If there’s one salient piece of advice for those who dine alone, whether out of choice or necessity, it is this: “Never be daunted in public.” The fact that this quote comes from Hemingway, and was backed by MFK Fisher in her 1948 essay on dining alone, only speaks to its truthfulness and timelessness. The unfortunate fact that many people in the U.S. still feel ashamed when taking themselves out for a solo dinner proves how little things have changed, despite Fisher and Hemingway’s best efforts.
Sure, there’s plenty of brouhaha over how 50% of the country eats alone and that it’s becoming the norm. And yet, there are several fantastic restaurants that do foods and smaller portions for single diners without serving up a side dish of the ‘where’s your girlfriend/boyfriend?’ attitude. Yet, for some reason, the world still assumes Ryan Gosling is in need of a lunch date when he eats alone. And when you walk alone through a restaurant full of two-tops and group dinners and sit at your table with a glaringly empty chair on the other side, chances are, plenty of pitying looks come your way. And that’s even if you are spared the corner tables and neglectful waiters. Eating alone—and we’re not talking fast food and takeout restaurants here—hasn’t lost much of its stigma and can still make you feel like this hilarious Steve Martin caricature from the 1984 comedy Lonely Guy.
The Japanese understand that, sometimes, you have to spend some quality alone time with your food.
Which is why we’d benefit from adopting the attitude and strategy of the Japanese, who are the unparalleled masters of solo dining. Their cubicle seats, which have recently been installed in Kyoto University‘s dining hall, are a testament to the fact that the Japanese understand that, sometimes, you just have to spend some quality alone time with your food. In Japan, chefs entertain you with their knife antics, so you can have dinner and entertainment without wondering why you didn’t just order in. The Japanese have even come up with a bowl that’ll not only hold your food, but also your iPhone, so you can have virtual companionship while still being able to use both your hands (genius).
We’re so impressed by the country’s wholehearted acceptance of the meal-for-one that we’ve put together a list of everything we can learn from the Japanese when it comes to the art of eating alone. Sure, some of these ideas seem slightly absurd, but isn’t that what we’ve come to delightfully expect from the Japanese? And what’s not fun about eating with a virtual boyfriend who’ll not only cook a meal for you, but comes with a personality and a penchant for jealousy? Beats us.
Click through the gallery above and learn the tricks of the solo dining trade.