How Japan has perfected the experience of eating, drinking and traveling by yourself
We’ve all had that awkward experience of having to dine alone in a restaurant—the meek acceptance of the mingey table nearest the swinging kitchen door and the studious attention to an open book so people don’t think we were stood up.
In Japan it used to be the same.
That’s changing, though, as more and more people stay single by choice, or find themselves single later in life, with many active years still ahead.
A new movement called “o-hitori-sama” is responding to the trend, and has been elevating dining, singing and even traveling alone to a luxury option, rather than a sad default.
When a popular TV show gets built around a trend, you know it’s got legs.
But how do you design a restaurant so solo diners feel comfortable?
Some are even changing their menus, to appeal more to single diners
But eating isn’t the only activity you can now comfortably do by yourself in Japan
In many parts of the world, going to a bar is one thing you can always do alone (especially if you’re somewhere you don’t know anyone, but want to meet people), but in Japan, people only drink in groups. If you go to a bar by yourself, not only will you look like you have no friends, you won’t make any new ones either.
Singing karaoke has always been a group activity—indeed, it’s the ice breaker of choice for groups that want to know each other better—but now there are karaoke venues that offer single occupancy rooms
Even traveling alone is now an attractive option in Japan
As population begins to drop in all industrialized countries, we may start seeing more of these innovations elsewhere in the world. Perhaps the kind of thinking they’ve pioneered in Japan will soon make going solo an enjoyable experience all over the world.