There’s no doubt that Japan is leading the way for solo travel. Wherever you go, you see locals dining alone in restaurants and convenient stores, unlike some other cities and countries which do not see solo traveling and solo dining as the norm. On my first solo trip to Tokyo last summer, I enjoyed the freedom of roaming around and dining alone, without the fear of being judged. If you are thinking of doing the same, here are some of the food places I headed to.
ramen & udon Restaurants
1. Ichiran Ramen (一蘭)
Ichiran Ramen is probably the most famous ramen restaurant in Japan that celebrates solo dining as it introduced the iconic eating cubicles that you’ve probably come across on social media platforms. Obviously, I had to give it a try. The minute you step into the restaurant, you are required to purchase a meal ticket from one of the vending machines. After which, you will be ushered to your seat in the restaurant. For solo diners, you will probably get the counter (cubicle) seats, which was originally created to help customers focus on the ramen flavor without being distracted.
At your cubicle seat, you will be required to complete a short form of how you want to customise your ramen, such as: richness of the soup, how much green onion or garlic, hardness of the noodles etc. Staff from the other side of the counter will collect the form from you when you are ready (don’t worry, they can’t see you). While waiting for your ramen to be served, you can start peeling your ramen onsen egg.
One more thing to note about Ichiran is that they don’t diversify their menu, meaning to say; they only serve Tonkutsu ramen (which is non-halal).
When your ramen is finally served, you can roll down the bamboo curtains and enjoy your meal in peace! Such a fuss-free solo dining experience that all solo travelers to Japan have to experience it for themselves.
Address: Ichiran Ramen’s outlets in Tokyo
Menu: Ichiran Ramen’s menu
2. Aza butei Udon
Probably not the best udon in Tokyo but it provides a cosy and quiet ambience for mid-day dining. They serve a variety of fusion-udon and would frequently introduce new menus via their Instagram. Since it is near Roppongi, I saw quite a few office workers and housewives pop in for a quick lunch.
Aza butei Udon
Address: 1-9-9 Azabu Juban, Minato-ku , Tokyo
Opening Hours: 11.30am -10.00pm (closed on Mondays)
Menu: Azabu Tei Udon’s Menu
Price range: Around 1000 yen
3. Kindenmaru (金伝丸)
Shibuya is filled with many restaurants and bars, but Kindenmaru is one of the top few ramen spots that most travelers recommend. Fans often flock over to the small restaurant for its tasty rich pork-based shoyu ramen. Similar to how Ichiran ramen restaurant works, you buy a meal ticket and hand it over to the chef over the counter. Table seats for groups are limited anyway, so the counter seats are perfect for solo travelers like us.
Kin Den Maru
Address: 鉄人門 Shibu-Bldg, 1f, 24-6 Udagawacho, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0042, Japan
Opening hours: 11.00am – 8.00am (next day)
Price range: Around 880 – 1000 yen
Tempura Donburi Restaurant
4. Tempura Tendon Tenya
Craving for tempura tendon that day and happened to find this restaurant near my hostel. Though there are counter seats, I chose the single table seats because everyone in the restaurant is dining alone too (what coincidence!). I chose the seafood, meat, and vegetables combination with an additional onsen egg to complete the meal. Love how the crispy batter quickly melts in your mouth as you crunch into the meat and vegetables. They have many outlets around Japan too and some locals even considered this a fast food restaurant.
Tempura Tendon Tenya
Address: Tempura Tendon Tenya’s Outlets
Opening hours: 11.00am – 11.00pm
Price range: less than 1000 yen
5. Isomaru Suisan
This 24-hour Izakaya restaurant is known for its seafood and sashimi, so when you have cravings late at night, you know where to go! Another plus point is that they accept credit cards, which not many Japanese restaurants do. If you are running low on cash (like me), you can try your luck here.
Address: 3-17-13 | Suzume-No-Ojisan Bldg. 1-4F, Shinjuku 160-0022, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: 24 hours
Price range: Around 880 – 1000 yen
6. Jomon Roppongi
[Disclaimer: I met up with friends in Tokyo for this meal] This is probably one of the best Yakitori joints ranked by locals and tourists alike, so do make a reservation in advance as the place is rather small. Though many frequent Jomon in a group, the most popular seats are the counter seats as you can just point out the grilled skewers and order directly with the chefs. My favourite has got to be the Wagyu beef steak (to be dipped in egg yolk), potato croquette ball (note that this is meant to be shared), caramelised corn (must-try!) and some torched cheese on sticks.
