Me time: Services for solo customers flourishing

by Satoshi Toi

Kyodo

Table for one? Then how about trying out karaoke for one? Or even golf or soccer? In the face of the declining population coupled with an increasing number of people who remain single, companies are beginning to target a new clientele — the solo customer.

Karaoke chain operator Koshidaka Co., for example, offers single-person karaoke rooms at eight of its stores, mainly in the Tokyo metropolitan area. Solo users can sing their heart out in the compact, soundproof “One Kara” booths, which are equipped with high-grade microphones and headphones.

Prices at the Tokyo booths start at ¥400 for 30 minutes, with a minimum charge for one hour or more.

Koshidaka opened the first One Kara booths in Tokyo’s Kanda area in 2011 after noticing an increase in the number of solo karaoke customers during the previous few years.

“Because the stores specialize (in solo users), customers can be at ease without worrying about what others think about (their singing),” a Koshidaka official said. “We are drawing crowds of working adults around their 30s, who enjoy spending time on their own.”

Koshidaka plans to open about 20 such outlets by August, mainly near train and subway stations in Tokyo.

Similar services targeting solo customers are also flourishing in sports that usually require multiple players, such as golf and soccer.

A 52-year-old company employee who asked not to be identified decided last fall to try the “reservation for one” online service operated by Golf Digest Online Inc.

The man, an amateur golfer for 25 years who lives in Atsugi, Kanagawa Prefecture, said, “A round of golf originally scheduled the next day with my colleagues got canceled, so I immediately made a reservation (for one that day) and was able to enjoy a round (with other players).”

The GDO service offers a selection of more than 500 courses nationwide, from which individuals can pick and reserve according to their preferred date, region and price range to play a round with others. Customers can access information on other players who will be playing in the same round, such as their gender, age range and average scores.

Reservations are accepted up to the day before and there is no cancellation fee if the round falls through due to a lack of participants.

“This service is being well-received as users can make use of it according to their schedule and without the need to have specific memberships,” a GDO official said. “At the same time, golf courses benefit from being able to fill vacancies on weekdays.”

Meanwhile, Konami Sports & Life Co., operator of a nationwide chain of fitness clubs, offers soccer sessions where individuals can join to play with strangers who gather on the same day.

One of the sessions is held every Wednesday from around 9 p.m. at Konami Sports Club Kawagoe in Saitama Prefecture. Toru Endo, a 36-year-old dentist who took part, said, “One can join freely when one feels like taking a breather and it is nice that we can even play matches. It feels refreshing as people from all walks of life and various skill levels play together.”

Services of this kind are likely to further diversify, such as in package travel tours bringing together parties of one.