January 15, 2006


"A person sequestered in his room for six months or longer with no social life beyond his home."
...Japanese culture and sex roles play a strong part in the hikikomori phenomenon. "Men start to feel the pressure in junior high school, and their success is largely defined in a couple of years," said James Roberson, a cultural anthropologist at Tokyo Jogakkan College and an editor of the book "Men and Masculinities in Contemporary Japan." "Hikikomori is a resistance to that pressure. Some of them are saying: 'To hell with it. I don't like it and I don't do well."' Also, this is a society where kids can drop out. In Japan, children commonly live with their parents into their 20's, and despite the economic downturn, plenty of parents can afford to support their children indefinitely - and do. As one hikikomori expert put it, "Japanese parents tell their children to fly while holding firmly to their ankles."...

Many hikikomori also describe miserable school years when they didn't, or couldn't, conform to the norm. They were bullied for being too fat or too shy or even for being better than everyone else at sports or music. As the Japanese saying goes, "The nail that sticks out gets hammered in."...

In other societies the response from many youths would be different. If they didn't fit into the mainstream, they might join a gang or become a Goth or be part of some other subculture. But in Japan, where uniformity is still prized and reputations and outward appearances are paramount, rebellion comes in muted forms, like hikikomori. Any urge a hikikomori might have to venture into the world to have a romantic relationship or sex, for instance, is overridden by his self-loathing and the need to shut his door so that his failures, real or perceived, will be cloaked from the world. "Japanese young people are considered the safest in the world because the crime rate is so low," Saito said. "But I think it's related to the emotional state of people. In every country, young people have adjustment disorders. In Western culture, people are homeless or drug addicts. In Japan, it's apathy problems like hikikomori."


John Jenkins said...

Sweet, now I have a cool Japanese title I can use.

Bob said...

Hikikomori is too long. Just use blogger.

miklos rosza said...

not too long ago, the answer would have been suicide.

DEC said...

We used to call such people hermits.

Harkonnendog said...

"Hikikomori is too long. Just use blogger."


Slac said...

miklos rosza, the suicide rate in Japan is still extremely high.

In fact, the youth suicide rate (notably ages 13 - 24) is rising all over the world, especially in the United States and India.

Funny no one seems to be talking about that over here, except in the context of medication.

There was an article in the WSJ about Japanese "slacker youth" a couple weeks ago. The article finished with a very insightful comment by one of the people interviewed.

"In high school, all you do is study," he says. "When I actually thought about working, I realized that I didn't know what kind of work I wanted to do."

The problem is worse in Japanese schools, but it still has a forceful existence in ours. That problem is an ignorance of the humanity of young people. People of all ages have real interests, real desires to learn, and be productive at something. Instead, we tell them to put those interests aside and work first in classes that are offered to them.

That's a dangerous thing to do. Supplanting the highest priority of everyone's interests for the interests of the state.

It means that we raise children who can't think for themselves. They become adults who are not guided by their own visions.

Hikikomori is just one result of a root problem that mostly affects traditional school systems. The other results are suicide, homicide, drug addiction, and retreat into fantasy. And these are only the beginning.