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Jul 2, 2009 09:22 PM

Solo diner tips in Tokyo and Kyoto

I have about a week to go until I fly out to Japan. It will be my first time there and I will also be traveling solo. Will it be difficult to find places to dine as one, esp. as a female? I speak very little Japanese but am quite adventurous food wise. Are there and tips and dining recs?

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  1. I am a woman and I often dine solo here in Japan. I do speak and read(some) Japanese, but I didn't when I first moved here. Izakayas can be great because there's usually counter seating and you may even make some new friends after a couple drinks. The downside is, most of the dishes are meant to be shared, so if you hope to try several things, it may be too much or too expensive. (I don't know your budget.) Yakitori or kushi katsu joints are also good because most items are ordered by the stick, sometimes two sticks per order. I've never felt unwelcome as a single, white woman at these types of establishments, but you may feel like you are on display and that all the salarymen are staring at you, so if this makes you uncomfortable, be aware. Ramen and noodle shops are filled with solo diners.

    Communication and just finding places will be your biggest challenges, I suspect. Addresses are virtually useless and it's not always obvious what kind of place it is from the outside. Smiling, gesturing and appreciation of the food will get you far!

    Kyoto seems to be very tourist friendly and many places have English menus and many of the restaurants are run by women.

    If you're adventurous, you can always ask for "o-su-su-may" (recommendation) or "o-ma-ka-say" (chef's choice) You may sometimes end up with less challenging food, as many Japanese are worried about what foreigners can and can't eat, but they won't try to stick you with yesterdays leftovers.

    Have fun!

    1. There are some great eat-in counters at depachika if you find yourself near any. These are mostly solo diners.