You can argue with me on this, but in Japan, there are two days a year when the idea of being alone might affect you emotionally — these are Valentine’s Day and Christmas (or Christmas Eve, to be exact). These two days have been traditionally hated by singles for one obvious reason. They feel like they are the only loners in the world while everyone else seems to have their significant other. Of course, this is part of the media propaganda and business marketing which forcibly brainwashes us into thinking that being alone is the worst crime ever committed in this country.
Jokes aside, though, if we play with the idea too much, it turns into depression. According to one survey that was conducted back in February, out of 2,459 respondents, 12% said they had eaten their meals in public toilets.
Let’s admit it. Toilets indeed can be our ultimate sanctuary where we can get away from others and expose the most inner, private part of ourselves (figuratively speaking) without worrying about how people might judge us. However, using public toilets as a place to eat is a completely different story.
The question is, why do they have to isolate themselves in toilets to eat meals? One possible answer can be found in years of “school lunch” experience. Of course, a lot of things have changed since when I was in school, but I’m sure that many of the respondents would agree with me on my argument that as kids, we were all taught to act in a group.
The No Child Left Alone act (as if there was such a thing) was apparent in almost any scene at school especially when it came to lunch. While it does make sense to have all kids have lunch at the same time, why did we have to sit in a group? In most cases, groups (or han , as we called them) were formed according to the seating arrangement of a classroom. Maybe it was part of education, trying to make us learn the importance of cooperation with an implied message of when you get older, you will have to get along with ones that you don’t want to get along with or maybe it was the school’s desperate attempt to teach us we could all be good friends if we just gave each other a chance. This short clip shows a typical classroom scene at lunchtime.
Considering that the majority of people in Japan have had years of education which adhered to this virtual act, the survey result can be seen as a sign of our unconscious sense of guilt and shame. Or am I taking this too seriously?
When we look at the other side of the story, though, there seems to be a growing demand for so-called ohitorisama (literally means ‘one person’) service. Club Tourism is offering a variety of package tours for those who want to travel alone. Below you can find their list of “promises” that would make the participants of this tour less conscious about being on their own. The first three are the most appealing: All participants are on their own. You will get a room on your own. You will get to use two seats on a bus. (This means that no one will be sitting next to you!)
Perhaps it’s safe to say that we are double-sided. We seek to be alone sometimes in order to confirm that we are not alone after all.