Solo Older Woman in Japan

May 25th, 2019, 07:29 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2010
Posts: 40
Solo Older Woman in Japan

I am going to be visiting Japan Oct. 2-10. I've read through hundreds of trip reports and listened to my daughter and son-in-law rave about their frequent trips to Japan, and spoken to other friends who have spent lots of time there. So I'm flying into Narita on Oct. 2, staying at the Navy's New Sanno Hotel in Tokyo for the first 2 nights, spending 5 nights in Kyoto, and returning to the New Sanno for my final night in Tokyo. My daughter and son-in-law might join me for a few days in Kyoto, but basically my question concerns me being a solo 63 year old woman. I am not in the least bit scared or apprehensive, and am quite athletic so look forward to lots of walking, but will I be treated differently because I'm alone?
Podie is offline  
May 25th, 2019, 07:54 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 1,870
As you describe yourself, I see no issues or problems for you as a solo traveler. You’ve prepared, planned and have family and friends to rely on for questions and recommendations. You’ll find the basic services provided to travelers, solo and otherwise in Japan to be excellent at all levels. Your ability to walk (you’ll do lots of that even with great public transit) and explore in both Tokyo and Kyoto will allow you to make the most of your time.
curiousgeo is offline  
May 25th, 2019, 10:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 12,480
Lots of single women live and travel in Japan. If you are treated differently, it will be because you are a foreign tourist, not because you are alone.
lcuy is offline  
May 26th, 2019, 06:28 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Japan is actually a good country in which to travel solo, probably because a lot of businessmen do so. Chain hotels like Toyoko and Dormy have small but very clean and well equipped single rooms at good rates, and no one looks at you twice for eating alone. Since the Chinese custom is for big group meals this is a pleasant change.

That said, it is still a xenophobic country. I have seen people choose to stand on a bus or sit at the back of a hall rather than sit next to me (older white female). I confirmed with a friend who is married to a Japanese man and lived there for several years that this was because I was obviously foreign.
thursdaysd is offline  
May 26th, 2019, 06:45 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
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I am also an older woman and have traveled annually to Japan for the past several years - maybe I'm oblivious but I haven't had any obvious issues. I do agree about people not sitting next to me on the bus - I recently read a column in one of the English language Japanese websites, don't remember which, and a foreign man said the same
Mara is online now  
May 26th, 2019, 07:04 PM
Join Date: Nov 2009
Posts: 894
I am a lady who has also travelled solo, and I have found Japan a pleasant and safe place to travel. In fact, some hotels even have special floors strictly for ladies, with all kinds of special toiletries in the room. I have never felt like someone did not want to sit next to me on a bus or train, I believe what people here have experienced is a respect for a foreign guest. They don't want to cram into a seat next to you and make you feel uncomfortable.

People have often taken me to my destination when I have asked for walking directions, and ladies have often waved me to the front of the line when waiting for a restroom. I have often felt honored and privileged as a visitor. In fact, when I was on a train once, a lady gave me some satsuma tangerines, and offered to change seats with me so I could enjoy the view.

The only annoyance I have experience in Japan, besides the humid and rainy weather, is the strict adherence to rules. A hotel could be empty, but they rarely will let you check in before 3 PM, for example. However, these rules are embedded in the culture. Upon returning from my last trip, I told my son, who had been an exchange student in Japan, "Whatever I found cute last trip, I found annoying this time."
CaliforniaLady is offline  
May 30th, 2019, 12:51 PM
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One of the trains even had a ladies section in the car designated by pink head cloths.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jun 1st, 2019, 11:19 AM
Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 1,355
Originally Posted by thursdaysd View Post

That said, it is still a xenophobic country. I have seen people choose to stand on a bus or sit at the back of a hall rather than sit next to me (older white female). I confirmed with a friend who is married to a Japanese man and lived there for several years that this was because I was obviously foreign.
Yes it was because you were foreign, but it was not xenophobia if the word means the fear/hate of the foreigners. It is usually their shyness to the foreigners. Shyness can be interpreted as a very weak level of fear maybe but definitely not hate.
kappa1 is offline  
Jun 4th, 2019, 09:34 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 15,361
We are assuming that you don't look Japanese.

I have had the experience of people not sitting next to me but being a big guy had a lot to do with it along with being non-Japanese. When a young woman did sit down next to me I noticed that her thigh was not much larger than my forearm.

On a shinkansen in an unreserved car, it was SRO. I was standing in the aisle when a seat opened up. Japanese pax looked at me and didn't take the seat, so I did. I would not have gotten that seat if I was an elderly Japanese and moved too slowly. I did give up the seat to an elderly woman and she was pleased as were others.

I had dinner with a Japanese family. The daughter translated. I did receive what I want to think of as amazement, but maybe it was just pity, when the parents learned that I never married.
mrwunrfl is online now  
Jun 5th, 2019, 08:01 AM
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 285
It's really not an issue to be concerned about. First and foremost, it is safe. No, that doesn't mean you can throw away common sense, but walking alone in Japan is better than nearly any other country. As for people shying away from you, yes it is true. They have many fossilized preconceptions, one being you can't speak Japanese and very few can speak English comfortably. So if nobody wants to sit by you, then fine, you have some extra elbow room. At any rate, being alone has its distinct advantages - nothing beats the freedom of going where you want, when you want, and for how long you want. If after all this you still feel nervous, there are free volunteer guides you can use. You only pay for any transportation or entrance fees for them. Regardless, I suggest you do some reading on basic Japanese history or the places you plan to see - it will make your visit a lot more meaningful.
Regarding your plans, five days in Kyoto is pretty good - but I suggest you take at least half a day and go see Nara as well - at least Nara Park. Nara was also a former capital and has some of Japan's best sights. And if you still have some energy after a day of Kyoto sightseeing, you can also go see Osaka in the evening. The city really comes alive then and there are some very good places to see, like Dotonbori or Shinsekai, plus the night views from the Umeda Sky Bldg, Abeno Harukas Bldg and Cosmo Tower. Plus to add some more variety to endless Kyoto temples and shrines, and temples and shrines, and more temples and shrines, you could take half a day and go see Himeji, with Japan's best original surviving castle and beautiful Kokoen Garden.
Adastra2200 is offline  
Jun 6th, 2019, 09:10 AM
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 881
You are actually a youngster. My first solo trip was 2016 when I was 76. Returned 2018 for a more comprehensive tour. Still on my own and will be back October 4th but this time with a friend for 3 weeks. Then onto Hokkaido and Taiwan after she has left, now I am 79. Japan is one of the easiest countries to travel solo in.
As far as people not wanting to sit next to you. It only happened once on a bus in Nagasaki. This 3-year-old refused, so his older sister was a showoff and sat next to me. The whole bus laughed, he slowly came around and eventually sat on my other side. Had completely forgotten that incident.
It was very sweet.
In many ways, you will be treated better when you go out to eat by yourself and for the most part, people are extremely helpful. Sorry, will miss you both in Kyoto and Tokyo. Enjoy
Nywoman is offline  

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