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Islands of solitude: hikikomori

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thomas

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I wanted to post two insightful articles dealing with one of Japan’s pressing social issues: social withdrawal. Recluses are known as hikikomori (引き籠り).

The first article published last December was written by Dr. Sekiguchi, a psychiatrist, who estimates that about one million recluses live in Japan:

Islands of Solitude: A Psychiatrist’s View of the “Hikikomori”

In Japan today, many young people are disconnecting themselves from society. They have come to be known as hikikomori (recluses), or more formally shakaiteki (social) hikikomori. Though their existence is widely recognized, their true situation is still far from being generally understood. They all have different backgrounds and circumstances and have withdrawn from society for different reasons. So, what can we say about this disparate group?

First, a definition: Hikikomori are individuals who (1) do not work or attend educational institutions, (2) are not considered to have a mental disorder, but (3) have remained at home for six months or longer without interacting personally with anyone outside their families. The third point is the most important. These people have no friends and are isolated from society, even though they may be living in the middle of a teeming city.

Some say there are as many as 1 million hikikomori in Japan. Add to that figure the 2 million parents who may have lived with them for decades and the sum comes to almost 3% of the population over 20 years old. This is a number that cannot be ignored. It demonstrates the immense scale of this social issue. Even so, many people remain indifferent.

One widely held view is that hikikomori are lazy or spoiled by parents who are willing to support their jobless offspring. I would like to emphasize that nobody becomes a social recluse because they enjoy it. If it were truly a case of being lazy or spoiled, why do hikikomoriand their parents suffer so much?
The article, translated by Nippon.com, was originally published by Hikikomori News, an online magazine published by a support group that collaborates with counsellors and psychiatrists.

The other article was published last Thursday by JT and takes a closer look at the situation of older recluses.

Japan’s older hikikomori live in isolation, shunning society for years

Until recently it was thought to be an issue mainly afflicting those in their teens and 20s, but aging Japan is seeing a growing number of older hikikomori cloistering themselves away for longer periods of time. There are more than half a million hikikomori in Japan — according to the latest government survey published in 2016 — defined as people who have stayed home for more than six months without going to school or work and interacting with no one other than family. However, this underestimates the scale of the issue as it only counts people under the age of 39 and the government has now decided to conduct the country’s first survey of hikikomori aged between 40 and 59. [...]

In the 2016 survey, more than one third of hikikomori said they had withdrawn from society for more than seven years, up from 16.9 percent of such cases in a 2009 survey. As hikikomori age and shut themselves away for longer periods, this places more pressure on elderly parents, both financially and emotionally. “Maybe it’s common overseas that grown-up offspring leave their parents’ home, but in Japan, parents let them stay,” said Ikeda, the clinical psychologist. Rika Ueda, who works for the nonprofit that supports parents of hikikomori, says social stigma can make the situation worse. “Families with hikikomori children are very ashamed of themselves … They hide their situation from their community and become isolated” without being able to seek help, Ueda said.
We have a similar case in our neighbourhood. The gentleman, in his 50s, was lucky enough to inherit his parents' house; he leaves his domicile only after midnight to stock up and to satisfy his obvious hoarding compulsion.
 

HanSolo

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More likely due to defects in the society than those individuals. Perhaps these guys, after seeing that society demands they be emotionless work robots, say "no thanks, I'm staying home". Not a good thing, but sounds reasonable. "Please reassume your duty as meat for our grinder" just ain't that enticing.

So perhaps the welfare should be directed at everyone who's not a recluse.
 

Habaek

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I'm a layperson in Japanese society, but I think it's society withdrawing form these people than they choosing to do so. The way I see it Japanese society is like a moving train and people need to leap on while it's moving. There are simply little or no choices for majority of people. I read a lot of Japanese documentaries by the way.

Everyone literally have to do what society wants them to do without failure. "Their living is literally reaching a quota" It is so different from where I live, I live in a society you can choose to do whatever you wish even drugs at Insite here in Vancouver(I don't do drugs but insite is a real thing :p )
 

Justino

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I'm a layperson in Japanese society, but I think it's society withdrawing form these people than they choosing to do so. The way I see it Japanese society is like a moving train and people need to leap on while it's moving. There are simply little or no choices for majority of people. I read a lot of Japanese documentaries by the way.

Everyone literally have to do what society wants them to do without failure. "Their living is literally reaching a quota" It is so different from where I live, I live in a society you can choose to do whatever you wish even drugs at Insite here in Vancouver(I don't do drugs but insite is a real thing :emoji_stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye: )
I live in the US, and here I'm sure is a lot different from Japan. We have a little more freedom and laxness in the culture.

Japan still carries its imperialist culture, and everyone is expected to (indirectly) work to further the country's progression. So I understand that it's like endless meat into a grinder.

But is it true for everyone? In the US if you're mediocre and land a cubicle job, you'll be facing the same grind and attempting to climb the corporate ladder. But in the US, if you're intelligent, you can land white collar careers in science, medicine, engineering, law, etc.. Are the Japanese scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers dealing with the same grind?

So maybe it's the same in both countries?
 

jt9258

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But is it true for everyone? In the US if you're mediocre and land a cubicle job, you'll be facing the same grind and attempting to climb the corporate ladder. But in the US, if you're intelligent, you can land white collar careers in science, medicine, engineering, law, etc.. Are the Japanese scientists, doctors, engineers, lawyers dealing with the same grind?
So maybe it's the same in both countries?
Here in Japan they deal with the same grind, no matter what job they do.
 

jt9258

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Is it really? Even doctors? Surely that makes no sense...
Why does it not make sense?

Japan is a rule based group culture, where everyone follows the rules that society expects and one of those rules is that they maintain the harmony, as a result some become hikikomori and others just accept and work in jobs where they have never taken/received a days paid holiday.
 
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nahadef

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If you think Japan is merely a ‘work’ society, look into furitas and neetos. There are a lot of socially active people who opt out of Japan’s workaholic culture... and many Japanese panic about them eroding society, or they did when the terms came out at least. The hikikomori issue seems to me at least a self-esteem and entitlement issue, almost the inverse of America where kids are raised thinking they are way better than they are or deserve, in Japan too many people think they are nothing. I wish every person here knew they were important.
 

Nemuyoake

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We have some students like this at our high school. They're just in a state where they just can't stand relationships with others. Most of them are in a slump, or most likely utterly depressed. But they don't go to see a specialist, they just wait at home. They could get better for a lot of them if they'd take some medicine or go under a psy treatment. But their families are so passive, not knowing what to do, not accepting the evidence...
 
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