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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien
COVID-19 and its effects on singles in Japan:<br> Personal relationships and practices of intimacy in the time of ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-discipline’</br>
Anti-Corona rules in Todoroki park ©N. Kottmann


Dr. Laura Dales, Western University of Australia

Prof. Dr. Akiko Yoshida, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater

COVID-19 and its effects on singles in Japan:
Personal relationships and practices of intimacy in the time of ‘social distancing’ and ‘self-discipline’

 November 2020 - October 2023

The purpose of this project, which is centered around a nation-wide survey, is to better understand how the lives and relationship worlds of unmarried adults (‘singles’) have been affected by the on-going COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in Japan. While globally the pandemic has disrupted human lives in myriad ways not previously studied, this project starts from the assumption that there is a specific need to study the effects on ‘singles’—here: never married and unmarried individuals between 25 and 49—in a societal context where families remain the primary research and discursive focus despite an increasing proportion of singles. The project addresses the ways in which COVID-19 and its associated interventions affect ‘singles’ social lives, (non) familial personal relationships and practices of intimacy:

  • What are the affective impacts of ‘self-discipline’ and ‘social distancing’ on unmarried individuals?
  • How do ‘singles’ manage their relationships, their quotidian practices of intimacy in this context?
  • How did/do calls for physical/social distancing and for staying home affect the present and future (lives?) of unmarried individuals who live alone, or share housing, live with their (elderly) parents or dependent children?
  • How have policies and measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 shaped the experience of being ‘single’, living alone and ‘doing’ solo on the one hand and ‘being together’, creating ‘new’ communities’ on the other hand?
  • How does the pandemic, related policies and discourses influence perceptions and experiences of ‘intimacy’, ‘proximity’ and ‘distance’ (geographical and emotional), as well as “connection”? Do these experiences challenge or support pre-COVID-19 period discourses of singlehood, of the ‘Hyper-Solo-Society’, its benefits and risks?

Ethics approval: Human Ethics, Office of Research Enterprise, The University of Western Australia, Crawley (2020/ET000023) (November 25, 2020 – November 24, 2021)

Completed Projects

The Risks and Opportunities of the ‘Hyper-Solo-Society’. (Re)Mapping Intimacy – Spatial Perspectives on Personal Relationships in Contemporary Japan

Recent Publications

Kottmann, Nora & Dales, Laura (2023). "Japanese Singles and Solo-Life". In: Chowkhani, Ketaki & Wynne, Craig (Eds.), Singular Selves: An Introduction to Singles Studies (pp. 119-137). Routledge. LINK
Kottmann, Nora & Dales, Laura (2022). "Doing Intimacy in Pandemic Times: Findings of a Large-scale Survey Among Singles in Japan". Social Science Japan Journal, online first. LINK
Kottmann, Nora, Mithani, Forum & Scherer, Elisabeth (2022). "Screening Love: Relational Practices in Japanese TV Dramas Produced During the COVID-19 Pandemic". The Asia-Pacific Journal - Japan Focus, 20 (14/3) (pp. 1-21). LINK
Kottmann, Nora & Dales, Laura (2021). "Surveying Singles in Japan: Qualitative Reflections on Quantitative Social Research during COVID Time". International Journal of Social Research Methodology. LINK
Kottmann, Nora & Dales, Laura (2021). "Solo-camping and solo-hotpots: Rethinking practices and perceptions of singlehood in Japan in COVID- time". The Research Network of Singlehood Studies. LINK


Nora Kottmann Nora Kottmann (until October 2023)
Social Science
Head of research group 'Methods and Methodologies'