national

Japan's isolated older 'hikikomori' shun society for years

39 Comments
By Natsuko Fukue

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© 2018 AFP

©2019 GPlusMedia Inc.


39 Comments
Login to comment

He desperately wants to recover and has asked his parents several times to accompany him to a psychiatrist but they refused.

"Go alone then."

Sorry, but that's the equivalent of telling a person suffering from depression to "just cheer up." They need help to break out. Especially if they are asking for it.

I have met many of these people, too. Yes, often they think they are smarter than the rest of the world. That attitude comes with isolation. It doesn't mean they are bad people. It doesn't mean they don't deserve help when they are trying to change.

15 ( +19 / -4 )

geoff:

Staying with your parents until you're married, or even after you're married or until the end of your life is not uncommon in most Asian cultures. I'd wish some white folks would just accept that different cultures have their different ways of life. There are plenty of people who move out young in the west but are totally immature. What's important is that the adult children help out at home with work and paying the bills, etc. Some people actually enjoy interacting with their family and others simply can't bear to dump their parents or grandparents in a nursing home. I've always lived in the same house as my grandmother up until her death. And I wouldn't have wanted it otherwise.

13 ( +19 / -6 )

I think the number is much higher... just on the small street of 10 houses where I live there are two hikikomori. I have never seen one of them but have heard he's there and the other I have seen just twice in one year... and I work from home. And no, I'm definitely not hikikomori myself... I'm constantly out socializing. Also, I doubt much can be done about this. It is a byproduct of this rigid culture and the Japanese do not seem to want to change anything about it at all. Just look at what is on on TV... the same crap as was on 40 years ago. How they're able to watch the same regurgitated themes time and time again is beyond me. Yes, western TV has not changed much but it quickly out grew the slapstick pie in face / physical humor, that continues to thrive in Japan. In addition Japan's style of humor often is one that perpetuates bullying by being overly brutal. An up in coming slapstick style geinojin must endure physical torture far too often.

11 ( +13 / -2 )

This is a sad situation but at least he is not living homeless on the street or doing drugs like so many in my country the US. I also note the parental pressure from his mother to study. My sister in law's oldest just turned 18, after years and years of her screaming at him to study he just snapped and threw all his study materials from the second floor. Apparently he will attend a university in Osaka of such low level that an entrance exam is not required. I feel bad for him because he has genuine interests in other pursuits that were not given support.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

A large number of young adults in Mediterranean countries stay at the family home till they get married. It is what you call a "prevailing culture". I doubt the high youth unemployment in Spain will be changing it either. I have not heard about southern Europe having a withdrawal problem.

As for Japanese hikikomori, I think some will be collateral damage (i.e., the inevitable victims) of a society with excessive and excessively enforced group behaviour. It is cliched to say "you can't please all the people all the time", but no-one seems to have told this to anyone running the Japanese school system. Anyone who doesn't like or cannot cope with school is treated like a freak or an outcast.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I’m a semi hikikomori. I don’t want anybody to give me pity. It was my choice.

I love the countryside, picking flowers from my garden and eating my own veggies. I’ve lived in many big cities a worked a number of jobs, but after going to a few war zones and working for a human rights Organisation and witnessing the pollution in the sea when I go diving...I decided I don’t really like human mentality and would rather be isolated. The only time I socialize is once a week for my babies club. There are about 20 people there and one is a hikikomori.

i am very happy because I have internet.

the solution I believe is for these people to use the internet.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

I support myself by doing stuff for a hospital, so I don’t get any money from the govt.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Go alone then.

How? The whole idea of their condition is that they want to avoid social interaction. They can't just become a social butterfly cold turkey. They need that push.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Many foreigners feel difficult to work at Japanese companies. They cannot accustom to company cultures of Japan. They say it is like a military. So is true to some Japanese. It is not their fault. They are not fit to Japanese companies. Try their life again somewhere in foreign lands.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This is depression or some other mental disorder.  Cultural norms mean it gets defined differently and not dealt with as it should.  Lucky for these folks that we have the 'Net and sites like this where they can express themselves.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

"I want society to understand that we are not crazy people," said Ikeida.

