Students Eat in Toilets and Rent Friends Due To Loneliness

Young Japanese university students have difficulty being alone

This article from the Yomiuri Shimbun is part of a series of articles that focus on social phenomena among young Japanese people.

Recent surveys suggest that Japanese university students are finding it increasingly difficult to make friends, and that this is a leading cause for them failing to attend classes, and even dropping out of university altogether. But most striking of all, are the stories of those who are so afraid of being seen alone and labelled as a ‘loner’ by their peers.

From Yomiuri Shimbun:

Not Going To Class Because They Can’t Make Friends: Frightened of loneliness…Eating in the toilet, renting friends.

Prompted to ‘get into pairs with someone you think you’ll get on with’, around seventy young people face each other in twos, and begin to introduce themselves.

At Kansai University of Welfare Sciences (Kashiwara city, Osaka Prefecture), there is a ‘get-together’ that gathers together third year high-school students set to enter the school. It was held among those meeting for the first time, an ‘interview game’ in which they can ask about what their partner is good at. Little by little the atmosphere becomes more comfortable, and here and there the prospective students begin to exchange e-mail addresses.

Prospective students meet each other at Osaka University of Welfare Sciences.

Prospective students meet each other at Osaka University of Welfare Sciences.

The meeting was first held three years ago, to help students make friends. ‘We hold it since there are even students who don’t attend classes and who quit school altogether because they say they can’t make friends’, explained Associate Professor Nagami Makiko, who acts as the host of the meeting.

According to the Ministry of Education, in 2012 those not attending classes in university rose to a record high of 31,000 students, which means that in the past ten years, it has increased by almost 10,000 students. On the other hand, in a survey held in 2009 in 57 national universities by Fukushima University Professor Uchida Chiyoko shows that this trend has been continuing since 2003, when the most common reason for not attending classes, given by 31% of students, were ‘reasons of passiveness’ such as they’d lost the will to do it anymore, and so on.

A graph showing the number of students who are not attending classes at Japanese universities (Ministry of Education)

A graph showing the number of students who are not attending classes at Japanese universities (Ministry of Education)

In the case of Shouta (24, alias) who attends a national university in the Kansai region, he stopped going to university one month after matriculating.

It’s different from middle school and high school; in university you decide which classes you’re going to take yourself, and for each class the classroom also changes. Even though he waited, no one spoke to him. Still, he couldn’t go and talk to them, because he thought people would think him strange. Before he realised it, he was alone. He didn’t want people to think that he ‘didn’t even have anyone to eat with’, so he would take bread and onigiri into a bathroom stall, and eat there with bated breath.

When he looked on internet message boards, he was being called ‘loner’ by the students around him who’d isolated him, and being made a fool of. ‘My hands would shake even if I just went towards university, and my stomach would hurt. I was frightened of people I didn’t know,’ said Shouta, looking back on his anguish from 6 years ago.

In a survey by Ide Sohei, a part-time lecturer at Osaka University, and his colleagues, over 80% of university students who fail to attend school had attended regularly up until high school. ‘Now university students don’t attend circles and clubs as much as they used to. If they fail to make friends in the first instance, they’ll be isolated the whole time,’ suggests Ide.

Last summer, the place that Koichi (25, alias) phoned an odd-job firm in Tokyo called Client Partners, requesting ‘Won’t you come along with me?’. He wanted to go to a club that was bustling with young people who liked dancing, and applied for a paid service called ‘rent-a-friend’.

It cost 30,000 yen ($344) to go the club with two girls pretending to be his friends. For a freeter this was a painful expenditure, but he was reluctant to go alone, and he hated being turned down by acquaintances he’d asked to go with him.

Late night one week later. ‘Koichi, do you want to dance?’ The girls came up to ask him to dance in a friendly way, never failing to smile. Even after he left the club over an hour later, he had fun with them in a restaurant until dawn.

‘It’s a relief that they will just accept you unconditionally. My loneliness was soothed’, said Koichi, who in his school days had only talked about himself to people he thought he could make friends with, and had ended up being disliked. ‘If you’re going to get hurt, it’s better to spend some money instead.’

Requests for rent-a-friends at Client Partners are around several tens per month. Most are from young people who are bewildered by the distance they feel from other people, who are anxious, and who have lost their confidence. Abe Maki (37), a representative from the company, said:’These people don’t have any strong sense of self-worth, so they take more care than is necessary of how others judge them. Still, more often than not, they have a lot of online friends. That’s because online they have one-directional communication with people, where they don’t need to the other person to think well of them’.

