It wasn’t long after I arrived in Japan that I started heading out on my own and exploring. Eventually when I started sharing my journeys on YouTube I started to receive a few comments and questions regarding whether or not it was safe for a woman like myself to be exploring unaccompanied. Although some of my answers were geared to specific comments or questions the general theme remained the same; it’s safer here in Japan then it is in most US cities. In other words: There is absolutely nothing to worry about.
Naturally because your friendly neighborhood OkiNinjaKitty says there is nothing to worry about doesn’t necessarily mean that you feel safe and content. For those people out there who want to take some extra steps to stay protected there are a few different things you can do. I could go ahead and outline a bunch of them for you but today (through a suggestion from a fellow YouTuber Steve Miller) I stumbled upon a video by Christine Kaaloa who dose a pretty great job offering up 8 tips specifically for female travelers. You can check out her video here:
Christine offers some fantastic advise, however since it is so generalized I thought that I would add a few tidbits specific to Japan and throw in some things that I do which you might also find helpful.
1. Be aware of your surroundings
The idea is if you can see it you can deter it. As a traveler if I can see people coming in on he side of me or someone walking close to me and it’s a little too close, they are coming up a little too fast then I can think about what kind of action to make to deter a possible snatch. . .
Christine could not have made a better choice in making #1 on her list “Be aware of your surroundings”. Although this can seem daunting when you listen to someone explain it the actual act itself can be simple and within just a few short days it can become second nature.
Usually when we hear that we should be aware of our surroundings we automatically think that it is because we need to prevent some type of crime or assault. However, here in Japan (where it is unlikely you will encounter that type of situation) there are some other very important reasons to be aware of your surroundings. There are many things which are different from the way kids learn to cross the street to the way escalators are used in major cities. Being aware of your surroundings may not only prevent you from harm but it may also ensure that you don’t cause harm to others.
2. Hold valuables close to your body
. . . with my valuables in front of me I always have an eye on it. Nothing goes in or out of my bag without me seeing it.
There are many valuable points that Christine discusses in this section of the video, most of which I learned at an early age living in a rough and tumble city. However, there are a few other points I have found helpful over the years that I would like to add. First and foremost ensure that you do not store items vital to your travel (ID, credit cards, passports) in pouches which are easily accessible. Those outer pouches are easiest for others to gain access to without you noticing. In fact I usually go out of my way to put the least valuable items that I am carrying with me in the most easy to swipe spots like tissues or a spate t-shirt. Second separate important items. What happens if your wallet or purse is snatched or lost and it contains all of your important documents and money? Doing something as simple as separating your money into separate wallets, bags, pockets or a combination of the three can ensure you aren’t alone somewhere with absolutely nothing. Although these two things seems silly they have been immensely helpful to me in the past.
3. Act confident
The trick is all in the attitude. . . . . People are going to read your body language.
Simply put: looking lost and confused is the best way for you to attract the wrong type of attention. This doesn’t always mean that people will try to find you and cause you harm (although there are some places where this may very well be the case) but can sometimes mean that they will take advantage of your confusion. This could be a cabby who charges you extra because you clearly don’t understand Japanese so you won’t confront him or a shop who takes advantage of the fact that you are a foreigner. This area is extremely important for those who are living here for a few years (particularly military members) to keep in mind because many businesses know you are coming, know what type of salary you make and are wiling to feed you information (even when it’s not accurate) in order to make a sale.
4. Trust your gut
As a solo traveler you’re going to know who you can trust and who you can’t. Some travelers are very trusting of strangers and they want to be social and open, and that’s all good stuff, it’s just that you also have to be wise about people that you choose to get help from. . . .
Christine says “not everyone is going to be a good person” in this part of the video and it is so very important to understand. Here in Japan (particularly Okinawa) there are a lot of foreigners, there are a lot of Americans and there are a lot of military members. It is very easy to feel comfortable because of a common bond HOWEVER there should be a great deal of caution even with these types of people because they can just as easily take advantage of you and put you in a bad position.
5. Avoid giving out personal information
You want to try and avoid giving any personal information like if you’re traveling alone, if you’re single, what motel you’re staying at. . .
Another very important point, nothing really to add.
6. Avoid dark and lonely places at night
If you’re going out at night I would avoid any dark places, dark alleys, any place that’s closed from the public. Always stay on the main street.
I have said many times about how safe Japan is and I do not in any way retract that statement. In fact walking around, even at night, is relatively safe. There are some things, however, that I am more wearing of during the hours when the sun is down. For example as Christine mentioned staying away from areas off limits to the public is very important. I also personally prefer to avoid bars which cater to foreigners. Unlike other izakayas or Japanese bars these tend to be a bit more rowdy and have a lot of loud overly drunk men outside which makes me uncomfortable.
7. Dress Appropriately
If you’re solo, you’re single you kinda want to meet someone maybe . . . you want to dress a little sexy but for every one guy that you consider hot there’s going to be 20 that you consider not and they’re all going to be looking at you.
Clothing is a great form of self expression but it is also a way to grab unwanted attention and that is something that every solo female traveler should keep in mind.
8. Research the country
Research possible scams and crimes in that country.
Considering that those of you reading probably already have your sights on Japan (or already here) researching the country is only going to do so much for you. However, there is very much importance in researching where you want to go and what you want to do. Just doing this alone can help you avoid some places which might be bad news or make you aware of the scams and crimes which are likely to happen in that area. For example there are some areas of Tokyo that I am not going to visit because I know that there are a lot of chases where drinks are spiked and such. It doesn’t make sense (in my opinion) to put myself in that type of situation so I can easily avoid it. This simple task of researching will also help you become confident with your travel plans and more aware of your surroundings.
Overall the type of person you are and the type of background you come from will determine how safe and secure you feel in a particular area but taking some preventative measures can also be helpful as well. I hope that you have found this post and video helpful. Please don’t forget to give Christine’s video a thumbs up!