Single women and housing choices in urban Japan

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Japan has experienced a particularly sharp decline in marriage in recent decades and a subsequent increase in ‘never-marrieds’ and single-person households. Social fragmentation has been associated with prolonged economic instability and neoliberalization that has restructured employment, housing and policy contexts. A particular social concern has been the difficulties facing those who do not follow conventional married life-courses. While marriage has been important to progress up a housing ladder and property asset ownership, singledom constrains housing choices and shapes very different life-chances over the life-course. This is especially true for single women who are disadvantaged in both housing and labour markets. This article examines the ongoing restructuring of housing opportunities that are helping reshape gender differences and experiences, as well as the new housing careers being followed by the growing number of urban single women in Japan. Based on interviews with female singles in metropolitan Tokyo, as well as secondary data from national surveys, the article considers how housing opportunities and choices are being renegotiated in regard to changing expectations of marriage, life-courses and home. We also reflect upon relationships between housing choices, social policy, single life-courses and processes of individualization.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-469
Number of pages19
JournalGender Place and Culture A Journal of Feminist Geography
Issue number4
Early online date12 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2013