That is debatable.

However, if he goes out of the house every 3 days to buy food, he surely must have some interaction with people doing that even if it is standing mute at the till.

But what I really want to know is how do you support yourself for 30 years living like that? Sounds pretty dismal to me.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Geoff - to add to Pukey's comment, a much larger proportion of young British people in their 20s and even 30s are now living at home with their parents. It's a common phenomenon when wages are low and rents and house prices are high. I'm wondering how old you are - I'm in my mid 40s, and most of the people I went to school with (and not just the university graduates) had their own houses and mortgages by their late 20s. Things have completely changed in Britain since then.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

I completely understand the fine line between having to work for a bullying boss/ company, commuting in the mad crush of millions, not having much to show for it at payday - and snapping and not wanting anything to do with it anymore. We should not have to force people into this rat race. My only concern is that the lack of social contact has the ingredients for some explosive violent anti-social reaction.

As cuca mentioned, we used to have a solution in the UK in my generation in that we were literally kicked out of home at age 21 and fended for ourselves. But in my generation you did not have to get to university and you could still live reasonably well with a low salary. And the shared accomodation situation in the UK is a large, helpful resource.

Extortionate property and rental prices in the UK have caused immense damage to this generation, but I believe that Japan has the potential to open up the shared accomodation situation for young people. Unfortunately the psychological damage caused by Japanese school life and working life is the source of these hikiomori who hide away.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Ikeida describes in his blog how his mother would hit him if he did not study hard enough and also subjected him to psychological pressure.

That's one idiot mother. It's very easy to traumatize a child, some parents just don't realize it.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"Maybe it's common overseas that grown-up children leave their parents' home, but in Japan, parents let them stay," said Ikeda, the clinical psychologist.

And there we have it in a nutshell, ladies and gentlemen. In that short sentence we have the cure for Japan's ills. Treat your 'adult' children like adults, have them out from under your feet at 18, out in the workplace earning a living. University? Gimme a break, ask any Japanese university graduate what value they place on their education and they'll tell you they did nothing and it was a waste of time. Sure worked for this guy, right?

Parents must take all of the responsibility when their kids can't deal with the outside world and all of its trials and tribulations. A little tough love goes a long way...

4 ( +14 / -10 )

Nuff said

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Good on him and those who chose not to conform. Those who denigrate and scorn are obviously perfect beings with nary a thing to trouble them.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I'm shocked ! Just joking, we have the same social problem here in the US. We call the hikikomori translation Dead Beats, but them cant draw a welfare check living with Daddy and Mommy that easy !

3 ( +9 / -6 )

How dare you criticize those who criticize. Isn't that hypocritical?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Oh I oh I get it, if you are the one who gets to define the word then you'll never be wrong.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I'm amazed by the number of posters who seem to understand this complex problem perfectly. Given the ease with which it seems to have been diagnosed by several contributors today, one might expect that it could all be cleared up within the next 6 months or so, like a mild case of societal acne.

OZZIEJP, for example, suggests that it is caused by "many aspects of a strong Japanese culture". By "strong", do you mean "twisted"? Mothers beating their kids about their study habits is certainly one area of obvious concern. Connected to this is the situation of kids being pushed by their parents towards doing things that they have no interest in. This is sort of thing is certainly part of the problem, at least.

The truth is that there are any number of reasons why people descend into mental illness, so there is no one cute answer to address the situation. For anyone to assume that they can give specific suggestions such as "Tell him to do a night cleaning job", as a poster so helpfully suggested, is contemptible.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

As for Japanese hikikomori, I think some will be collateral damage (i.e., the inevitable victims) of a society with excessive and excessively enforced group behaviour. It is cliched to say "you can't please all the people all the time", but no-one seems to have told this to anyone running the Japanese school system. Anyone who doesn't like or cannot cope with school is treated like a freak or an outcast.

