Japanese singles and solo-life

Laura Dales, Nora Kottmann

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The average age of first marriage in Japan has steadily increased over the last century, as has the likelihood of never marrying, for both women and men. In conjunction with the decline in the average length of marriage, these trends indicate that Japanese people are spending more of their lives singles, in the sense of being legally unmarried. Despite this increase in the length and breadth of Japanese singlehood, marriage remains an ideal: the stated desire to marry has remained constant, at round 90%, for more than two decades (IPSS, 2017). In this context, those who are legally unmarried, either through planning or happenstance, are defined at least in part by their peripherality to hegemonic definitions of adult femininity and masculinity. Beyond discourse, the legal, economic, and sociocultural conditions that privilege marriage produce marginality for unmarried Japanese as workers, parents, and citizens. Singlehood therefore represents a fertile site for examining how notions of intimacy, connection, and belonging have been limited by a focus on the family (Roseneil, 2005). The experience of being unmarried in a familialist society produces a range of marginalizing effects, as well as possibilities for the creation of belonging and identity outside the reproductive and heteronormative family. In this chapter, we discuss the implications of singlehood and the ways that being single and solo activities (sorokatsu) have been framed and re-framed in the wake of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We explore the possibilities for belonging, as well as marginality, in singlehood at a time when intimate and relational practices are shaped by the proscription of the ‘3 Cs’ (closed spaces, crowds, and close-contact situations) and when ‘solo-camping’ was chosen as one of the top 10 buzzwords of 2020.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSingular Selves
Subtitle of host publicationAn Introduction to Singles Studies
EditorsKetaki Chowkhani, Craig Wynne
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781000962079
ISBN (Print)9781003300793
Publication statusPublished - 2024


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