From eating out to camping, more Japanese women are doing things alone as they wish to enjoy their time to themselves.
In the past, those without family members, partners or friends were commonly looked upon in a negative light. However, this view has been changing with so-called soloists increasingly being seen as independent.
“You make your own decisions, so you get the chance to face yourself,” said free-lance writer Mayumi Asai, who has been promoting a perception. “There is no feeling of loneliness, only one of significance and accomplishment.”
Her writing has garnered support from like-minded individuals who comment that they also enjoy undertaking activities by themselves and want to have similar experiences to hers.
One day last month Asai could be found strawberry picking at a farm in the city of Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture.
Unlike the majority of visitors, who comprised couples and families, Asai had come alone. After picking a few dozen strawberries, she went on to take some pictures of the cherry blossoms in bloom along a nearby river.
The 33-year-old began doing things on her own as a university student after a female friend who had grown up abroad told her she liked to eat at ramen (quick-cooking noodles) restaurants by herself. Asai had always felt it was a burden to have to consider the feelings of others when hanging out in a group, but this feeling disappeared when she followed the example of her friend and began eating on her own.
According to a 2015 study conducted by the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research, 36% of women responded that they would not feel lonely if they were to spend the rest of their lives by themselves, up 7% points from the previous study five years before.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would like 30% of Japanese business leaders to be women by 2020. A record 75.7% of women between the ages of 25 and 39 held jobs in 2017, up 6% from 2012, according to a survey by the Internal Affairs Ministry. Confronted by a labor shortage, companies are offering flexible hours, enabling mothers with small children to hold on to their jobs.