Current Institutional Affiliation
Freelance Journalist; Fellowship Recipient, Institute of Current World Affairs

Award Information

Abe Fellowship for Journalists 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Fellow, Recipient of reporting fellowship in France, Institute of Current World Affairs
Between Solitude and Empowerment: Women and Japan's Loneliness Epidemic

My proposed research explores how women experience and perceive Japan's so-called "loneliness epidemic." Although most media have focused on acute cases—hikikomori, extreme recluses, or kodokushi, lonely deaths—my project attempts to tackle the cultural ramifications of this public-health crisis. Most critically, I seek to understand how rising solitude has prompted a national reflection—in academia, media, and literature—on a citizen's place in society and the growing tension between individualism and collectivism that is inherent to Japan's embrace of modernity. Japanese women's growing rejection of rigid social norms—marrying young, having children, and leaving the workforce—cannot be divorced from this shift. Yet while some women have seized on the moment, using the decline of the family unit as an avenue for liberation, others, and young mothers in particular, suffer from loneliness and depression. My objective would be to understand how both groups understand Japan's cultural reckoning with mental illness and solitude. My proposed project is multidisciplinary, and gets to the heart of the Abe Fellowship's research agenda. It offers insight into the implications of Japan's demographic changes and the burgeoning women's empowerment movement—two issues that are central to national policy, as the government seeks to better manage mental illness and navigate Japanese society's waning reliance on the family unit. Women's attitudes toward solitude are relevant for a host of policy objectives, from public health and family planning to housing and urban planning. By focusing on women in particular, my reporting would help elevate voices that often go unheard.