Japan has appointed its first minister for loneliness this month after the country’s suicide rate increased for the first time in 11 years during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The conuntry’s Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto – who is already a minister in charge of dealing with Japan’s declining birthrate and promoting regional revitalization – to oversee government policies regarding loneliness and isolation, earlier this month.
“Women are suffering from isolation more [than men are], and the number of suicides is on a rising trend,” Suga told the outlet during a February 12 news conference. “I hope you will identify problems and promote policy measures comprehensively.”
But the issue of loneliness is nothing new for the people of Japan. It is often discussed when speaking of “hikikomori,” people who live in extreme social isolation. Engineers in Japan previously designed a robot to hold someone’s hand and another man in Japan is offering himself to people to “do nothing” except keep them company.