The Hikikomori – Japan’s Social Outcasts

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Hikikomori (Japanese for “pull in”) is a term that refers to reclusive adolescents and young adults who choose to isolate themselves from social life. With about a million people in Japan suffering from Hikikomori, I suppose you could call it an epidemic of sorts. Except, the condition is not spread through physical means, it’s purely psychological. It is a phenomenon of social withdrawal that’s pretty much swept the nation in the past few years. About 80% of hikikomori are male, in their teens or twenties, and do not leave the confines of their rooms. They don’t go to school or to work, spending their days in the homes of their parents, reading, watching TV or surfing the internet, consuming meals left for them at the door.

A good example of a typical hikikomori is this boy I’ve been reading about. His mother supposedly refused to reveal his name, fearing social retribution for the boy. The 17-year-old was a normal child, but began to hate school about three years ago. This was after he became a victim to bullying and anonymous hate letters. One day, he suddenly returned home and locked himself in the kitchen. He’s been in there ever since, refusing to come out or let anyone in. The family’s response to this most unusual condition is even more strange. They have simply ‘moved on’, accepting the boy’s behavior as something he will eventually grow out of. They’ve built a new kitchen in the house, and his mother takes meals to his door three times a day. In fact, this is the manner in which most Japanese respond to hikikomori – with utmost tolerance.

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