Postwar Japanese society has experienced significant demographic shifts. Of particular note are trends in marriage delay, increased divorce, increased rates of lifelong singlehood and an increased proportion of life spent unmarried. In this context, singlehood is increasingly experienced by women, for at least some period in their adult lives. Nonetheless, while greater numbers of Japanese are living as singles for a greater portion of their lives, marriage and childbearing remain key markers of contemporary Japanese womanhood. Living outside marriage - as a single, divorced or widowed person - suggests divergence from the ideal, even if it is just an unavoidable temporary state. This paper explores singlehood as a contested space of ideals and practices, and presents the notion of ohitorisama as one model of contemporary female singlehood. © 2014 Asian Studies Association of Australia.