Yakiniku, a Japanese dish where meat is eaten as it is cooked on a grill, typically makes for an enjoyable night out with friends and family.
But what to do if you don't have anyone to eat with? Or if for whatever reason you wish to eat yakiniku alone? Sitting down by your lonesome in a restaurant packed with lively groups of chattering revelers might prove embarrassing, depressing or worse.
Hitori (one person), which opened its doors earlier this year in Tokyo, attempts to solve this dilemma by offering its customers a private yakiniku experience. With a series of semi-concealed booths, each fitted with a small grill, Hitori is aesthetically reminiscent of an all-night internet café, only with more smoke.
Catering to a primarily middle-aged, male clientele, Hitori is part of a new class of Japanese dining and entertainment businesses aimed at individuals who wish to enjoy social activities without having to socialize. Other instances of this trend include OneKara, a state of the art karaoke bar with all of its rooms designed specifically for soloists.
The increasing viability of these businesses can be seen as a market response to the rise of the Kozoku; a newly minted term that refers to Japan's growing demographic of lonely, unmarried adults. After analyzing the data collected from the 2010 national census, it was revealed that single occupancy homes have become the most common type of household in Japan. Many politicians and academics view this shift as a serious social crisis, but for those employed by the booth fabrication industry, it could be the beginning of a boom.