Sitting in a small bar in the back streets of Shibuya recently, I experienced one of those slowly shocking moments when you see something totally new. And you really don't like it. Looking back it had clearly been creeping up on me, this bar, the streets outside and the deadpan youth of today; the young men around me were sipping their beers, flicking their phones and carrying the weight of their fathers. And their faces were already etched with it.
A declining birthrate and the increase of the over 65's is a well known and widely recognised aspect of life in Japan. But I remember having some of the best nights of my life in those days of my youth. Writing purely from a personal perspective, the women were charming, engaging and beautiful and the guys were witty, lively and incredibly supportive when you needed a shoulder to lean on. Even when we were divided by language. But around me this night there were no lively young women and no laughing, semi-inebriated guys. Just quiet, worried faces.
More and more Japanese are forecast to remain single throughout their lives but the heck of it is that they're not even dating anymore. 40% of twenty-somethings in a survey last year said they had simply opted out of a relationship based life. Twenty-somethings. Not fifty or sixty-somethings. Twenty-somethings. And you have to feel that if that quiet guy in the corner would simply say hello to the single, bored looking girl on the next table, they might at least get a smile and a conversation out of it. So if you're young, go out and enjoy yourself; the girl sitting at the next table may just want to say hello too.