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Aging hikikomori children's lifelong dependency on parents

41 Comments

In June, a 53-year-old Saitama man was arrested for allegedly dumping his mother’s corpse in a mountain ditch. The point, police say, was to conceal her death from the authorities in order to continue receiving her pension. Apparently it was a matter of survival. The man had no other source of income.

This would be merely sordid if it wasn’t, in a sense, increasingly typical. The number of adult children who remain helplessly dependent on their parents is growing alarmingly, says Shukan Post (Aug 2).

Case in point: A 69-year-old doctor has a son of 38 who graduated from university and went to work at a bank but, for reasons that are not clear, quit after two years and hasn’t worked since. He never leaves the house. The phenomenon is not unusual and goes by the name “hikikomori.” It became a social concern in the 1990s, when it primarily affected young people who, it was hoped, would grow out of it. But few did, and many sufferers now are well into middle age. What are their aging parents to do?

A survey the government’s Cabinet Office released last April quantifies the disquieting rise of the problem. In 2003, the number of single people aged 35-44 living with their parents was 1.91 million. In 2007 it was 2.62 million; in 2012, 3.05 million. Journalist Masaki Ikegami, who has researched the issue extensively, tells Shukan Post that of people aged 20 to 64 living in Tokyo’s Tamachi district, at least one in 20 is in a state of hikikomori – and 30% of them are over 40. That suggests a nationwide total of 300,000 hikikomori people over 40.

The doctor has his own clinic. At least his money won’t be running out any time soon. In fact, his major worry at this point seems to be the exorbitant inheritance tax his son will face when the family property ultimately passes to him. One possible solution, the doctor muses, is to hand over the property immediately, as a gift. That of course would mean living on as a guest in his own home – a state of affairs that wouldn’t be to everyone’s liking.

Then there’s the story of “Mr B,” 65, whose 39-year-old son (we’ll call him Mr C) is back home, with a small daughter, after a failed marriage. C’s wife was a nurse and basically supported the family, C never having done anything beyond occasional part-time work at convenience stores and the like. Mr B, retired after 40 years as a company employee, is at his wits’ end. His savings, unlike the doctor’s, will not suffice to support his son through an idle lifetime. There are other difficulties too. Mr C, for example, does not cut a sufficiently presentable figure to appear at his child’s school events. “I send my wife instead,” says Mr B. It’s rather sad for the little girl. Suffice it to say, concludes C ruefully, “I am not enjoying my retirement.”

Is it entirely the children’s fault? Or society’s? True, the economy collapsed just as they were coming of age, creating one, two or three (depending on who’s counting) “lost generations” of young people who never had a chance – or who, some say, were too spoiled or spineless to rise to the challenge. But counselor Fujiya Tomita claims it’s the parents who have most to answer for. “The parents were busy at work,” he says, “and the harder they worked the more prosperous they grew. Child-raising was left to daycare centers, to schools, to juku. The parent-child bond grew weaker.” Something snapped in the kids as a result, he seems to be saying – maybe the gumption that would have seen them through the tough times ahead.

In any case, sums up Shukan Post, “What needs to change is not just the children and not just the parents, but the family as a whole.” That’s tantalizing – but what the family should change into, the magazine declines to say.

© Japan Today

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

41 Comments
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it primarily affected young people who, it was hoped, would grow out of it. But few did, and many sufferers now are well into middle age. What are their aging parents to do?

Kick them out of the house.

MAKE THEM earn their keep.

No free rides where they don't exist.

8 ( +12 / -6 )

Child-raising was left to daycare centers, to schools, to juku. The parent-child bond grew weaker.

Hang on a minute, where were the mothers? Certainly not working.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

How about getting some proper psychologists trained so this doesn't become a life-time disability?

And how about looking into telecommuting options for these people? Working doesn't necessarily need to mean leaving the home, there are lots of jobs that can be done at home.

... in fact generally the treatment of this problem seems to consist of a cycle of whining, ignoring the people who are sick (the hikikomori), sympathising with the parents, and then going back to hiding the problem from the neighbours again. Nobody seems to be really doing anything about it/

10 ( +12 / -2 )

... and then going back to hiding the problem from the neighbours again.

