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The critical importance of staying connected

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The holiday season (from the end of November through the beginning of the new year) is the time for family. Regardless of where they live, many people return to the place where they grew up to spend time with family. Urban dwellers may go back to their hometowns and stay with their parents and other relatives whom they rarely see during the rest of the year. The year-end holidays (Christmas in particular) are also a big season for the economy. In the United States, half the population goes shopping for gifts and retailers (both online and brick and mortar) make close to 40 percent of their annual sales during this time.

How is it different in Japan? The year-end/new year holidays here are similar to the Christmas holidays in Western countries, whereas Christmas in Japan is perceived more as yet another day for get-togethers and parties. Year-end/new year holidays are the time for young people and families to return home to spend time with parents, siblings and other relatives. It is one of the most significant family holidays.

However, there is also a growing trend among people in Japan not to spend the holiday season with family. While a majority of people still reportedly spend the holiday season with family, an increasing number of younger people spend them with friends or alone.

What lies behind this trend? Japan is among a growing number of advanced economies that are witnessing an increase in the number of single-member households. What I am concerned about is the prospect of people spending the holidays alone.

In 2015, the number of people who lived alone was 18.42 million (or 1 in 7 people), accounting for 14.5 percent of the total........

© The Japan Times