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Going solo: 'Ohitorisama' or the Japanese art of doing it alone

19 Comments
By Hiroshi Hiyama

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19 Comments
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As more businesses cater to these people the more people themselves will see that interaction and communication between people is not necessary in daily life and more and more will become like the hikkikomi that we often hear about.

I for one would love to see more interaction between people being promoted rather than individual activities for one!

Life and living should be shared!

5 ( +9 / -4 )

So sad. And yet, so acceptable in Japan.

Ill never figure this place out.

0 ( +7 / -7 )

Ill never figure this place out.

Once you stop trying it gets a hell of a lot easier to live here.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I actually understand this trend, and I'm part of it.

"Sure, it would have been fun to travel with friends too. But I knew what I wanted to do there and it was fantastic because I was able to do everything I wanted to do at the pace I wanted to do it"

That's the main reason. Travelling alone just allows me to see what I want, at the pace I want, nobody slowing me down or pressing me to go faster, I can skip the obligatory regional meal, and the group picture in front of a monument that everyone must take.

As for other activities, doing it alone allows to skip the part where people just won't stop complaining.

"I don't like this song"

"I want to eat something else"

"It's boring"

"It's too far"

Etc etc...

The truth is most people are not interested in anything, and will not support you if you want to do something different. Better to take some distance and do it alone then.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I think it is VERY important for people to NOT feel alone, when on their own & to be comfortable heading out & also doing stuff alone. Not all the time of course as that leads to problems, of which Japan sadly is experiencing MANY, getting worse in other western countries as well, a lot of this is driven by economic factors & the digital world we are entering.

So...……..here in Japan this phenomenon is a result of a number of things colliding at the same time, an incredibly CRAPPY work-life balance(which is KILLING the country literally), lousy economy, less marriage(still with stupidly high expectations), sinking birthrate, massive number of seniors etc etc.

The problem is this solo stuff is happening a lot for the wrong reason or because of societal/work pressure, Japan is out in the lead in this & I predict Japan's birthrate in the not too distant future is REALLY going to plummet, the population decrease is going to really pick up speed over time, time will tell I guess if I am right or not

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Bintaro, If we can't learn to live with others what will become of our society. Whether I like it or not, I do things with others. To see a smile on other's faces is priceless and helps us live on harmony. We must all learn to give and take.

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

Have you ever gone to karaoke alone? If you enjoy the act of singing itself it's fun. Sing your favorites as many times as you like or practice new ones over and over and no will complain about it. Japanese house walls are too paper thin to do it at home.

I've also traveled solo numerous times. It has different enjoyable aspects than traveling with friends or family does. Balance is good, you don't have to be "with" someone 24/7.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Why does everything in Japan need a name?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As soon as one finds happiness in solidarity, he/she will become less dependant on others for it.  This has a hugely positive effect on relationships both personal and professional.  Insecurities within relationships with be minimized.

S

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am a very socialable/social person, but I have come to realize that somethings are great solo. Movies and theatre - I don't need to worry if someone else is enjoying it, I can just focus on my own experience. Museums and historical sights - I can spend as much time as I like. I've started travelling solo, but I usually have friends to meet up with for a meal or two everywhere I go and can spend the rest of the time focused on my things. I've only been to karaoke on my own once - it was great to try out some different songs but a bit expensive. I'd like to have one of these specialized spots near by.

I thoroughly enjoy company when I have company and am happy and content when on my own. As several have said above, balance is key.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I went on a solo koyo trip recently to visit Lake Onuma, Oirase Stream, Lake Towada, Naruko Gorge, Kurobe Gorge, and onsens with a 7 day Japan Rail Pass.

The scheduling was rather tight so it would have been difficult to achieve with others due to "lowest common denominator" ie. one group member's problem(=delay) is everyone's problem.

Swarms of yammering Chinese tourists made me wish that they would travel solo(=silently).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If anything, Japan goes overboard with structured group activities, so it is good for people to have space.

Singing is a skill that needs practice, so karaoke alone actually makes sense without drawing any wider meaning. That said, I first read about ohitorisama a few years ago with regard to yakiniku, people eating what is regarded as party food on their own. It is definitely a social phenomenon. A book called Bowling Alone came out in the US fifteen years ago, and that was before the Internet had atomised us further.

As has been said, some people feel loneliest in a crowded room. If there is a worry, it is that some things require a group response. I don't want to harp on about it, but saving what is left of the environment is the obvious one.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I often "go solo" if my wife isn't in the mood ; )

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Doing things by yourself is not at all a Japanese trait or a unique trend. I've always loved going to the movies myself (dates, too, and with family, but I do enjoy watching a movie on my own and leaving the world behind), going for coffee by myself and with a good book, and eating out by myself sometimes.

And I've done karaoke on my own a dozen times. Only once did I actually plan it beforehand, because I wanted to practice seeing a couple of songs I would be performing later, but other times I've decided to kill time in a karaoke box, or just popped in a whim. You can kill an hour easily, have a drink, keep warm in winter and cool in summer, can sing the songs no one knows or wants to hear (but that you want to sing) when in a group, can repeat the same songs if you want, and sometimes you can even catch a few Zs. I also prefer to travel alone and meet up with people rather than go as a group. When I last travelled internationally I went alone, just for two days, and enjoyed getting away from it all. When I got back to KIX, and I timed it on my watch, from the time I got off the shuttle to the main terminal to walking out the front door took NINE minutes. That's all. Immigration, Customs (I had only a small carry-on), everything... nine minutes. When I travelled with my wife and mother-in-law in January it took over an hour, and then they argued over whether to go home and drop off our stuff first or go for lunch with everything in tow, etc.

Point is, there is nothing wrong with going it alone on things that are generally considered group activities or for couples, and it's certainly nothing unique to Japanese culture.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I sing hard rock & metal alone a lot at karaoke to relax.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I moved to Japan because I want to be alone. I’ve never felt happier, I live alone when I’m at work I’m left alone and when I go out I’m on my own. Now they making my life and those who want to be alone more convenient it’s great.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

One only has to go to McDonalds, or any other casual restaurant, to see how Japanese society caters to the single market. So many chairs lined in a row, usually facing a wall or low barrier. I understand that many office workers choose to go out to eat alone, but the lack of 4-person or even 2-person seats can be quite depressing...communication with others is paramount to a healthy life. That said, I too enjoy activities alone and I respect the wishes of people to do so.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Traveling alone, in particular, is an experience that everyone should try at least once! It feeds the soul to do what one wants to go and be directly engaged with one's surroundings.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are usually these when travelling or shopping.

Japanese - Solo

Korean - Couple

Chinese - Group

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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