Single Again At Forty

Features Tokyo Life - January 20th, 2005
tokyoweekender_Elizabeth Shinagawa

Elizabeth Shinagawa gives a personal account of how to get back on the single scene

THE RELATIONSHIP is over, and it feels like you’ve been through the wringer. The end means complete upheaval and life will never be the same again. With hindsight you saw it coming, but it is human nature to keep battling on until the point at which “His and Hers,” takes on a new meaning. You have to divvy up a lot of things, from furniture to friends and family. Sharing nicely is practically impossible and you face dealing with your own confused emotions as well as those of everyone around you.

When my two children were tearfully told that they were going to live with just Mummy from now on, there was a lengthy silence followed by “Can we watch TV now?” Not the reaction one prepares for, but the message was clear. Life goes on.

You find out who your friends are in times like these. Some turned their backs, others tried to be supportive, and the truly loyal made apple crumble, poured wine and passed the tissues.

The changes could mean you become the main breadwinner. You start to juggle more balls than you could ever imagine, and after a bad day there is no one to pour you a drink and listen to your troubles. But then there is also no one to complain about your driving, your friends or how you hog the remote control.

The new rules are your rules. You are standing on your own two feet; you feel strong and are ready to take risks again. Life is pretty good when you realize how far you’ve come. It is time get out and meet someone new.

The hitch is — now you are in your 40s and may have children, full time or part time — where does one start in a town like Tokyo?

Friends are always vital but may not have a great supply of eligible introductions. Then there are colleagues — but let’s face it, you’ve probably met them all already.

The more direct approaches include dating agencies, speed dating and — for the  brave — personal columns. For many, bars and clubs are still the best option. Try to get a look at the crowd before you commit. If everyone looks 20, it might be fun, but then again you might feel a bit like someone’s aunt. The good news is the rules are the same as when you were 20 — meet as many people as possible, keep an open mind, relax — and just talk to someone. If you do choose to go out at night and have  to find a baby sitter, look for one who is prepared to work long hours — a lot of places don’t get going until late.

If the bar scene sounds just too awful, or you are the sporty type, try dancing. Many Latin bars hold dance lessons before the night gets underway so you can master some basic steps. For the more athletic, there are running clubs in the city that finish off events with drinks.

But if Tokyo’s night scene holds no appeal and you don’t want to exclude your children from your social life, there are activities that you can do together. Take up a sport or hobby. Keep your eye on the local magazines for information about walks,  picnics and other family oriented outings. Many of these are free, which is a plus. If possible, ask other families to join yours — that way you’ll be making friends for you and your children.

It’s worth taking a look at online sites aimed at single parent families, and of course, a church group is an excellent source of information and support. Get in touch with a charity or volunteer organization, too — there are so many that welcome help, and it can be great fun working for a good cause.

Once you start meeting people and making new friends, you begin to see how much you have to offer, as well as how much you’ve achieved. It requires effort and you do have to make that first move, but don’t take it too seriously. Be confident, enjoy being the person that you have become — and keep that sense of humor. Remember: life is what you make it, so have fun.


Tokyo Book Club — Meets one Sunday a month in Ebisu. Contact Dan at

Comedy Workshops — Workshops happen once every two weeks. You don’t need to make a reservation, just go there and join up.

Hash House Harriers — Described as the drinking club with the running problem! Regular social events throughout the month all around Tokyo. hiwatashi@ev-

Nature Lover’s Group — Camping, nature appreciation, hiking. All welcome. Tel. 090-4524 1458,

Tokyo English Lifeline (TELL) — Individual or couples counseling available. Tel. 03-3498-0231,

Japan Legal Aid Association — Legal information for foreigners. Tel. 03-3581-6941

Amnesty International — The local chapter in Tokyo helps raise funds and campaign for human rights, stop racial discrimination and the death penalty in Japan. Tel. 03-3518-6777,

Earth Embassy — Work as a volunteer at an organic farm near Mt Fuji. Tel. 090 9346 3774,,