There probably isn’t a lot in the world that can still surprise No Reservations and Parts Unknown host Anthony Bourdain. He’s been to 75 countries—and counting—and has eaten everything from fermented shark fin to Namibian warthog.
But taking a solo trip to Tokyo? That’s “intimidating” and “thrilling,” says Bourdain.
He told Travel + Leisure that he remembers his first visit to the Japanese capital as “an eye-opening, traumatizing, life-changing experience.”
“Tokyo is very exciting alone,” Bourdain said. “Every time you need to feed yourself at a restaurant you’re taking the plunge, stepping through the curtains into a room filled with locals, menus in Japanese, feeling awkward and freakish—the tallest guy in the room—having no clue what it is that they’re serving.”
We may not all have such imposing frames, but almost any traveler can relate to the electrifying sense of dislocation and uncertainty.
“When you finally get to the point when you can order breakfast at a restaurant? That’s a great feeling of accomplishment,” said Bourdain. “That’s what I love about Tokyo. You’re forced to learn stuff every inch of the way.”
Practically speaking, Japan is one of the best countries for solo adventures. When you elbow up to a sushi counter here, you’ll likely find you’re not the only solitary traveler marveling at the sashimi.
Read the full interview with Anthony Bourdain (including the one hotel he wouldn’t mind calling home and the most surprising destination on the planet).
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.