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In Japanese culture, people are called bocchi when they stay or eat alone. Bocchi has both positive and negative meanings. In the positive meaning, people refer to “bocchies” who prefer to be alone. That is because they feel more relaxed and do not have to care about others when they are alone. In the negative meaning, people refer to “bocchies” who have no choice but to be alone. They struggle to have friends, and/or have fun without friends. It is also believed they may have a psychological problem with talking to people.
“Bocchi” derives from “hitoribōshi (一人法師)”. In the past, bocchi meant young people who do not have any friends and are lonely. Young people call lonely people bocchi, feeling pity for them ironically. But nowadays, bocchi is used in another way. Young people willingly name themselves bocchi. That is because they do not want to be called bocchi by others and they call themselves bocchi before being labelled as such. It is a way to avoid being called bocchi and realizing that they are defined by others as a deficient human being who cannot be friends with people.
Opinions of academics
Many experts say that teenagers in this age worry about friendships more than adults did when they were young. S. Nakanishi, previously Professor at Yokohama City University, says "young people feel they are 'bocchi' often, and 'bocchi' does not always mean loneliness. However, older people cannot understand exactly how they feel when they spend time alone." He says "they do not mind being alone, but they seriously mind that others regard them as a person who has no friends and who is not sociable." T. Asano, who is a professor at Tokyo Gakugei University, says "young people think it is natural to have friends and keep good friendships. How do they confirm the bond with their friends? They can not share their recognition that they are friends, so they want others to know they are friends. That is why they are scared of eating lunch alone. They can not endure discomfort to be seen sitting alone. Many adults think that young people are tired from interpersonal relationships, but rather, young people do not feel embarrassed and few people are seriously scared of being alone."
Bocchi-meshi means eating alone at a school or in an office. Bocchi-meshi is mostly Benjyo-meshi which means eating a lunch pack alone in a lavatory. People found out about Benjyo-meshi because of the Asahi Shimbun newspaper article. It says that many Japanese young people do not want to be seen eating alone and thought of that they do not have any friends. So that is why a few of them eat alone in a lavatory at lunch time. Posters saying “Do not eat in the toilet.” were put up at Tokyo University. But it is still under discussion whether bocchi-meshi really exists. Some say they have friends who do bocchi-meshi while others say bocchi-meshi is just a fantasy.
Most of all the negative bocchies have a problem of talking with others which is called Comyu-syou. But it is different from what we call a communication disorder. It is a distinctive word which expresses one of the cultures of Japanese young people. For example, they get nervous every time when others try to meet the eyes of them and talk. They do not know what to talk about and are afraid of annoying others because of poorness of their talking skills. So they avoid talking with others and never get opportunities to improve their talking skills.
“Bocchi-seki” has two meanings. One is the situation in which he or she eats alone, and the other is the seat arranged for a person who eats alone. “Bocchies” sometimes eat lunch alone at the school cafeteria or their desk in the office, but they don’t mind so much about doing so. In Kyoto University, a certain number of students use “bocchi-seki” in the chūō cafeteria. According to the article by Asahi Shinbun, a student says “I am embarrassed when I eat in a big table because I can’t help thinking whether others regard me lonely person”, but he can eat lunch alone in the “bocchi-seki” without being anxious. Other student says “It’s convenient to eat in the ”bocchi-seki” when I’m hurry”. Kobe University also established “bocchi-seki” in the cafeteria because students made appeals that they want place eating lunch alone in peace.
The definition of "kodokushi" is not clear, but when a person dies alone in their house, the case is called “kodokushi”. If they are killed by others, commit suicide, or die because they are very aged or weak, the case is not kodokushi.
Per year, about thirty thousand people die in the case of kodokushi. Because the number of elderly people is increasing in Japan, kodokushi may also increase in the future.
There is a word “koritsushi”, as a synonym of “kodokushi”. We cannot distinguish between these two words. Administration mainly uses “koritsushi”, but it will not distinguish two words. That is because if we make a definition of “kodokushi” and “koritsushi”, we cannot help people out of these definitions. For example, when we regard people living alone as people who have a possibility of “kodokushi”, we cannot support elderly people who live with their family but mainly spend time alone.