I think the secrecy aspect is one of the major reasons why it doesn't get dealt with here. I never cease to be astonished at the lengths that Japanese people go to to present an "all is perfect in my world" front to everybody else. Many, many people have confided things to me that they insist they could never tell any other Japanese person, not even their best friends. I've heard it all: juvenile delinquency, depression, mental illness, divorce, domestic abuse, gambling debts, family estrangements, and of course the hikikomori thing. By the time they seek professional help, it's too late anyway.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

i know somebody who was kept at home by her parents because they said she does not need to work and the parents said they have enough for her to survive until she dies...how selfish. I think its the parents social insurance, having their daughter take care of them once she grows old and if she get married and build her home, the parents will be left alone.

The ones to be blamed are the mothers. They do everything for their children in the hope that they will take care of them once they get old. Children here almost never help in household chores, they just expect them to study, study, study and then be successful but once the kids can't reach their goal or attain the grades they want they become hikikomori and the constant pressure from parents for them to study to be successful is driving them to isolation.

Kids needs to mature. Not be isolated from everything else. Childrens duty is not just to study. Make them social beings, mentally challenged Japanese.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

Funny, when my parents turned 18, my grandparents began charging them rent, this was not uncommon at one time. My parents had to go find work immediately. My mother became a car hop at a drive-in restaurant, my father borrowed money from his grandfather to buy a business franchise. They both worked hard from the beginning, and moved out shortly after meeting one another and getting married.

9 ( +12 / -4 )

Society is not to blame, the parents are.

If the parents didn't want to end up in the situation where they retire with these ridiculous manchildrern sucking the joy out of their twighlight years, they should have put more effort into instilling them with the confidence to face life, and failing that, given them the boot years before.

They have completely failed as parents by not preparing their children for the real world, and then supporting their unnatural lifestyles.

We will certainly see a spike in the number of elderly parents being murdered by their own selfish offspring as hikikomori begin to realize what is expected from them in their parent's old age and/or the money runs out and they are asked to curtail their expenses. if something isn't done, this will end up in tragedy.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Several interesting theories about why people become hikikomori but one characteristic of most hikikomori seems to be that they are from middle and upper-middle class families; poor families quite literally cannot afford to have hikikomori children.

As to why, everything from social pressure from schools, classmates, teachers, parents, bosses, the whole tatemae/honne horsesh!t, a lack of self-awareness including lack of any life goals, to a lack of strong father figures and over-possessive mothers (amae - too much dependent loving?) are postulated as causes.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

you would never have hikkomori in a slum. parents would never stand for it.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

“The parents were busy at work,” he says, “and the harder they worked the more prosperous they grew. Child-raising was left to daycare centers, to schools, to juku. The parent-child bond grew weaker.”

This logic seems odd. If the parent-child bond grew weaker because the parents were never around, why would the kids end up living at home with their parents forever? Wouldn't they go off on their own- try to get away from the family with which they have such a bad bond?

And if the parents are hard-working, at least they're setting a good example. Is it really the hard-working parents whose kids end up hikikomori? Kids who go to juku? I'd like to see that data.

I agree with the many posters here who say that the parents should have given the kids more responsibility when they were young. Perhaps it's not so much the fact that parents weren't around but that they had the attitude that "as long as you study, we'll take care of you and pay for anything you need." The kids get used to being taken care of, as long as they have a "thankful" attitude.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Many people can no longer find jobs and if they do, it is usually a part time job with such low hourly rates that it is impossible to even rent a reasonable apartment let alone buy food and pay the power bills. Japan's hourly rates are the worst I have seen for a supposedly wealthy and advanced country.

As a comparison, New Zealand minimum wage for everyone is around NZ$13.50 per hour -Yen app.1,000. No pension payments to make, no health insurance payments unless privately made. Food is half the price or less. Basically everything is cheaper. I understand that law also requires holiday to be paid also. And when they get old, they will receive their pension as it all comes out of the taxation system.

How can anybody live in Japan on their own with 800 or so yen an hour ? In some areas of Japan the hourly rate is under 700 yen an hour. I know of a skilled person working at a job for 900 yen an hour and pays yen 30,000 per month in travel expenses to his work and back.

