Let’s travel back in time for a moment. The 1966 edition of Fodor’s Guide to Japan and East Asia contained a 34-page introductory essay by famed translator and literary scholar Edward Seidensticker titled “Japan: A crowded, lonely land.”

“Although a Japanese is seldom alone, it may be said that he is frequently, perhaps even characteristically, lonely,” wrote Seidensticker. “Japan is not a society of relaxed, easy associations. ... All in all it is a chilly, fragmented, constricting world.”

Whether the above is true or not, the government under Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga recently announced steps to address the problem of loneliness, which over the past 14 months has almost certainly been aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic.