10 Best Cities to Visit in Japan for Solo Women Travellers

As a country, Japan has a bountiful to offer. You will find yourself engulfed in a problem of plenty because as a female solo traveller, no matter what you like, Japan will serve it for you on a platter. Japan is also a country of contrasts, and the cities here are different from each other with their unique takes on Japanese culture. Because there is so much to see in the island country, we often get confused about where to go. So, I will give you a run down about the ten best cities to visit in Japan so that you don’t miss out on the little-known yet wonderful spots during your solo trip.

1. Tokyo

The best place to begin is Japan’s capital city, the first city most foreign travellers land in. Tokyo is a perfect blend of old Japan with the futuristic and high tech present. The city has so much to offer that you can spend your entire vacation days just exploring the nooks and corners of Tokyo. So, to make things easier for you, I have broken down the city into different aspects you can enjoy:

Temples and shrines

While Kyoto gives more of the old Japan vibe, there are some breathtaking temples and shrines you must visit while in Tokyo. The Meiji-Jingu shrine in Harajuku is a picturesque shrine set in the green. The Nezu shrine is just a short walk away from Ueno park and is almost 2000 years old. The shrine is famous for the azalea garden, which, if you visit during spring, is filled with vividly coloured flowers. 

Also, don’t forget to visit Shinto shrines like Sensoji, the oldest temple in Tokyo, and the Imperial Palace.

Museums and character cafes

Tokyo is the city to visit for weird tourist attractions, be it the famous Ghibli Museum where you can delve into the world of movie animation, or the grisly Meguro Parasitological Museum, which is not for the faint-hearted.

One that you absolutely cannot miss is the teamLab Borderless for an ethereal experience. Read more about it here

If you are looking not just to please your taste buds but also to appeal to your imagination, Tokyo is the place to be. Character cafes are a craze in this city, and you have to visit some to understand why. Enjoy a mad hatter’s tea party at the Alice in a Labyrinth or enjoy a robot show while sipping on a drink. The options are plenty!

Cherry blossoms viewing

The age-old tradition of hanami (watching cherry blossoms) is one of the top things to do in Tokyo. Flock in to see parks awash with pink and white cherry blossoms. The best places in Tokyo for hanami are Ueno Park, Shinjuku Gyeon, and Inokashira, to name a few. Please find out more about hanami in Japan from my blog 

2. Kyoto

The former capital of Japan is where you will find the true essence of old Japan. Kyoto is synonymous with traditional Japan, where you feel you have travelled back in time. With the highest concentration of cultural icons in the entire country, you cannot miss this historical city during your solo travel. Kyoto’s main attractions include temples, shrines, gardens, and other historical buildings, many of which are a part of UNESCO world heritage sites.

The stunning Bamboo grove in the Arashiyamo and Sagano district is one that should not be missed. The beautiful Togetsukyo bridge, especially during autumn, Tenryuji temple, and monkey park, is also a significant attraction. To explore this area, you can also board the Sagano Scenic railway, a 25-minute sightseeing trip along the Hozugawa River.

Perhaps one of the most awe-inspiring places to explore in all of Japan is the Fushimi Inari shrine. The shrine that you have seen in Memoirs of a Geisha is famous for their orange gates which provides an ideal spot for a picture. Talking about geishas, Kyoto is also the city where you can spot one or dress up like one. 

One not so touristy spot that I want to draw your attention to is Kichi Kichi’s restaurant in the city. Though the restaurant is known for serving omurice (omlette on top of rice), what makes this place special is the theatrical manner in which the chef prepares his food in an open kitchen. Trust me, it will be one of the best experiences, and you won’t be able to stop laughing.

3. Osaka

Though the city was haphazardly rebuilt after being heavily bombed during the second world war, Osaka is one of Japan’s most important port cities in terms of trade. 

The first place you should visit is Shinsekai or new world in Japanese. It is a popular shopping and dining district before WW2 and still holds a nostalgic feeling today. The place gives off a very vintage New York and Paris vibe. In the center stands the Tsutenkaku Tower, which is the symbol of Shinsekai. Do try out the classic dish kushikatsu here, which is skewered food that is then deep-fried.

Another spot you absolutely cannot miss is Osaka castle. You can explore the castle on foot or admire the castle on a Gozabune boat.

Osaka also prides itself as a city of unique culinary style. Local specialty dishes are Okonomiyaki (a cross between a pancake and a pizza) and Takoyaki, grilled balls of batter with chunks of octopus inside. Be sure to try them out. 

4. Hiroshima

When we hear this city’s name, we are immediately reminded of our history books when we learned about the twin atomic bombings that paralyzed Japan. Today, the city of Hiroshima is a sign of peace and is home to the Hiroshima Peace Institute and other structures that survived the bombing. 

Find peace and tranquility at the Hiroshima Peace Park, which commemorates the many victims. Also, visit the Peace Museum, which houses remnants of the blast and is sure to bring a tear to your eye. 

But Hiroshima is so much more than a city that was ravaged by a nuclear bomb. To get a taste of history, visit the Hiroshima Castle, which is home to a samurai museum, and you can watch samurai performances outside the castle walls.

The stunning Mitaki-Dera temple is known for its red-coloured pagoda, Tahoto, and nearby waterfalls. If you visit this place in the autumn, you can also catch a burst of colours at the temple grounds. Plan a day trip to Miyajima Island from Hiroshima, on a picturesque ferry ride to see the famous ‘floating’ Torii gate.

