visited Japan, I was feeling particularly introverted. I hadn’t travelled across the Pacific to get there; I’d come over on an hour-long flight from Seoul, where I was living at the time. I really just wanted to see all the cool things during the day, and read or Skype my then-girlfriend in the evenings. I was a little worried about whether I would be missing out, but it turns out Japan is a great destination for solo-travelling introverts!
Here are 4 reasons why Japan might appeal to other solitary souls:
- Eating at the counter.
My biggest worry about being on my own was that I might miss out on dining experiences. In South Korea, there are a lot of meals that simply aren’t available to people eating solo. In Japan, this wasn’t the case! Lots of restaurants have counter seating available (or as the only option), where the chef cooks right in front of you. This is awesome! You’re essentially getting front row tickets to the most rewarding cooking show ever, and there’s no need to fiddle with your phone or guidebook while you watch.
- Shrines, temples, and gardens.
Though there may be lots of tourists at the well-known ones, shrines, temples and gardens in Japan are all great places to quietly get lost. Most people don’t choose sanctuaries as their go-to sites for meeting new travel buddies, so you should be safe! At Fushimi Inari in Kyoto, I was able to find lots of empty walking trails and tranquil tea houses (in November). Ironically, the two times I ended up running into chatty travellers and hanging out for a bit were at a temple and a shrine, so I could be way off with this one.
- Capsule hotels.
This was not on my radar when I was in Japan, but what could be more introvert-friendly than sleeping inside of a person-sized capsule?!? Apparently the hallways can get a bit noisy, but who cares when you are inside your own little cocoon of happiness?! That is like my dream.
If the novelty wears off, another option (if you’re on a budget) is to stay in a small dorm in a hostel. I chose 4-person female dorms at K’s House hostels in Hiroshima and Kyoto, and had great experiences with quiet and respectful dorm mates. These hostels have great (but not obnoxiously loud) common areas, if you do feel like mingling.
- Getting lost in the crowds.
While being an obvious foreigner isn’t exactly the key to blending in in East Asia, Tokyo’s large population makes it easy enough to do. Whether you’re hanging out at a busy Starbucks, crossing the scramble intersection in Shibuya, suffering from sensory overload in Harajuku or Shinjuku, or people watching in Yoyogi Park, you can easily spend all of your time around people, absorbing the wild vibe of the city, without letting it drain your energy.
I definitely would go back to Japan with friends or a partner. It would open the door to going out, trying things like karaoke, and splitting costs. However, I’d probably be just as happy to go back on my own! It’s a great place for an introvert (or an extrovert, or those of you who wish to remain vert-less) to be both engaged and introspective, and to can hide in crowds or get lost in quiet spaces.
Anything to add? Let me know!