Living alone in Tokyo

03/30/2012
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TOKYO (majirox news) — The number of people per Japanese households in Tokyo now average less than two, which makes them more common than any other domestic unit, according to a recent Tokyo Metropolitan Government report.

The average household in 1957 had more than four people living in it.

Marriage and family life are changing as well. Young people are marrying later, couples are having fewer children, married women are working outside the home and many married couples are no longer living with their parents.

Tomo Fujita, a university student in Tokyo, says it’s a bad trend. “Family bonds are important. I grew up in a big family and the experience of living in harmony with a big family is a necessity for growing up to be a well-rounded adult. So, I think it’s really important to live together with the extended family.”

Mashiro Yamada, a well-known sociologist who coined the phrase “parasite single,” said traditionally, elderly parents have lived with their children, even after their sons and daughters have gotten married.

“Today living alone is increasing among the elderly,” he said. “The reason is because there is so little living space in Tokyo. When the sons and daughters get married, it becomes too cramped for everyone to live together. However, sons and daughters do tend to live nearby.”

He added that people who remain unmarried and those who have no kids are also increasing in Japan. “When they get to be 50 or 60, they lose their parents and become alone, and then the number of elderly living alone rises sharply.”

While there is an increase in single and middle age people living alone, the biggest rise is with the elderly. In 1980 there were 100,000 elderly living alone in the capital, in 2010 there were 620,000.

This pattern will continue for some time, according to Hiroko Obata, a director at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

“Because of this we think that by making the council housing ‘barrier-free’ for both the somewhat younger people and the elderly, we can use it for longer. For example, if those in their 30s or 40s become single, or alone, then if the housing is barrier free, they can keep living there.”

Obata says the Tokyo Metropolitan Government will continue to consider the implications of living alone for all ages.

However, one expert says if solo dwellers are involved in social and civic life it doesn’t have to be so lonely.

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