If you are a car enthusiast, you should have Mazda Museum on your list, which pays homage to one of Japan’s oldest manufacturers.

5. Sapporo

While Japan is ramen, sushi, watching cherry blossoms, onsens, and so on, most people don’t associate the rising sun’s land with a winter landscape. But Sapporo, which hosted the 1973 Winter Olympics, is Japan’s best winter destination. Known for its many ski resorts, Sapporo is Hokkaido’s capital and is a bustling commercial hub. 

If you are travelling to Sapporo at the beginning of February, you can witness the amazing Snow Festival, which attracts ice sculptors from all over the world. They build massive sculptures, palaces, and castles that illuminated at night.

While in Sapporo, make some time for the Ishiya chocolate factory. Though it’s not as massive as the chocolate factory in Charlie and the Chocolate factory, one can always imagine. To see some of the city’s best views, climb up the Sapporo TV tower modelled after the Eiffel tower in Paris. And if you are a beer lover, the Beer Museum is just the place for you, where the local breweries showcase their products, and you can pair it with the perfect local cuisine.

6. Fukuoka

The city of Fukuoka is the growing political, cultural, and economic center of Kyushu. It is one of the best shopping destinations in the country. In addition to that, its culinary offerings are one of a kind. So, this is a city where female solo travellers can kick up their feet, eat, and shop till you drop. 

The Canal City Hakata has over 250 stores, a gaming center, theatres, cinemas, and even their canal running through the shopping arcade. Even if you don’t enjoy shopping, the experience should be enough to draw you in.

But in my opinion, the best attraction of this city is the Mitami Festival, which is celebrated at Gokuku Shrine where over 6000 lanterns are lit to welcome the spirit of the dead and as you can imagine it is a sight to behold. This festival is celebrated all over Japan, but I was told that it would be extra special in Fukuoka, and I was not disappointed.

If you enjoy the outdoors, there is the artificial beach, Momochi Seaside, where you can sit and spend time listening to the sea waves crash.

7. Kobe

One of the most underrated cities in Japan, Kobe is beautiful in its own right. Located in the Hyogo prefecture, Kobe is an international port and is now a boiling point of all foreign cultures. It is a picturesque city as there is the sea on one side and the Rokko mountain range on the other. So you can enjoy the best of both worlds. If you have seen any picture of Kobe, you will have seen the harbour with a tall red tower called the Kobe Port Tower. The Kobe harbour land is a bustling shopping and entertainment destination. For a quiet escape, you can also climb the Port Tower to get a panoramic view of the beautiful city. Or ride the ropeway up the herb garden enjoying the amazing view on the way.

But as a foodie, the only thing I knew about Kobe before I headed to the city was the Kobe beef. Boy oh boy, the succulent, drool-worthy meat is worth travelling across oceans!

8. Nagasaki

The city apart from Hiroshima that was destroyed by the nuclear bomb during World War II, Nagasaki is another symbol of peace in Japan. You can read up about the past in the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum or take a walk around the many monuments at the Peace Park.

Nagasaki rebuilt itself and is now where a lot of cultures meet. Because of its importance as a port city, it has shades of influence from countries like China and the Netherlands. The mixed culture of the time is called the ‘wakaran’ culture. 

In all its glory, to catch Nagasaki take the ropeway cable car up Mount Inasa and see the city glistening, especially after sunset. And if you want to live a bit of cinematic experience, visit Hashima (Battleship) Island, just off the bay. It is an abandoned island that once served as a forced labour camp and undersea coal mines. Part of the decaying structure on this island was used in the James Bond movie Skyfall. 

9. Takayama

If you are looking to get a feel of the traditional Japanese village, head over to the city of Takayama in the Gifu prefecture. Due to its well-preserved heritage, the city is called ‘Little Kyoto.’ 

The rustic city is nestled among the stunning Hida mountains and receives heavy snow in winter. The beautiful houses, which date back to the Edo period, looks straight out of a postcard covered in snow.

While in Takayama, visit Hida No Sato. This open-air museum houses 30 thatch-roof farmhouses and visits the Sanmachi Suji district. A few streets look straight out of history books!

10. Nara

Another city that is calm and serene and will give you the sense of tranquility you crave. Less than an hour’s journey from Kyoto, Nara is usually a day-trip. And I’d say if you want to explore this small city truly, stay the night.

Best known for Nara Park, which is inhabited by over 1000 deer, Nara treats sore eyes! The best time to visit the park is during the sakura season. The park is completely filled with pink and white cherry blossom flowers. And it all feels like you’re a part of an Anime! For a better experience, do check out my blog.

After you have spent the day among the adorable creatures, visit the Todai-Ji Temple, which dates back to 752 AD. It is named among UNESCO world heritage sites. Here you will find the largest bronze Buddha statue, which stands at 15 metres. 

For all those who have a sweet tooth, do not leave Nara without trying the city’s most famous snack – yomogi mochi. It is a warm sticky cake with red bean paste. It is heavenly.

Every city in Japan has something different to offer, but they are all beautiful. Even if you manage to visit just a few of the cities mentioned above, Japan’s pleasure is indescribable. Do you have more to add to the list? Let me know in the comments below.


An introverted blogger who is looking to make unforgettable solo travel memories with one short life.

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