There you have it. It's this ridiculous pressure to conform to a (sorry, but) often ridiculous social system. Japan likes to ignore the bleeding obvious causes of its problems (after all, how much dialogue is going on around social problems here?), but the effects are still going to spill out from time to time, despite efforts to brush them under the carpet - or to keep people's attention pointed elsewhere. It will only become more prominent as time goes on.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

I have a different view, as once I got back from the Viet Nam War, I could no longer play the political games at work, though I had been able before to some extent. I am just not a social person, so that I rarely make friends, nor keep them for long. So finally I gota letter from afriend to work with him digging agates. Did not pay much, but it also did not cost much to work out of a VW bus. Most important was I had a lot of time on my own as my friend was mostly a solitary person as well. I now own my own property and my home is my shop so it pays its own costs. Still it lets me live on my own except for an occasional customer,so Istill havemy freedom, do nothaveto fit in and enjoy living mostly on my own out in the boonies. Not every one is designed to be social, and to conform. They simply can't do it and survive. Not all of them are lucky enough to figure mostly how to live on their own. My younger brother with similar problems, but stayed in the city failing at holding jobs finally committed suicide. Could have been me if my friend had not asked me to go mining with him. We need a place in society for outsiders to survive in. I am still not social and have no desire to be social. Meeting and greeting is fine, starting conversations with strangers is not a problem, but maintaining friendships is too much effort, and does not work for me.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I can understand the frustration with sometimes living in a place like Japan where one is expected to conform, but still there comes a point where one must "fight on" and make their own way.  In a way they (hikikomori) are doing that.  By shutting themselves in they are deviating from what is expected they are making their own way, now they just have to see that they can do it on the outside.

By sitting alone in a room and not hearing others talk about you doesn't mean that they aren't talking about you.  If you are willing to choose that lifestyle while others are talking about you, then you should be able to at least go on with your life and step outside once in awhile.

I get there may be some cases of other mental issues at hand, but this guy sounds like he just gave up.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It’s a terrible side affect of a strong but beautiful culture.

We have friends whose brother is suffering the same problem.

He has always lived with his parents and both recently passed away. His condition is getting worse with no family support in Japan.

Our friends with children who migrated to Australia are now thinking to return to live in Osaka to support the brother.

The disease is really caused by a combination of having to conform and endure the pressures, requirements and many aspects of a strong Japanese culture. I believe Japanese culture is disappearing so these symptoms will no doubt begin to decrease. It’s all so sad but true.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

We are social creatures down to our core and these poor lost souls are living in a sort of limbo caught between this world and the next. Hate to lay the blame on parents, as its not that simple but we are all the products of our upbringing and so many kids aren't given the tools to deal properly with life. Life is tough, and you need someone that you can turn to for guidance, especially approaching adulthood. It can be a simple matter of having someone that you can relate to or not. With no-one at all life becomes overwhelmingly lonely, and the OTHERNESS of people becomes over amplified as stress levels rise.

Have been trying to incorporate some of Jordan Petersons 'get your act together' stories and messages into the Japanese classroom and the reaction I'm getting is quite remarkable. A lot of students eyes light up when you lay it all out for them in an easily understood manner. They've just never had life explained to them in an exciting and captivating manner. Getting quite a routine down and all. As teachers ( I imagine many JT readers are ) we are in a great opportunity to try and add a bit of spark to a high pressure and ultra conformist culture , and this in itself can give you more meaning in your own life.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The 55-year-old has chosen to shut himself completely away from society -- such a commonplace phenomenon in high-pressure, conformist and workaholic Japan that there is a word to describe it: hikikomori.

"Ikeida" fits the description of a misfit rather than a "selfish, lazy deadbeat". Not everyone is temperamentally suited for the high-pressure, conformist sarariiman career track. And certainly not for "Ikeida" given his sensitive, non-competitive temperament.

It's a shame that his parents put incredible pressure on him and pushed him toward a career he wasn't suited for. As someone who "couldn't wear a suit", he might have been better off opting for a different line of work where he might have been happier and productive. But instead he wanted to please his parents as a salaryman as they expected him to be. In the end, he failed, lost face, not only his face, but his family too.

