As I embarked on my trip I know there were many people out there that thought I was brave. It's bloggers like Kate who made me realise that solo female travel is possible and most of all enjoyable. It shouldn't be just for the courageous, but for the curious. Here's my tips for solo travel, particularly (but certainly not exclusively) for those travelling to cities...
1// Look out for casual dining. Often in Tokyo people sit on their own at bars and eat - so there's nothing to feel uncomfortable about. Similarly in London and across the world you get Bar menus, cafes and road-side stalls.
2// When you hear a English speaking voice, immediately ask them to take a photo. Even if you don't want the photo it's a good ice breaker and you'll relish conversations.
3// Have something to read and go to a bar for a drink. Reading indicates you're alone, so someone may approach you - if not it's always nice to be somewhere with a bit of atmosphere.
4// Keep a diary. I found that with lack of communication from back home, it was great to write in a diary and offload my day.
5// Smile! I always make an effort to smile at the people who are serving me. If they speak English they may well be very friendly in return and this can make all the difference. If they don't understand what you're saying it doesn't matter - a smile is universal.
6// Be organised. Have a plan in your head - someone looking terribly lost with things hanging out of their bag looks vulnerable. It may also may you feel uneasy. Even if your plan is rough or consists of 'find myself a coffee' or 'find the next bench to get my map out' it gives you direction.
7// Be safe. Keep your escape route close to your heart. What I mean by this is keep your rail ticket or enough money for a taxi, along with your room key and accommodation name on your person - girls in your bra, boys separate from your wallet. That way if you forget your bag in a shop or (worse case) it gets stollen then you are not on your own with no-one to cry to and no-one to borrow money off!
8// Following on from the earlier point, aim to get at least one non-selfie photograph a day. I think you would be disappointed to come back with only 2 photos of yourself. Someone noticed me taking a selfie and offered to take one - I was suddenly embarrassed as really there is no shame in asking, particularly if they are another tourist.
9// Travel during daylight hours. It may seem frustrating if you're moving on to another city before the day has ended and things have shut down, but it means the other end you can pick up maps from the (open) information desk and there's no need to worry about last trains/tubes/buses. I left Hakone at 7pm and ended up get one of the last trains to my final destination. Moral of the story is you can never allow enough time!!
10// Ignore those who doubt you, especially when it's yourself!