In order to prevent “kodokushi”, there are a lot of plans in Japan. One of them is “kodokushi bōshi apuri kyō no ogenki jōhō”. This is an application people use on smart phones for free. When you stop the alarm in the morning, this application sends an email to your friends and family. Moreover, it sends an email to inform them of your number of steps per day. When the battery of your smart phone goes dead, these emails cannot be sent so your friends and family can notice your emergency.
In 2013, Japan Post Co., Ltd. started to work on a big problem in Japan, ageing society. Japan Post Co., Ltd. offers various services to know lives of elderly people using its big network around Japan. By now, there was a problem of privacy when we tried to notice emergency of people living alone. In this way, however, we need not care about privacy because this service is done only when their family ask Japan Post Co. Ltd. to do it. This service has possibility to prevent “kodokushi”.
- (Harada, A. (2014, June 29). Asahi news paper. Retrieved: http://digital.asahi.com/articles/ASG6V522DG6VUTIL02Z.html?iref=comkiji_txt_end_s_kjid_ASG6V522DG6VUTIL02Z [July 20, 2014]. )
- (Kyōiku 2014 (Tokyo) (bocchi gakusei kou: intabyū hen) (Education 2014. Think about students being “bocchi” interview version). (2014, July 3). Asahi Shinbun digital. Retrieved: http://www.asahi.com/articles/ASG710CWGG6ZUTIL067.html [July 20, 2014]. )
- Shakaijin “bocchi” no namidagumashii doryoku kyūkei jikan ga kowai!? (The touching efforts of people who work and feel loneliness. They fear a rest period!?). (2014, May 24). J-CAST news. Retrieved:http://www.j-cast.com/kaisha/2014/05/25205536.html [July 20, 2014].
- (Nakamura, M., Nikaidou, I. (2009, July 6). Tomodachi Inakute Benjyo-meshi?, Asahi news paper, p.1.)
- (Comyu-syou toha. (2014, July 19). Nikoniko Daihyakka. Retrieved: http://dic.nicovideo.jp/a/%E3%82%B3%E3%83%9F%E3%83%A5%E9%9A%9C [July 19, 2014]
- Comyu-syou toha. (2014, July 19). Hatena Keyword. Retrieved: http://d.hatena.ne.jp/keyword/%A5%B3%A5%DF%A5%E5%BE%E3 [July 19, 2014]. )
- (Shisen kinisezu ohitorisama kyōdai gakusyoku “bocchi-seki” ninki (Students eat lunch alone without being afraid of others’ eyes. “Bocchi-seki” in the Kyoto University is popular with students). (2013, July 29). Asahi Shinbun digital. Retrieved:http://digital.asahi.com/articles/OSK201307270001.html?ref=comkiji_txt_end_kjid_OSK201307270001 [July 20, 2014]. )
- Kaneko, S. (2014, June 6). kodokushi ni nennrei ha kannkeinai ------hitorigurashi ga atarimae no zidaide shakaika wo semarareru shi “Kodokushi no riaru” tyosha Yūki Yasuhiro shi intabyū. WEBRONZA. Retrieved:http://webronza.asahi.com/synodos/2014061600001.html [July 20, 2014]. )
- (NPO corporatopn. (2012). Kodokushi ni tsuite - kodokushi to koritsushi. Wall Less Japan. Retrieved: http://wallless.jp/kodokusi.html#1.3_%E5%AD%A4%E7%8B%AC%E6%AD%BB%E3%81%A8%E5%AD%A4%E7%AB%8B%E6%AD%BB [July 21, 2014]. )
- (Hitorigurashi hikken! muryou apuri de kodokushi wo boshisuru hoho no matome. (2013, November 30). NAVER matome. Retrieved: http://matome.naver.jp/odai/2138546308789567801 [July 21, 2014]. )
- (Nihon yūbin ga mimamori zigyō ni sannnyū chīki mittyaku no sābisu de “koritsushi” taisaku ni kōka kitai [tyō kōrēka shakai]. (2013, October 13). Gendai Bizinesu. Retrieved: http://gendai.ismedia.jp/articles/-/37211 [July 21, 2014]. )