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What can be done to help Japan's 'hikikomori' (recluses)?


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Hikikomori is too broad a label. The person in question might be a spoiled entitled brat, but they might also be someone who has been broken by years of persistent bullying, or a person with mental health issues that have escalated due to a lack of proper treatment or support.

I think a lot of cases could be handled by the families if they have access to expert, personalized advice. This means training counselors who understand the possible social and medical factors and putting a system in place in which normal people know about and can easily access these professionals.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

@Gorrancowboy, @Vince Black, @No Business

It seems none of you have had first-hand experience with this problem.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

Japanese schools are oppressive and try to produce cookie-cutter kids who are judged on superficial nonsense like saying aisatsu ritual greetings in a loud voice. This puts all introverted kids at an immediate disadvantage. It's not enough to be faster than the other kids, a good kid will have to say "I want to be Olympic champion!"

The focus on appearances across society means any problems that are potentially shameful are allowed to fester. The short-term pain of confronting them is avoided, resulting in far greater long-term damage.

I'm from the UK and we are slowly realizing that all the traditional "stiff upper lip" stoicism in our culture is bollocks and does real damage to real people, especially men. We all have our mental ups and downs, and it is vitally important to recognize these struggles and do our best to alleviate them. A huge part of this is through communication with others prepared to talk about their own experiences, i.e., to get underneath and behind the appearance. Expecting everyone to "man up" or "ganbaru" is just cruel and will not solve anything.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japanese Hikikomori, US/Europe trolls living in their parent’s basement, Chinese youth who refuse to work, and other such non-productive members is society are merely a symptom of a society that has become prosperous enough to enable such behavior. The poorer the country, the less you’ll see of such individuals.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"Hikikomori" covers many sub-groupings. One group might be the students "groomed for success" whose training failed to include how to recover from setbacks. Another might have been bullied out of all internal motivation to do anything. And a third might simply be tempermentally unsuited to the insane pressure of the Japanese work culture.

Heaping additional abuse on the already-abused is not much different than executing them by torture, and abusive torture at that.

To be fair, the possibility that someone covered by the 'hikikomori' umbrella is, in fact, simply coasting along, consuing the family's accumulated wealth after receiving only the 'cultural conditioning' that it will all soon be theirs without the corresponding requirement that the recluse contribute his share to sustain and grow it.

But when the Japanese culture and economy has, increasingly, shown itself to be incredibly hostile to the needs of raising a family at all, let alone provide the kind of 'safe starting point' from which a child learns to explore the world with faith and courage, one can't help but consider the 'hikikomori' phenomenon as just one more symptom of a much more pervasive, societal error.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

As someone who became a hikikomori for 7 months after graduating college, what got me out of the house was my family and friends who constantly coaxed me through pep talk to get a job and told me that while the world is harsh, kind people still exist. For general help to other hikikomori, I think taking the gentle and positively encouraging route with the help of support groups over the strong-arm approach will work best for other recluses considering the very reason a lot of them shut-in in the first place was being fed up with too much crap they're forced to deal with prior.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Obviously, better mental health care and less stigmatization of those suffering from illness. But parents have to embrace such care and not try to hide away their children, who are often viewed as shameful failures. If their own families view them like this, how do think the kids feel.

Far less pressure during the the JHS and HS years, when the largest number of young people are broken, often irreparably. Meaning less exam madness and one-size fits all conformity and the attendant suppression of difference or individuality.

More father-son time in particular. I reckon the overwhelming majority of young men who became hikikomori had very little time with their fathers while growing up. Basically b/c this is true of most Japanese young people, reclusive or not, male, female etc. Nothing against moms or even single moms doing their best but a boy needs a father in his life, full stop.

This means better work-life balance and having parents at home with their kids at a sensible hour, as opposed to working until 9 or 10pm, while their kids go to juku until similar hours.

Less soul killing club activities. Along with juku, it often seems that kids are in a classroom or at a club practice 7 days a week, often 12 or more hours/day. How that's not seen as insane never fails to amaze me. In lieu of fun sports and clubs embraced in the west, clubs in Japan often seem yet another venue where the strong prey upon the weak.

And generally more acceptance of difference, of diverse lifestyles and attitudes. Try having a broader definition of success.

There are deep roots to this problem and it'll take a real reckoning to start addressing the problem. Color me skeptical that much will change.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

mandatory conscription for training both physical and mental in a group

They already do this - it's called the school system.

They spend 12 years moulding the kids ready for a lifetime of following orders in employment. They don't want to break that mould - and unfortunately some people just fall through the cracks and become collateral damage.

This is part of what causes some people to become hikkikomori. Some withdraw because they want to avoid situations where they have to follow rules and orders.

Perversely, you could argue they are the sane ones. Who wants to spend a lifetime of servitude? If you consider how they majority are raised, what other options have they been taught? Generally they aren't taught free thinking, they aren't encouraged to question critically, or think outside the box. It's not hard to see how some consider themselves failures, and just completely withdraw from a society that doesn't 'fit' them.

The kids who manage to avoid this outcome - and start a business, or move overseas, or just avoid the standard salaryman lifestyle - are usually the ones who have been fortunate to have more worldly parents, or an inspirational teacher, or have crossed paths with someone else that showed what is possible in life. Unfortunately in Japan, these cases are still extremely rare.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Yep, nip whatever problem they have during their childhood in the bud before they become adults. Whether it is a bullying issue or a spoiling issue. There are a lot of students in elementary through jr. high who take off days to months at a time from school yet are still able to move onto the next grade without consequence. Where I come from if you miss months at a time from school, you have to repeat the grade unless you are doing homework. Students here just get passed through like reclusive people are in society.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

DaDude, great point. My niece has taken long breaks during both her JHS (bullying) and HS (laziness) years yet she's poised to graduate next year. She's now enrolled in a correspondence/online school. Let's just say she's got serious issues. Another friend's daughter (3rd-year JHS) has been at home the entire year so far (bullying, teachers who failed to protect her). And a few of my daughter's "classmates" either don't come at all or they spend all their time in the hoken shitsu. Yet they all miraculously advance to the next grade. She's seen one boy who shows up only once at the beginning of April the past 2 years then he disappears. I'm not saying these kids don't have reasons to resist the classroom but this kind of enabling by parents and school administrators is totally bizarre.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As mentioned above, this is such a broad and complex topic as well as being a serious topic. It seems quite flippant to make such brief comments about it.

If people are genuinely serious about trying to improve the issue, I'd suggest starting with the make up of family life. This covers everything from the working hours of parents, to time spent with kids, to the amount of time kids spend in monotonous and unnecessary educational establishments, to the size and design of average homes. (This list could go on!)

Id also include things such as the type of role models kids are presented with on TV. Who are inspiring kids to do something with their lives?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What HBJ said.

And nandakandamanda, there are well over a million in total, if you combine both the 40-64 age group and those who are younger.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

These hikikomori are a result of being coddled and spoiled all through their younger life. Both their parents and the education system produce them. Under achievers are coddled all through their education. They never receive any kind adjusted education for special needs students and their parents give them whatever they want. As a result, they become ostracised and lose all self-confidence and self-respect. Kicking them out of homes and being mean to them does not help at all because the damage is already done. They may get a crappy job at a convenience store, but they don't have the self-confidence to carry out their duties properly, which pushes them further down the rabbit hole. The Japanese culture of 'the nail that stands up must be hammered down' is what produces these kinds of agoraphobic people. Many of these people 'were' talented individuals, but their talents and creativeness did not suit the hive-mind and they became ostracised recluses, which leads to them slowly going insane through a lack of human interaction. They give the true meaning to the term, "Prisoners of society". Sadly, as pressures in Japanese society get continually worse with the declining population and seriously troubled economy I fear this problem is only going to get worse. The only way to solve this problem is to stop people becoming recluses in the first place, but that would mean reshaping Japanese society and the education system to make a fair and just society without prejudices based on a hive-mind.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Better mental healthcare, and end to wishing violence on them and stop demonizing them.

That would be a start.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think, being told that their job is crappy, isn't much of a help, either.


Pride and self-confidence may follow if you try to do whatever job you have conscientiously.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

When children don't attend school are not the parents prosecuted which happens in my birth country. Only serious illness would be accepted for long term absence.

Parents in my home country are even prosecuted even for taking their kids out of school for vacations.

I thought Japan was bad, but your country's policy is barbaric. Why not just turn the kids over to the state at birth so they can raise them properly in institutions?

There are a lot of good reasons for kids not to attend school here, not least the coercive and destructive nature of the schools themselves for anyone with even slightly original ideas. They can be dens of bullying and intimidation designed to stamp out all traces of creativity, aspirations and motivation for life. Not for everyone, granted, but for many.

While those at the very top still seem rather clueless and stuck in old methods, many principles and teachers understand the value of not attending school for a while or of attending an alternative school.

While many hikikomori often start by not attending school, most kids who take time off from school turn out just fine - and in many cases become highly successful adults.

I think a lot of these cases could have been nipped in the bud if the parents were more active when the problems first started showing up. Unfortunately, most parents lack any education at all in psychology or child development, as they themselves are products of the same cookie cutters forced "education" system. So they push their kids to go to the schools they hate, and eventually just give up and become co-dependents.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are said to be over 600,000 hikikomori in Japan today. Many will have been watching the debates on TV about the 'problem', especially after the recent stabbing of schoolchildren and the father who stabbed his hikikomori and violent son. Some of them may even be reading this comment section here now. Being in the spotlight like this might be a breath of fresh air and a precious chance to rise above the feeling of hopelessness, inevitability and guilt.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The kids who manage to avoid this outcome - and start a business, or move overseas, or just avoid the standard salaryman lifestyle - are usually the ones who have been fortunate to have more worldly parents, or an inspirational teacher, or have crossed paths with someone else that showed what is possible in life. Unfortunately in Japan, these cases are still extremely rare.

Exactly why I want to take my japanese wife and kids and escape to Canada

0 ( +0 / -0 )

kids don’t come into the world wanting to be recluses. The emotional problems that lead to becoming a recluse are triggered by the Japanese society and the enormous pressure to conform and achieve whatever it is that society has deemed to be the acceptable course. Even the enablers (families), unless they are extraordinarily strong, will certainly struggle to resolve the problem and end up being part of it. The only hope is that new and kinder social mores will come to Japan due to the reality of its shrinking, aging population and the passing of older generations.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

They may get a crappy job at a convenience store, but they don't have the self-confidence to carry out their duties properly, which pushes them further down the rabbit hole.

I think, being told that their job is crappy, isn't much of a help, either.

The workers in a convenience store have many duties and have to multi-task, clean up the jacks, deal with unpleasant customers whilst maintaining a polite demeanour, deal with deliveries, operate the til, prepare food, and make sure the shop is presentable. Sometimes only one member of staff is on the floor.

0 ( +0 / -0 )


Well said!

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

What indeed? And more to the point, what can be done to help the long suffering parents of these insufferable cretins. Ther was a time when a bit of "summary justice" could be applied such asa sound thrashing then bodily eject them--but not now, you would be charged with assault and probably be forbidden from returning to your own home.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Getting rid of the parents that facilitate this nonsense would go a long way. I know only too well how my parents would have reacted if I had refused to come out of my room when I was younger! (not that I ever lived with my parents after 18 years old).

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

2 year mandatory conscription for training both physical and mental in a group

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

the blame rests squarely on the parents that enable such behavior. But then you could say the blame rests on Japan culture for turning a blind eye to mental health in general.

A good a¥¥ whooping might be all that's needed to get these recluses to snap out of t

-3 ( +6 / -9 )

A swift kick in the a** before they even get to this point would work.

I believe the above would work after the fact too.

-7 ( +4 / -11 )

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