loneliness epidemic, Societal musings

My Loving Wife (Japan’s Loneliness Epidemic)

Sho kissed Arianna goodbye, picked up his briefcase, and walked towards Tokyo station. Despite being one of the busiest stations in the world, it is eerily quiet on the trains. Wearing masks of serenity as they cover up their everyday anxieties, passengers prefer to be the sound of silence as they wait for their destinations. Or perhaps, they don’t have anyone to talk to.

Not unlike the other riders, Sho spent the length of his journey engaged in watching videos on his phone. As he entered his office building to begin yet another drudgerous day at work, he already longed for his wife, Arianna. Unlike his colleagues who always seemed to have an ongoing banter with their wives, Sho was satisfied with his marriage. She never argued with him, and accepted him exactly the way he was. She also never had any external commitments when he wanted to spend time with her. Sho’s colleagues resentfully listened to stories of Sho and Arianna’s seamless date nights. Frustrated by their distasteful domestic lives, some harbored strong desires to punch out Sho’s teeth. To make matters worse, the ruthlessly long hours at work added to the growing pile of domestic tension.

Lonely at home and dejected after receiving an abysmal performance review at work, Yoku’s delirious state of mind seriously considered the possibility of committing suicide. Cringe-worthy as it may sound, such thoughts can almost feel commonplace to Tokyo residents, as they read about growing cases of suicide in the daily morning newspapers. “Cereal and suicide” memes added to the dark humor on social media.

Having no one to share his grievances with, Yoku felt exceptionally lonely that day. He had typically trained himself to feign looks of excitement, but on this particular day, he burst into a fit of rage when Sho started bragging about another one of his perfect date nights with Arianna.

“When can we meet this demi-god Arianna you always speak so highly of?” lashed out Yoku. Our wives could learn a thing or two from her. And for the single men, we can know what to look for in our future partners, shall fate ever be so kind as to find us mates who come even remotely close to matching Arianna’s loving nature,” retorted Yoku in a puff of angry breath underlying a tone of mockery.

The other colleagues jeered and heads turned to watch the ensuing drama. A few seconds went by. Not wanting to let this golden opportunity pass, Hariku brazenly suggested dinner at Sho’s place.

“I’m sure Ms. Arianna would be delighted to spend a joyous evening in the company of her darling husband’s friends,” shouted Hariku in sly humor. Hariku’s snide comment did the job — Sho’s vanity had been pierced. Donning a cool air, as if the events of the last five minutes had not taken place, Sho announced, “All you disenchanted souls are invited to feed at my place on Saturday night at 8pm. Now, I’m off to meet Arianna.” Sho stormed off as his colleagues croaked behind him.

The office gossip revolved around Saturday night’s dinner in the days leading up to this highly anticipated event. Dressed in their finest attire, two couples, Yoku, and Hariku bought some wine and headed over to Sho’s house. For over half an hour, the guests sat in the living room, indulging in wine and mindless chatter, but there was no sign of Arianna. Sho exclaimed that Arianna was cooking in the kitchen and would be there to greet her guests any minute.

The clock signaled the passing of a full hour, and the impatience of the guests made the air stifling to breath in. Shamless Hariku started to make his way to the kitchen, but Sho blocked his path, calling him ill-mannered and relenting to escorting Arianna from the kitchen.

“Everyone — meet my wife, Arianna,” croaked Sho, as he stepped back into the living room.

He was carrying a robot doll in his hand.

……………

Author Notes:

This fictional story is meant to raise awareness around the loneliness epidemic and high suicide rates in Japan. Japanese robot sex dolls are not fantasy; people are resorting to robot companions as family life seems to be disintegrating.

Although the story is based in Japan, which faces exorbitantly high cases of loneliness, this is becoming a growing problem across the world with the proliferation of technology. While some technology companies are selling their robots as a means to help people combat this loneliness, to me, it is worrisome to replace human connection with machines.

Please share the story if you think it will help raise further awareness around the issue, or inspire people to take action. Additionally, if anyone knows of ways to help mitigate these problems, please do comment.

Further references and notes:

(1) Suicide rates in Japan and Overwork: CNN, Nippon, Nikkei Review

(2) Loneliness epidemic in Japan: JapanTimes, HuffPost, BBC

(3) Japan robots and sex dolls: BBC, DailyMailUK

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