For Shouta, who was able to pick himself up after attending a self-help group he looked into after being recommended to do so by his parents, the feeling of those young people who use rent-a-friend is painfully familiar. ‘They don’t really have the choice per se of going alone to a place that you should be going to with friends. It’s awful to think that people will see you as one of those losers who goes to those places alone’.

Comments from 2ch.net:

名無しさん@13周年:

It’s only the eating food in the toilets part that I just can’t believe.

名無しさん@13周年:

So I guess there aren’t many guys who just think ‘who cares if I can’t make friends’?

名無しさん@13周年:

If they get to the stage where they’re university students and they can’t bear to be alone, then they’re just too weak mentally.

名無しさん@13周年:

If they’re going to eat in the toilets they may as well go to the canteen! Or the park, or somewhere.

名無しさん@13周年:

I’m a bit frightened of rent-a-friend and stuff…If these people have such interest and courage, then I reckon they could make loads of friends.

名無しさん@13周年:

If they joined a circle they’d at least have people they could talk to, though.

名無しさん@13周年:

If they’d go to the trouble of eating in a toilet, then they can go home or eat in a restaurant or whatever. I just can’t believe they’d eat in a toilet.

名無しさん@13周年:

What are they going to university for? Friends or no friends, just study and do your best so that you can find a job in a good place. Saying that, if you have communication issues I guess you’d have a massive problem job-hunting, too w

名無しさん@13周年:

They’re joking about eating in a toilet, right? I don’t want to accept the existence of such freaks.

名無しさん@13周年:

Just eat in the school canteen as usual. There must be loads of guys eating alone there.

名無しさん@13周年:

It’s important to just be yourself. It’s fine if you can’t make friends, you don’t have to think that you should go out of your way to make friends, either. Hold your head high. It’s just too wretched to eat in a toilet!

名無しさん@13周年:

Far too self-conscious. Nobody’s taking any notice of you. If your goal is to go to university, but you don’t like studying that much then you pay attention to trivial things.

名無しさん@13周年:

Once you get used to being a loner, there’s nothing more comfortable.

名無しさん@13周年:

Before long being with people will become a pain in the ass. Just be a bit more patient.

名無しさん@13周年:

How is rent-a-friend different from enkō['compensated dating']?

名無しさん@13周年:

They hit upon any number of business opportunities! I mean, it’s not part of the sex industry, so they should only supply same-sex friends.

名無しさん@13周年:

What are they going to do when they start working? It’s pretty normal to eat alone then.

名無しさん@13周年:

University students are only capable of thinking like this…

Share This Article
Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
  • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

    That… really makes me sad. I wasn’t a loner in college, but I’m awfully awkward around people and well… don’t really make friends like that but kinda don’t care because I know I’m weird *shrugs* But not everyone can have the same mentality. Just hope he can find some way to make it through.

    • Germanicus

      What the hell are you doing in your pic you retard?

      • http://www.facebook.com/inahson Yaminah Jamison

        ….um….being silly because I want to and it’s my picture…? And not verbally insulting someone online because I’m hiding behind a monitor. What are you doing?

        • G$

          BURN!

  • dk2020

    It seems like alot of Japanese teens have social anxiety or agoraphobia. I know some people that get the runs if they are in crowded places, but then they don’t use the public toilet either so they have to go home .. total buzz kills..

  • dim mak

    Human interaction is always 90% shit, 10% reward

    Didn’t some samurai say “those who avoid social contact are cowards”?

    Japan is beta as fuck these days
    I bet it all comes down to just shyness and general wussiness
    We need East Asian countries should be strong, nationalistic and intimidating to nons

    De-wussify yourselves already

    • Guest

      .

    • Reila90

      China.

  • http://www.facebook.com/faraday.schroder Faraday Schroder

    These stories about university students eating their lunch in toilets have been going around for quite a while now. Urban myth or as a result of hoax notices. Take them with a pinch of salt.

    More seriously though, there are a lot of very lonely people in Japan. It’s a tough place to grow up.

  • god

    they has a tool for this problem:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmHTASY6oKA

    a friendmaker

  • Cleo

    once they are united, they have the courage to gangrape little Chinese girls so I don’t look forward to the improvement of their social integration – people will have to accept them if Japan brings back the draft – then they will be one united family against the “terrifying” Chinese threat

    Japanese are really at their best when they are authorized to hate the Chinese en masse. They feel better about themselves and their fellow Japanese.

    • ghost

      wow you really have a negative view of japanese people. obviously you haven’t met many to make that kind of judgement.

