Women’s magazine Ginger Web created a stir in late November by publishing an article that offered single women advice on how to spend time alone.
In a Nov. 26 article titled “Techniques for watching a movie alone without seeming sad,” author Mariko Okura lamented the fact that women often needed courage to go to a movie theater by themselves, offering up a few tips on ways to survive a solo outing. The tips included such tactics as entering the theater after the movie had started, bringing an absorbent handkerchief to mop up tears (presumably sparked by the film on the screen in front of them and not loneliness) and making a speedy exit during the final credits before the other viewers started to discuss the movie with their partners.
Internet users didn’t appreciate the advice, with many insisting that the recommendations would only create more of a disturbance to fellow movie-goers.
Others went so far as to argue that the tactics are redundant because there’s no shame in being alone in public. A term used in the article — “dokujo jikan,” loosely translated to “single-woman time” — became a trending hashtag on Twitter.
“I can’t get used to the term dokujo jikan,” wrote @buribuli. “I guess people think it’s sad to see a woman by herself. I’ve been going to the horse-racing track and mahjong parlors on my own since my 20s. I also go to live shows by myself. When I go to Blue Note on my own, I can sometimes get a front-row seat at the last minute.”
Twitter user @oguri_sakura, a TV personality with a special interest in history, was more proactive in her criticism. “Dokujo jikan is starting to trend (online), but I get the feeling women who are history lovers tend to spend a lot of time being independent,” she wrote. “I don’t find it lonely at all. I love going to historic sites, the movies, shopping and karaoke on my own. At movies, I’m the type to stay until after the credits, expecting to see bonus scenes.”
Twitter user @yuka, meanwhile, found the notion disturbing. “A woman’s magazine that makes women cower by shamelessly posting articles on the assumption that it’s depressing for women to engage in solo activities,” she wrote. “I want to call it the ouroboros phenomenon, where the snake eats its own tail. I thought Ginger was supposed to be a magazine that mature readers can enjoy without having to hang out with other people.”
In response to the backlash, online women’s magazine Joshi Spa! conducted a survey of 200 women, aged 25 to 39, to find out what kind of activities women do alone. The web magazine also asked them to identify the occasions they might feel self-conscious about being by themselves. According to the magazine, 42.5 percent of respondents said they had gone to a movie by themselves. What’s more, just 12 percent of respondents said they might feel awkward about doing this.
Reports show nearly 1 in 4 men and 1 in 7 women in Japan are still unmarried at the age of 50. And as contributor Kaori Shoji reported last week, a number of women have recently complained that they are too tired to date.
Okura writes that it is becoming more common for single women in their 30s to spend time on their own and, judging from the backlash spurred by the advice, it appears women are perfectly fine being alone in public and enjoying ordinary activities without the social security of a partner or friend.