Around the world more and more people are opting for the single life but in Japan, loneliness has become an epidemic. Subscribe:
Marriage and childbirth rates are falling, as more and more young Japanese choose to stay single and childless. Relationships are too difficult, they say.
In the country’s last Fertility Survey, figures showed that a quarter of women in their 30s were single, and half of those weren’t interested in having a relationship.
Many Japanese adults aren’t even having sex. It’s estimated around 10% of people in their 30s are still virgins.
By 2040, it’s estimated nearly half of Japan’s population will be single.
Correspondent Jake Sturmer has reported from the ABC’s Tokyo bureau for 4 years and nothing has confounded him more than this social crisis.
As he prepares to return to Australia, Jake sets out on a final journey to discover the forces driving this ‘Solo Society’.
He meets 29-year-old Sayaka, who works in the fashion industry. Sayaka is happily single, and not interested in getting married.
“I’m under a lot of (social) pressure but I don’t mind,” she says. “There’s nothing I can’t do without a man at the moment.”
Instead, the objects of her affection are her dogs – Kogemaru, Unimaru, Rinmaru and Riko – whom she loves to spoil.
Naoya, a 32-year-old creative director for an advertising company, isn’t in a rush to get married either. He often feels lonely but hanging out with friends cheers him up.
“It’s fun drinking with my friends like this and I’m able to fill in the loneliness,” Naoya tells Jake in a cosy bar in downtown Tokyo.
Jake also explores a darker side of Japanese society, meeting a man who has opted out in an extreme way, hiding in his bedroom and avoiding society altogether. He’s what’s called a hikikomori, someone who withdrawn socially.
In Japan there are more than a million hikikomori. Jake meets the mother of one who’s become an activist, campaigning for Japanese society to be more tolerant of those who don’t fit the mould.
“People believe they need to change the people who’ve withdrawn but I think it’s exactly the opposite. I think the society should change,” she says.
Jake spends time with Masatomi, a cleaner whose job is to clear out the homes of those who die alone. Each year, tens of thousands of Japanese end their lives alone, their bodies often found after neighbours detect an odour. Masatomi is calling for Japanese people to sit up and take notice.
“It’s something that could happen to anybody including myself. I strongly feel that we need to have connections with other people. I feel outrage, why don’t they see what’s going on?”
About Foreign Correspondent:
Foreign Correspondent is the prime-time international public affairs program on Australia’s national broadcaster, ABC-TV. We produce half-hour duration in-depth reports for broadcast across the ABC’s television channels and digital platforms. Since 1992, our teams have journeyed to more than 170 countries to report on war, natural calamity and social and political upheaval – through the eyes of the people at the heart of it all.
ABC News In-depth takes you deeper on the big stories, with long-form journalism from Four Corners, Foreign Correspondent, Australian Story, Planet America and more, and explainers from ABC News Video Lab.
Note: In most cases, our captions are auto-generated.