This is the second in an ongoing series of blog posts about travelling to Asia as a woman. This week, we focus on Japan. See our previous story on China.
Japan is well-regarded for its neon lights, its Harajuku phenomenon, onsen baths, the way of the samurai, outright cleanliness and neatness – as evidenced by the many Japanese fans who dutifully cleaned up after themselves after a recent World Cup match in Brazil – and above all, general respect for one another.
As in any country, there are some tokens of etiquette that need to be observed there. For instance, one doesn’t eat on the subway. For instance, if you munch away on an apple on one of Tokyo’s train lines, you’ll receive some dirty glances in your direction. Also, always remove your shoes before entering someone’s home or a Japanese-style restaurant.
Solo Travel As A Woman
But what about travelling solo as a woman in Japan? Even in a country with a low crime rate, there must still be some challenges. Luckily, those are few and far between.
One woman I spoke with, Dorian Smith-Garcia of New York City, told me that Japan, and specifically Tokyo, is probably one of the safest places for a woman to travel or sightsee on their own.
“Because of that, it gives you the freedom to be more adventurous,” Smith-Garcia told me in an email. “Because the culture is built on mutual respect, I could go out at night to meet friends and not feel concerned about traveling by myself from my hotel to wherever I was meeting my friends.”
It’s all too easy to have preconceptions about any country you travel to, however.
“The first time I went to Japan, it was also my first real time being abroad – as I never really feel like I’m leaving the U.S. when I’m in Canada,” said Smith-Garcia, who now describes herself as an avid traveler with a goal to collect as many stamps in her passport as possible.
She did have some added apprehension about traveling to one of Asia’s most fascinating countries though.
“Honestly, as an African American, you’re often told how unwelcoming other places will treat you just because of your race. So, between wondering how I would be treated as a woman and as a minority, I didn’t know what to really expect but I was on guard for negative treatment.”
Advice From Someone Who’s Been There
If you’re on the road on your own, be you a woman or man, Nezasa recommends brushing up a little on the language, smile a lot and don’t be afraid to engage people on the streets.
And as a woman, particularly in Japan, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Be smart, respect one another and by all means, don’t be nervous.
Smith-Garcia can attest to this. “What I found was that the things that I had been told would be a negative for me (especially my race) ended up being something that attracted people to me.” Being a foreign woman and a minority gave her a distinct advantage in her dealings with local Tokyoans: a great icebreaker.
That advice can go a long way.