A lot of people in Japan who are forced to work part time jobs, try to work at two different places in a normal week so that they do not have to pay tax or pay in to the corrupted pension system. It actually works out at a much higher income than working only at one job.

Welcome to Japan. Don't think that people are lazy or don't want to work. They are forced to stay with parents because they can not afford to live elsewhere.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

VicMOsaks - working children living with their parents is not the same thing as hikikomori. That's a different phenomenon.

4 ( +7 / -3 )

Totally pathetic sociologically!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

young people who never had a chance – or who, some say, were too spoiled or spineless to rise to the challenge

If your main goal when raising the next generation is to create passive, docile, obedient, malleable drones, then there are always going to be some who are pushed beyond the limit, never developing the social or communication skills to function in the real world

That suggests a nationwide total of 300,000 hikikomori people over 40

Japan - you reap what you sow

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Welcome to Japan. Don't think that people are lazy or don't want to work. They are forced to stay with parents because they can not afford to live elsewhere.

That doesnt hold water. If the parents are covering all the living expenses (which they are in the cases above), then the children could work for disposable income, or as a partial contribution to their upkeep. They are lazy or unable to face work.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

I didnt notice this was a Kuchikomi piece until the 2nd paragraph. They are getting better. Still the Mr A and Mr B nonsense was a dead giveaway.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

The fact that parents hide the problem makes it impossible to revert. The trigger is usually a depression, burn-out, trauma, etc which would need to be addressed at early stages. But since everybody's busy hiding it, the isolation becomes normality and the longer the status quo it becomes irreversible.

I have a family member with depression, and one of the first phases she goes through is not being able to get out of bed. She herself and we as her family immediately take action when that happens, and when she gets to see her doctor, he identifies the issue without fault, and takes immediate action too. I always thought in Japan she would probably turned away by her doctor and then turn into a hikikomori.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I think one or two of the commenters are missing the point.

It's not like the parent child bond got worse, so get away from the parent, not so simple. It's not like, where was the mother. It is:

a. father worrks 100 hours a week and has no contact with the kids. having a mother is better than nothing, but having two parents, and having a male outlook and male presence as well as female is definitely necessary for some/ many people.

b. even though the mom is often there, school, tests, school, tests, juku, is not necessarily the best way to grow up. it is not practice for making real social relationships, talking to people, joking, getting over difficulties and trying again. and further, the precious time with the one parent they do have contact with is taken away, and that one parent is both serving the motherly role of letting them cry or mope all they want and simultaneously saying, "you must go to juku, you must study" etc etc

It is clearly a societal problem and a problem of the choices of individual parents. but it is so hard for these parents to get out of the roles and the regulations society imposes on them.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I am SO glad I wasn't born here, except for a small portion who really have a PROBLEM, 98% of these babies are losers, their parents are losers, society is messed up, mix all three & here we are! All three are to blame is various amounts, simple as that!

We are going to see more in-family murders, dead bodies stored for as long as possible, its going to be getting stranger as time passes but as one poster rightly said Japan is REAPING what it sews, its not rocket science.

For the few people who a truly sick/ill I feel sorry as they wont get much of any help in Japan, the rest have themselves to blame!

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

The scary thing is that 'only in Japan' problems like hikikomori have reached this scale without Japan really fully entering its inevitable period of decline yet.

Sure the economy's been bad for a while, but the layoffs associated with this haven't been too bad yet, although they are going to get far worse if Abe's plans for loosening up employee rights get enacted. The opportunities for Japanese youth are also gonna get worse given the facts that:

(i) China will soon be totally dominating East Asia, economically if not militarily, (ii) the acceleration of Japanese aging and depopulation and the increasing burden that this will place on the young, (iii) the repeal of Article 9 and associated increasing militarization of Japan. This is not just important because of drafting the young into the armed forces, but because it'll be associated with a push for more discipline in schools, public places etc. and even less freedom for the young. (iv) the public debt will have to be repaid somehow, so it's hard to imagine there will be a massive expansion in mental health care provision. Pension funds will also be raided (have already been raided?), placing even more of a burden on the young to look after their relatives.