      • Cleo

        how do you know that? and what kind of sociopaths can contain their hatred for decades after gorging themselves on 60 million Chinese home invaded, raped, tortured, dissected and murdered and EATEN. That must be the gold standard tied with the Germans for TWO-FACEdness.

        • http://www.youtube.com/user/VictimOfBoredom Matt

          lol. His point exactly.

          No wonder you consider them “two-faced”, as you’re so comically one-dimensional.

          • ghost

            Lol. Thanks matt.
            For a fact i have worked with many japanese people who have no time for this so called hatred towards chinese people.

          • Cleo

            hiding in plain’s sight/sheep’s clothing – you’re so dumb

          • ghost

            Right because everyone in the country hides just like everyone in china shits on a train or the street? No? I didnt think so.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Choi-Chul-soo/100003339282181 Choi Chul-soo

          Good point. (Another good point is that Mao killed more Chinese people than that by himself.)

          • Cleo

            really? he home invaded more than the 60 million and orchestrated the family rapes and mutilations MORE than the Japanese?

          • ghost

            hmm…interesting this website lists the worst genocides of the 20th/21st century and guess what? who’s at the top….everyone’s ‘favorite’ chairman mao.

            http://www.scaruffi.com/politics/dictat.html

        • dk2020

          wow, and I thought only koreans held a grudge like that .. i guess we learned it from the chinese ..

    • Relivash

      I hate to break it to you, but the same can be said about China and (South) Korea. SEA countires seem to have very complicated history…

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Choi-Chul-soo/100003339282181 Choi Chul-soo

        They do, but China, Japan and Korea are all East Asian countries.

  • YourSupremeCommander

    I would eat in a toilet too if I had to sit next to this thing in the second picture during a meal.

    • http://twitter.com/Caaaal Callum

      Which one?

  • TSDown

    That service could come in handy for an aging population. Assuming there is no age criteria for applicants. Or you could stalk people. Does stalking count as a sort of friendship? Making friends is one thing – keeping the ones that treat you right is another!

  • Moniisek

    “Once you get used to being a loner, there’s nothing more comfortable.”
    THIS.

  • Erick

    Might be the shy culture thing, but eating in toilets is just taking loneliness waaaaay too far.

  • http://twitter.com/dahentaiwoody Pマン

    This really is a level beyond forever alone….

  • Relivash

    That’s quite sad. University life is the time you’re supposed to have the most fun and social activities with others, whilst working hard to be that adult with a respectable job later on

  • Madesu

    I got the same problem as him when I was in elementary and middle school. I was so shy and VERY paranoid and cautious about what people might think of me every single time. But then I knew I had to change no matter what.
    The process was very hard and I was on my own,well, in fact nobody can help you instead of yourself. But, the struggling was pay off. I have changed from “the very shy” to “who cares, you are no better than me” character.
    Although, I still feel nervous when I have to talk in front of many people. :/

  • Flora

    This has been me all throughout my 12 years of schooling. It was painful in elementary & middle school when I actually wanted to make friends but had too much social anxiety to make the first move, but I got over it in high school after I realized most of my peers were d-bags anyway.

    Make friends with the teachers – not only are they better conversation (usually), but once you get a rep among the teachers as a “good kid”, you can get away with MURDER. I once got an A in class, simply because I was the only kid who didn’t make the teacher want to rip her hair out.

  • Your Lord Creator

    There is a difference between rebellious lone wolves who are very self-confident and very conscious of their own individual brilliance and weak cowardly fools who fail to find the inner strength, confidence and power to break apart from the herd mentality.

    “Here’s to the crazy ones, the
    misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square
    holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of
    rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them,
    but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change
    things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them
    as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough
    to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

  • Pickle

    Hate to say this but maybe the reason for such a large amount of lonely painfully shy people could be due to past times that make them shut ins. Too much anime, manga, and video games. That of course is too broad a brush to paint with but I believe it to be true with a significant number of folks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/violet.booth Violet Booth

    some people just never learned to interact with others or are different so they get ostracized. the shame is that people try conform to what others want them to be instead of loving their differences. I personally think everyone is unique why cant we learn from another it would help us understand ourselves and others better.

  • Wemp

    Ok I can’t believe no one has dropped a WTF on that girls teeth? WTF?

  • rogerio lima

    me apresente uma dessas pessoas, aodro amizde orinetal…https://www.facebook.com/Rogeriofranco123?ref=tn_tnmn

  • rogerio lima

    me apresente uma dessas pessoas, aodro amizde oriental… a slidao é so um estado de espirito https://www.facebook.com/Rogeriofranco123?ref=tn_tnmn

Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»