In Japan I became That American Foreigner who always goes to McDonalds even though I am in Japan. I never predicted that I would end up loving McDonalds so much, especially not in Japan. A couple of years ago my new year’s resolution was to not eat McDonalds and I succeeded. I didn’t eat McDs for that whole year and maybe another half until my dad brought home an ice cream cone forgetting that I gave up McDs for over a year.
The reason I started to go to McDs more was because I started to live alone and there was a store on the way back home from my language school. The reason I began to go so often was that I realized that it was the perfect place to eat if you were alone and just needed food. It’s a combination of the salty comfort food, the convenience, the speed, price, and availability of single seats, that made me end up going there so often.
Whenever I needed to grab a quick lunch before heading off to volunteer or take trips to the immigration office, McDs never failed me. I could usually get in and out within 25 minutes and I always found an open seat alongside the dozen other single diners. That was the main appeal. It was somewhere where I could eat alone and not have the fear of looking strange. I’ve eaten at many other restaurants alone but typically the only other single diners are middle-aged or elderly men.
I also tend to go out to explore different places but when it comes to finding a place to eat I get lost. There are so many different places to eat in Japan that it seems almost impossible to choose. I usually end up wandering around for a long time before I get so tired and frustrated that I usually just end up going home to eat even if it means cutting my day short. However, for those times that I was so hungry or hangry and tired and I was a bit further away from home, usually McDs came to my rescue. No matter how crowded it is there always seems to be an open seat and many other people of all different ages eating by themselves.
It might seem kind of pitiful and lonely but actually it is very common in Japan for people to walk around, travel, and eat alone. Most people on the trains are by themselves. If they are not then it is common that the members of the group will all get off at different stops. Transforming from a talkative group to the remaining single person who no longer has someone to talk to and goes from standing out to blending back into the group of silent solo riders.
In most cafes that you go to there will be an area of bar stool type seating where you will often find a line of people sitting alone, a single chair left between them if it’s not a busy day. This is all completely normal and something that I have come to love about Japan. It is a stark contrast to the feeling of alienness I felt in the US when I would have to avoid eating alone at all costs just to avoid feeling like I was being judged by others. Here in Japan I would give almost no second-thought to eating alone at any type of restaurant because I could be assured of one of two things; that there were other single diners there or that even if I was the only one people wouldn’t think anything of it because it is such a common thing to do in Japan.
Since coming to Japan I have become used to being alone often and have even come to become comfortable having nothing but my own company. Of course it is still nice to meet with friends but there is something nice about not just being able to enjoy being alone but also feeling satisfied and not like I’m missing something. This is definitely something I am going to miss about Japan and probably even struggle with when I return to the US come August.
If you read this post and you read my other posts you might have noticed that it was kind of different than what I usually write about, it’s not quite a journal and it’s definitely not an informative article for the most part. As my time left in Japan is coming closer to its end I think I want to do more of these posts reflecting on the things I’ve noticed both about myself and about Japan. Hopefully you will find them interesting as well.