With many books written on the power of solitude, these are fast climbing the bestseller ranks and showcasing solitude as a form of freedom, liberation and independence. Stop fearing it — embrace solitude and you'll feel empowered. In Japan, there's a growing body of literature on solitude which is proving popular, including the books prescribed below.
Kodoku no Susume (Nonfiction) by Hiroyuki Itsuki
Kodoku no Susume translates to “Advice for the Lonely” Itsuki focuses on humans becoming more lonely in older age; advising that this should be embraced rather than feared. A buddhist scholar, Itsuki, almost promotes the Buddhist and Jain concepts of detachment — removing all attachment including those to family and friends, to ultimately remove all suffering that is caused through the death or loss of a loved one. According to Itsuki, embracing this detachment empowers us, removing our fear of being lonely; and to some extent leaves us feeling fulfilled.
Gokujou no Kodoku (Nonfiction) by Akiko Shimoju
Akiko Shimoju’s popular Gokujou no Kodoku, another bestseller, translates to “Supreme Solitude” and questions why loneliness is seen as a bad thing. Many of the books in the genre depict loneliness as a relief from having to get people to like you. It also provides true freedom from family commitments and constraints.
For an empire that is slowly become the loneliest on the planet, this might be their only chance of survival and a way to embrace an inevitable fate as explained in Junko Okamoto’s Sekai Ichi Kodoku na Nihon no Ojisan which translates to “Japan’s Old Men are the World’s Loneliest”.
A female writer, Sayaka Murata, has written several award-winning books centred on loneliness including Shiro-oro no machi no, sono hone no taion no(Of Bones, of Body Heat, of Whitening City) winner of the Yukio Mishima Prize in 2013 and more recently the Convenience Store Woman which won the 2016 Akutagawa Award. Many of her characters are lonely people who describe their observations, feelings and desire to exist in solitude. The characters revolve around convenience store customers (Murata works at one of Japan’s many convenience stores) who prefer to eat alone or shop alone. She eloquently depicts these colourful characters and why they choose this path, shying away from the judgement of society who expect the opposite of them, refusing to understand their preferences.
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