A Perfect Day To Be Alone

A Perfect Day To Be Alone


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Published 14th May 2024

Gabi's Review

Japanese author Nanae Aoyama’s coming-of-age novel tells the story of a young woman’s need for independence and the social expectations placed on the young, particularly young women. The novel’s main character, Chizu Mita, left alone after her careerist mother leaves for training overseas, moves from the provinces to live in Tokyo with Ginko, an elderly, semi-reclusive relative. She takes on temporary jobs in hostessing and retail, both of which require interaction with other people, but her work fails to provide her with either pleasure of a sense of purpose. Her unsatisfying relationship with her boyfriend reinforces her desire to withdraw from the world. Despite the vast age difference between Chizu and Ginko, the two women gradually create a shared existence; but as with other aspects of Chizu’s life, attempts at forging a connection end with a sense of isolation. Similarly, Chizu’s decision not to go to college exacerbates the distance between her and her career-minded mother.

A Perfect Day To Be Alone draws on the well-documented cultural phenomenon the Japanese call the hikikomori: young adults who stay for months, even years, in their rooms, withdrawing from society in response to the pressures of becoming adults. Is this a sign of immaturity? Or an understandable reaction to the expectations of a highly competitive culture? Is Chizu’s refusal to compromise her independence an act of courage or a sign of psychological dysfunction? Aoyama’s prize-winning novel is a nuanced and poignant exploration of these questions that will leave you with much to reflect on about the nature of a contemporary Japanese culture and the broader social problems associated with coming-of-age.

Publishers Reviews


It was raining when I arrived at the house. The walls of my room were lined with cat photos, set in fancy frames just below the ceiling. When her mother emigrates to China for work, twenty-year-old Chizu moves in with 71-year-old Ginko, an eccentric distant relative, taking a room in her ramshackle Tokyo home, with its two resident cats and the persistent rattle of passing trains.

Living their lives in imperfect symmetry, they establish an uneasy alliance, stress tested by Chizu's flashes of youthful spite. As the four seasons pass, Chizu navigates a series of tedious part-time jobs and unsatisfying relationships, before eventually finding her feet and salvaging a fierce independence from her solitude. A Perfect Day to be Alone is a moving, microscopic examination of loneliness and heartbreak. With flashes of deadpan humour and a keen eye for poignant detail, Aoyama chronicles the painful process of breaking free from the moorings of youth.