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Five Japanese Group Activities You Can Enjoy On Your Own

By yourself? Don’t let that stop you from having a good time in Japan with these five solo-friendly activities.

By 4 min read

Japan may be a group-based society but that doesn’t mean you have to do everything with other people. Recently, there has been a rise in solo culture. The idea of doing things on your own, ohitorisama (party of one), has changed going out in a big way. What used to be seen as shameful has now become stylish, with plenty of businesses across the board now offering experiences aimed specifically at the solo customer.

This makes a lot of sense. The number of single-person households in Japan has risen from 25% in 1995 to almost 40% in 2020. That number is expected to rise to 50% of the population by 2040. Businesses have taken notice of this trend in a big way, especially in large cities, where young people move to work.

Whether you’re an introvert by nature or just can’t find someone else who shares your hobby, it’s time to embrace solo culture.

Here are five activities that you can comfortably now try on your own.

1. Karaoke

Sing your heart out.

Karaoke was one of the first businesses to begin to cater to single customers. The karaoke box—traditionally a room that you rent with a group of friends or co-workers for singing—is now being reimagined as hitokara, or hitori (single) karaoke.

The rooms are accordingly sized down for one person, with some no larger than a photo booth. The price is also thankfully single-friendly. Some businesses, like 1Kara, cater entirely to single singers who want to sing their hearts out without waiting for others to finish.

Whether you’re there to practice for the upcoming big work outing or just because you love singing, there’s plenty to be said for a little hitokara action.

2. Dining Out

An introvert’s paradise.

Long gone are the days of the benjo meshi, or eating lunch in the toilets to avoid appearing like you’re by yourself at mealtime. These days, there are more and more establishments that cater to solo diners.

One of the first was ramen chain Ichiran. While not exclusively for parties of one, their partitioned counter seating is a welcome setup for anyone who feels that normal ramen stools are positioned a little too close together for comfort.

Yakiniku, or Korean-style barbecue, is a traditionally group-based dining experience that has recently started to accommodate solo diners. National chain restaurant Yakiniku Like is all-solo, all the time, with individual, small-sized grills at every table.

Another recent trend is solo shabu shabu or hotpot. Meat fans wanting the single shabu shabu experience in Tokyo can check out Hitori Shabu Shabu Ichi, which combines shabu shabu experience with the feel of a conveyer belt sushi restaurant.

3. Movie Theaters

Head to Kabukicho to experience Premier Box Seats.

When I conducted an informal survey among my Japan-residing friends on Facebook, many of them said they enjoyed going to the movie theater by themselves. The stigma of being seen at the theater on your own has always seemed silly to me. Once the lights go down, you can’t see anyone anyway.

Solo movie-going as a trend is catching on in Japan. Many theaters now offer a variety of premium seats designed to separate you from other audience members. The Toho Cinemas branch in Kabukicho offers both Premier Box Seats, which add partitions between seats, as well as Premier Luxury Seats, recliners with their own end table. Many theater chains offer similar amenities so check your local listings if this appeals to you.

For those who are serious about their movie experience or really enjoy their privacy, there are finally options for you.

4. Onsen

Renting a kashikiri is a game-changing experience.

Another popular solo activity that my friends mentioned was going to onsen (hot springs). Taking the waters is a quintessentially Japanese experience, and yet for many, it can be intimidating to disrobe in front of a mass of strangers. Perhaps you have tattoos and aren’t allowed to enter the main bath or maybe you would just prefer to be by yourself. Whatever the reason, many onsen have you covered with private rental baths.

Called kashikiri buro (rental bath) or kazoku buro (family bath), these are separated bathing areas designed for families, couples or solo bathers. You usually get your own changing area as well. As these are limited, you’ll need to book a time in advance. Not every facility will offer it but many do.

As a shy Westerner with tattoos, I’ve found it to be the perfect way to enjoy a relaxing bath without having to feel like I’m being watched.

5. Cocktails

Bottoms up.

While you may have ventured to a bar by yourself before, have you ever been to one that catered to individual patrons exclusively? Solo bars are becoming more common in Japan, especially in Tokyo, where people tend to eat and drink on their own after work before heading home.

The most famous of these bars is Hitori in Shinjuku’s Kabukicho. Known for being friendly and easy to enter (as long as you’re on your own), it’s developed a reputation as a fun place to grab a drink and has even garnered some international attention. In fact, it’s gotten so popular the business has opened a second location in Ikebukuro.

What activities do you enjoy doing on your own? Let us know in the comments.

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