Unfortunately he paid a heavy price, i.e, the loss of his confidence and self-esteem, for failing to meet expectations of his parents and the conformity standards Japanese society demands. To escape the reminders of his failure, he became a hikikomori. The fact he hasn't committed suicide yet shows he is still trying to make an effort to find a way forward, to find himself and find something he can be happy doing, regardless whether his parents and the Japanese society approves or not.

I wish him and other hikikomori's luck.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

@civitas. Are you proposing tripling the sucicide rate?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@BeowulfOkami: I agree and I would also point out that I think men are more susceptible to mental illness such as depression than women, but due to societal programming are forced to live with it and suck it up, which explains amongst other things the much higher suicide rate of men.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Society enables these hikikomori to exist. If Mr Ikeida did not receive benefits he would be forced to work.

I don't see anything in the article that indicates he is receiving benefits.

Which makes the rest of your post meaningless, since it's based on that premise.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Society enables these hikikomori to exist. If Mr Ikeida did not receive benefits he would be forced to work. If he doesn't want to wear a suit why not get a job sweeping the streets, working on a building site, or working on a farm? He could deliver newspapers in the morning when most people are asleep and there is little danger of meeting anyone.

There are many things he could do, but it seems he prefers to be given money every month to do nothing.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

How dare you criticize those who criticize. Isn't that hypocritical?

Nah, different targets.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Some people will have sympathy, whilst others won't. When it comes to this person's situation and on how it came about. I struggle to find much sympathy. The guy's parents supported him and he went to a good University, had multiple job offers, but decided against "conforming" and just shut himself away because he didn't like wearing a suit or become a salaryman! He decided he didn't like reality! There are far more serious cases with people that have disabilities and mental disorders that need support. None of his reasons managed to convince me but I support his idea to see a psychiatrist, yet makes an excuse not to go because his parents don't want to. At what point will he start talking responsibility?

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

If the situation was such that the genders were reversed, there'd be an outcry from feminists who would DEMAND public funding (taxpayer money) to "help" these women. Mainstream media would paint these females in a more sympathetic light and would not admonish them as "lazy, good-for-nothings" like they do for male hikikomori.

Misandrists.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Everybody has gotta work and put some of their earnings into the pot. You don't work...you certainly don't get no free money.

This guy has life too easy. Nobody likes getting up at 6am on a cold winters day to go to work. But we do it.

People who have real disabilities be it physical or mental have my sympathy. I was in a dark place once. But... you must see a doctor and get the help you need.

This guy is able but just not willing. Blames everyone but himself.

Workshy...no sympathy here.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Older hikikomori?

They’re just older versions of the selfish,lazy younger hikikomori.

this guy was went to university on his parents money. Didn’t want to wear a suit..... now he criticizes his parents for not taking him to a psychiatrist.

And the welfare officials for not coming more often.

Here’s a solution.

Tell him that the welfare check stops tomorrow unless he goes every week to pick it up and has to join a group session.

He’ll be miraculously cure.

Why are there so many in Japan?

because mommy lets them stay in their room and makes meals for them.

Mor they just get their welfare money.

and a guy like Ikeida would be too proud to get a menial job.

ill bet you any money that if you talked with this guy he’d debate you on any subject and tell you what an idiot everyone is.

ive talked with too many of these people to have sympathy - and don’t bash me unless you have.

Life is tough. It’s hard getting dressed and wearing a suit and dealing with people you don’t get in with..

but most do.

If it’s just that this guy doesn’t like talking with people, offer him a job where he doesn’t meet people - night cleaning.

He wont take it.

Why?

the answer is not hard

-7 ( +14 / -21 )

How dare you people criticize those who are criticizing those who have troubles. How dare you.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

Cut off their welfare checks, mom's cooking and dad7s money, and these hikikomoro parasites will have to come out of their lairs and interact. Japan is too soft.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

He desperately wants to recover and has asked his parents several times to accompany him to a psychiatrist but they refused.

Go alone then.

-13 ( +4 / -17 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites