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What Japan's 'hikikomori' can teach us about self-isolation

25 Comments
By Donican Lam

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Interesting read.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I became a hikikomori for about half a year after graduating college and my personal tips for keeping sane and entertained while at the comfort of your own home are these:

maintain a routine: allot a certain amount of time doing chores, learning whatever interests you and watching and reading for entertainment. I thought myself how to draw and speak at an N5 level in that half-year I was out of action.

exercise: it will help you prevent from getting cabin fever

remain flexible: keep a routine but allow changes. You shouldn't schedule your day down to the last minute. If you don't feel like cleaning today, then do something else

-pray: I know this isn't for everyone, but it helps a lot to keep you sane. If anything else, try meditation.

reach out: being isolated does not mean you go dark on your friends and family. Just think that other people are sometimes just waiting for other people to contact them. Now's your chance to reconnect
8 ( +8 / -0 )

I am sure 99.9% of hikikomori are not as productive as this guy. It' just a 'feel good' story for current times.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

It's funny how the world media loved to fixate on the hikikomori phenomenon in Japan the past few years (you know how the world media loves to play, always feature Japanese people and society as being "weird" and alienated from reality). And now the media is changing their tunes and making it seem as if hikikomori isn't so bad in light of recent pandemic events. The irony.

6 ( +11 / -5 )

Call it what ever you want, at this point in time Staying Home SAVES LIVES, and has nothing to do with Mental Illness, Hikikomori.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

What Japan's 'hikikomori' can teach us about self-isolation

That it sucks, for us, for them. There, and as the Rock sang in Moana, you're welcome.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I know a couple of them. Their life is pot noodles, video games, comic books and obesity.

i don’t work much so I’m a part-time recluse. I have a big garden and go dog walking. My downfall is Netflix addiction.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

In the current lock-down the nights are worse because I have stressful dreams about what I am going to do in the future. The morning is usually great and brings hope.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

We should learn how to address mental illness, from which shut-ins generally suffer. Leave aside people who just work at home.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I became disabled about 12 years ago. Still, I tried interacting with people, but finally said the hell with it about 4 years ago. The only ones I interact with are my daughter and her kids. I usually do my own shopping, trying to stock up for the month so I don't have to go out into reality. I have the internet, Order my manga and light novels from Amazon, and stay active on social media, but I don't feel like dealing with people after decades in the workplace. At least I don't have a wife anymore that wants to drag me places like she used to do. Work hard all day, could barely walk when I got home, and she'd want to run run run: not even give a chance to find my center.

Reality pretty much sucks, and this is why I'm hunkered in the dark, commenting on a news source a world apart from my reality.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's a shame that Kyodo couldn't find any women hikikomori who would be interviewed. Or is this just a male thing in Japan?

2 ( +4 / -2 )

If the “enablers” of the hikikomori, parents, aunts in this story and others, stopped servicing them with food, accommodation and money they would soon rejoin society.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Might as well have interviewed a bunch of authentic hermits, given the dearth of useful advice on adjusting to solitude...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I am sure 99.9% of hikikomori are not as productive as this guy. It' just a 'feel good' story for current times.

Yes, it sounds like they have found some bedroom creatives focusing on their interests, not typical hikkikomori who have rejected society, possibly due to trauma.

You cannot compare lockdown of people who like being out and like being social with people who've chosen, as a positive choice, to place their hobbies above face-to-face social interaction. It's like asking people to instantly change their personality. Anyone who is married or has children will know how that usually goes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And now the media is changing their tunes and making it seem as if hikikomori isn't so bad in light of recent pandemic events. The irony.

They want to turn what was once seen as an aberration into a virtue.

Remember in Orwell's 1984 that Winston Smith, when he's not at work, is largely a shut-in recluse too. Just stay at home, watch Netflix, and don't question things too much.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Being disabled is different from being a "hikikomori", although there will be those who believe hikikomori are in fact disabled. I've only come across a couple of people who are like that, hikiomori.

In our location, there are a high number of old people, single or couples, and their children still living with them to care for them. Sons and daughters. They are taking care of their parents, duty. Some work or work part-time.

Different countries treat their disabled in different ways. Japan is better than 20 yers ago, but still way behind comapre to other countries. Although here they have no step buses for wheelchair user, and staff will help out at a train station.

Kobe where we lived for 16 years until we moved here, have a high number of disabled peple from the major earthquake 25 years ago. The people show more compassion.

I think, these past two months, I have been hikikomori.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Not for me and I think these are the exceptions, not the norm. There are a lot of horror stories out there and one feel-good article doesn't change that,

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The authors here went pretty damn far out on a limb to find this guy, a graduate of Todai no less, but still able to "keep his eye on the big picture" after 10 years of isolation.

These folks have social interaction issues, and do not know how to get along with people and society and need help from doctors and other mental health professionals.

I dont want advice about the big picture from someone who can only talk a good game!

0 ( +6 / -6 )

One thing they’ll teach us about the virus is that many more have died in Japan than the statistics would lead us to believe.

A large number of Japanese live alone with little or no social contact. Sadly those bodies won’t be found until the weather warms up a little.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

With the increasing presence of the internet and virtual reality I think the hikikomori trend will increase. Just speaking from Tokyo when things were normal, the number of persons walking in train stations absorbed in games, movies, porno, manga, etc. on their phone or ipad is incredible. People want to "zone out" from reality because the game world is actually more rewarding for some. You can be a cool character, you can amass wealth or new items, you can WIN!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well..if skills include leaching off family to live rent free, not paying your share of bills, probably not doing any cleaning, food shopping, and basically being a drain on society then, no thanks, don't need their advice.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

oldman_13: "And now the media is changing their tunes and making it seem as if hikikomori isn't so bad in light of recent pandemic events. The irony."

You need to learn the meaning of "irony", because I see ONE article, written by a person I don't even know is affiliated with any major media, that focuses largely on TWO hikkikomori that have made something of themselves. Yes, it is something focussed on by the media in terms of showing one slightly darker aspect of Japanese society, and for good reason -- it is not something positive, and there is little to nothing positive about it. These two have made something of themselves, and that is wonderful. How about the other 99.9999999999999999% of the people who are a word English doesn't even have an adequate translation of because the problem is not nearly as prevalent if it exists at all elsewhere.

To the article itself, what do even these two relatively "successful" examples teach us during the crisis? It seems to me the most uplifting part of their stories is there desire to reach out, having become "weak and frail" (in the words of the second person) and connect with people. Finally, and most importantly, almost zero hikkokomori support themselves or help out with the support they receive. They most often live with parents and hide in a single room. People forced to stay home during this crisis, kids aside (who are allowed to go out and play with friends), are suffering financially if they are unable to telework, and probably even if they can telework, so I don't see them as being able to teach us anything meaningful at all except that perhaps it could be a time to focus on hobbies and/or talents you have or have wanted to engage in but couldn't because you had a job or school.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@smithinjapan

You have most of the time very insightful comments. But in your response to oldman_13, maybe it is you who should think again about what irony means ? Indeed, it is pretty ironic that the media, after having cast hikikomori as so problematic and nearly impossible to understand, now are saying that the same hikikomori can show people a reasonable way to exist in the light of the pandemic and its aftermath.

That is irony 101.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The irony and hipocracy. Hikimori is now a hip thing to be. Great and insightful journalism. Next thing well hear is schizophrenia is a blessing from God too. Have at it. Dig deeper do some actual work in truth finding.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If the “enablers” of the hikikomori, parents, aunts in this story and others, stopped servicing them with food, accommodation and money they would soon rejoin society.

That, or kill their family members.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

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