I can't imagine how Japan is gonna be like in 20 or 30 years, but it isn't going to be pretty. I sure as hell will have gotten out of here by then.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So we've gone from calling these people 'manchildren' and 'pathetic losers' to predicting that Japan will become a militaristic country? Nice image people are painting.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

in a society where the people and the families are much close to each other, there are social norms for each age group. in my country back home, for youngsters at the age of 18 or above it is cool to work and support their parents, the people respect such youngsters and their parents also feels very proud, a large number of youngsters even left the home country in order to support their parents and other family members, they are working hard in extreme conditions. The youngsters feel shameful and disrespectful while asking their parents for money, even the girls avoiding marrying such men who are depending on their parents. so hikikomori is a social stigma in our society. in short, close family and strong social systems compel each age group to obey social norms and obligations. in japan, too much isolation is one of the problem for hikikomori.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

My guess, the Japanese parents who do not have extra $$ to burn, will most likely end up killing off their lazy, spoiled hikkikomori "adult children" it is already happening and I am sure it will only increase. Or those crazy lazy good for nothing hikkikomori parasites will do something crazy like burn their houses down and kill off their own parents etc..

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Part of the cause is promoting the realization of a ubiquitous society that we live in.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Gee folks thanks for the lovely negs for pointing out the obvious truths!

Elbuda, what your predicting has already been happening, we will just see more as time goes by sadly

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In fact, his major worry at this point seems to be the exorbitant inheritance tax his son will face when the family property ultimately passes to him.

Ohh dear, soo much money he will have to pay tax on it. Seems like the father is sillier than the son. I hope he is not any of my doctors.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

societies don't change because the corporations changed. It was the small fry that made a difference. This man children should be starting their own jobs and do the work that they enjoy doing. Entrepreneurialship needs to start somewhere

0 ( +0 / -0 )

sf2k... that's fine in an ideal world, but where are they going to get the money to start a business if they can't get a job? Not everyone has the ability to start a business, or indeed have the confidence to take that step. Open a noodle stand? Can they cook noodles to a standard that people would pay money? Other than street food there's not a lot of other options. Shops or offices need money, and heaps of it...

People who have been successful in making their own businesses from scratch can sometimes be a tad overbearing when chastising those who can't or won't do the same. "Listen, I started with nothin' but ma bare hands n these here tools!" Yeah, fine, but not everyone is bullish, confident or filled with a burning ambition.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Thunderbird2... for some reason that comes off as very American. You don't have to be overbearing to start a business although that could be confidence. Also the Hikikomori dropping out of society is in large part because they don't want to be around such a type of culture in a Japanese version.

No, I was just thinking the Hikikomori are losing their cash cow and if they are running away from Japanese corporate society they should band together and create their own type of business societies where they could form businesses. Using what little focus they have as the impetus for change and renewal. It may not work 100% but it may help a lot

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Its ENTIRELY the parent's fault. IMO, as soon as the child's educational career ends (whether it'd be dropping out of high school or going on to grad school) that is when all financial support from the parents should end. The child needs to find a job and learn to be an adult. The problem is, the family structure in Japan is so screwed. Its set up so that the eldest has the burden of taking care of the aging parents, so they wind up moving back into, or never leaving the nest. Some get lazy and don't bother to work. And when the parents complain that their child is lazy and should work, that's when all hell breaks loose. The child and the parents think they are doing each other a favor by being there.

I left home when I was 18, got my own apartment, went to school, and supported myself with a part time job. Sure, there were times when my mom helped out with care packages of food, or paid my rent or electricity when I really needed it. But by the time I graduated college, I was fully independent. THAT'S the way things should be.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

biggest problem is parents dont put any pressure on kids to grow up and take responsibility for there future, they somehow think its something that will come naturally. unfortunately it has to be taught and if there are no adults that are prepared or know how to do this then the child~adult has a problem.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Could it be that the computer generation saw that they were part of world wide slavery? Better informed than their parents of corrupt Govts. controlled by even more corrupt billionaires, they refused to cooperate with the business model that makes them low wage slaves of a life time of labor. Instead of starting resistance to that system, they just gave up in face of a life long war for good pay and pensions? If all labor ceased to cooperate with business, there would be no business. Human labor is the most precious gift in the world.....everything that is created by humans is created by labor. If they saw that labor does not realize the truth of this, they just consider everything hopeless. In America also, there are many adult work age males who do not work.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As soon as I left my parents' home they moved to a smaller house - there was no place to return to.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The scary thing is that 'only in Japan' problems like hikikomori have reached this scale without Japan really fully entering its inevitable period of decline yet.