Also, be prepared to smell like Yakitori as the place is smoky (and noisy). Before entering Jomon, you are required to remove your shoes as well so wear something casual to make the night more comfortable.
Address: 5-9-17 Roppongi | Fujimori Bldg. 1F, Roppongi, Minato 106-0032, Tokyo Prefecture
Opening hours: Sun-Thurs (5.30pm – 12.00am), Fri-Sat (5.30pm – 5.00am)
Menu: Jomon Roppongi’s Menu
cafes (Toasts & pancakes)
7. Cafe Aaliya
While shopping in Shinjuku, why not head over to this highly-raved cafe for their french toasts which have been ranked as the best in Tokyo. Even though it is popular, the cafe seemed quite spacious and empty nearing lunch time. I ordered 2 slices of french toasts with ice-cream (600 yen) and even though the portion isn’t big, the french toasts are served warm and it is very light and fluffy as per online reviews. For tea or coffee lovers, you can choose a combo which comes with a hot drink as well.
Though there are counter seats at Cafe Aaliya, do note that most / all of the waiters and staff are males so if you want to avoid awkward eye-contact or conversations, opt for a single table seat!
Address: 〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku-ku, Shinjuku 3-1-17, B1
Opening hours: Sun-Thurs (9.30am – 10.00pm), Fri-Sat (9.30am – 10.30pm)
Menu: Cafe Aaliya’s Menu
Price range: 400 – 880 yen
8. A Happy Pancake
[Disclaimer: I met up with friends in Tokyo for this meal] You must have seen one of these instagrammable fluffy pancakes on your Instagram feed. While there are other fluffy pancakes like gram and bills that top the list, A Happy Pancake comes close with its wide variety of sweet and savoury pancakes (sometimes even seasonal pancakes).
We tried the summer seasonal special white peach pancakes, milk tea pancakes, tiramisu pancakes, as well as some savoury ones with scrambled eggs. I honestly feel that the sweet pancakes are more acceptable since not everyone likes savoury pancakes.
Fellow solo travelers, if you can only order one pancake, I would recommend the pancake with milk tea sauce because #bobbalifeforever.
A Happy Pancake
Address: A Happy Pancake’s outlets
Menu: A Happy Pancake’s Menu
street snacks & DESSERTS
9. Croquant Chou Zakuzaku
Croquant Chou Zakuzaku is pretty popular in Japan for its signature custard cream-filled choux puff sticks. They sell soft serve ice cream sprinkled with choux pastry bits as well. While doing your shopping in Harajuku, join in the long queues for an ice-cream fix. They’ve also opened their first store in Singapore’s Ion Orchard late last year, so if you are craving for some cream-goodness, head over.
Croquant Chou Zakuzaku
Address: Croquant Chou Zakuzaku’s Outlets
10. Calbee Plus
Calbee fans, raise your hand! This is a must-try if you are a true-blue Calbee fan. You get to taste freshly-fried potato sticks and chips, with your preferred toppings and flavours. While at it, grab some confectionaries and snacks that are only available at the Calbee Plus stores as souvenirs for your loved ones.
Address: Calbee Plus’ Outlets
Menu: Calbee Plus’ Menu
11. SWEET BOX CREPES
To eat one of these crepes in Harajuku is probably one of the top “things to do” in many travel blogs. Honestly, they aren’t something new or fantastic but they do satisfy your sweet tooth cravings. You can also try out some of the other popular crepes joints in Harajuku, such as Santa Monica Crepes and Marion Crepes.
SWEET BOX CREPES
Address: 1 Chome-17-5 Jingumae, Shibuya City, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan
Opening Hours: 11.00am – 10.30pm
Menu: Sweet Box Crepes’ Menu
12. FAMILY MART & 7-11 SNACKS
I love Taiwan and Japan’s convenience stores, especially their family marts and 7-11, as they have a wide variety of cheap and tasty snacks and hot meals. They are practically all over Tokyo, so they make great breakfasts, snacks and suppers. On my way to the Katsushika Noryo Fireworks Festival, I grabbed some snacks and famichiki (fried chicken) from Family Mart to picnic at the festival. For breakfasts, I love their Onigiris and Terriyaki Chicken & Egg Sandwich (must-try) to death.
Solo-dining in Tokyo: checked
Hope this little guide is useful for you as you embark on your solo travel adventure in Tokyo! Go forth and eat alone without the fear of being judged because solo-dining is very much embraced by the Japanese society.
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