Not an 'only in japan' problem at all.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

According to the Antlantic Wire, about 25 percent of Americans between 18 and 30 are living with parents.

http://www.theatlanticwire.com/national/2012/09/about-25-percent-adult-children-live-home-their-folks/57235/

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Pathetic losers!!!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

this phenomena is starting to occur in the US now, though people point to the economy in reality many children see no need to leave the family home. free meals, laundry is done for them, allowance even though they are adults, lots of excuses as to why they can't work.

they sit around, they party, they keep believing that one day the perfect position will open up - even though they never held a job in the field and school was years in the past.

so i see the same scenario occurring in the US in the next 10 years as they grow in age and the parents get ill

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Many people can no longer find jobs and if they do, it is usually a part time job with such low hourly rates that it is impossible to even rent a reasonable apartment let alone buy food and pay the power bills. Japan's hourly rates are the worst I have seen for a supposedly wealthy and advanced country.

As a comparison, New Zealand minimum wage for everyone is around NZ$13.50 per hour -Yen app.1,000. No pension payments to make, no health insurance payments unless privately made. Food is half the price or less. Basically everything is cheaper. I understand that law also requires holiday to be paid also. And when they get old, they will receive their pension as it all comes out of the taxation system.

How can anybody live in Japan on their own with 800 or so yen an hour ? In some areas of Japan the hourly rate is under 700 yen an hour. I know of a skilled person working at a job for 900 yen an hour and pays yen 30,000 per month in travel expenses to his work and back.

A lot of people in Japan who are forced to work part time jobs, try to work at two different places in a normal week so that they do not have to pay tax or pay in to the corrupted pension system. It actually works out at a much higher income than working only at one job.

Welcome to Japan. Don't think that people are lazy or don't want to work. They are forced to stay with parents because they can not afford to live elsewhere.""

The reason that you study hard in school and get an education is so you don't have to get stuck in a 800 yen per hour job. If you can't make any money doing what you are doing, then you are obviously doing the wrong thing. Minimum-wage jobs are not intended to provide grown people a living wage, they never have been. Minimum wage jobs are for entry-level employees with little or no education or experience. As one's experience increases, so does one's wage.

A friend of mine began working at McDonald's at the age of 16 for $3.35 an hour (the minimum wage at the time). She studied hard, attended university, and continued working at McDonald's, moving up the pay scale as her education and responsibility increased. 30-odd years later she is still working at McDonald's, but as an executive director.

She said the main reason she worked so hard that she didn't want to be stuck at minimum wage for the rest of her life. She said the fact that the minimum wage was so low was a strong motivator. Had the wage been $10 an hour, she might have lived more comfortably, but might never have tried to improve herself as she had.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If 10 adults have 8 children and live in 5 houses, why should the 8 children pay the pensions of the 2 adults who didn't have any children? 7 children will go into debt (student loans, car loans, mortgage on a house), while the 8th child will become a hikikomori and smartly realize that he can get ahead financially simply by not going into debt. Better to have a zero net worth than a negative net worth.

When all the pensioners pass away, there are 5 houses and only 8 children. 6 get married, that's 3 houses. 1 is a single female who earns a lot of money and she buys her own house, but refuses to marry a hikikomori. Then there is still a 5th house. In 10+ years, the hikikomori gets it for free under a government program to reintegrate them into society.

Hikikomori wins. These are not stupid or lazy people, they are very smart. With stupidity like Abenomics you can expect a lot more of them.

1950 Japan population pyramid: http://www.ipss.go.jp/site-ad/TopPageData/1950e.png

2015 Japan population pyramid: http://www.ipss.go.jp/site-ad/TopPageData/2015e.png

0 ( +0 / -0 )

there are 3.6 million of this lot in japan?

I would think a bit more work on addressing the problem in japan is needed

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I can clearly understand this when employement is scarse and our children will need to nest back temporarily until they can get back on their own. I totally disagree when our children decide not to work - period, and indirectly move back in with the parents!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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