Battlepanda: Modern day hermits


Always trying to figure things out with the minimum of bullshit and the maximum of belligerence.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Modern day hermits

What a sad, disturbing phenomenon.
Like Takeshi and Shuichi, Y.S. suffered from a problem known in Japan as hikikomori, which translates as "withdrawal" and refers to a person sequestered in his room for six months or longer with no social life beyond his home. (The word is a noun that describes both the problem and the person suffering from it and is also an adjective, like "alcoholic.") Some hikikomori do occasionally emerge from their rooms for meals with their parents, late-night runs to convenience stores or, in Takeshi's case, once-a-month trips to buy CD's. And though female hikikomori exist and may be undercounted, experts estimate that about 80 percent of the hikikomori are male, some as young as 13 or 14 and some who live in their rooms for 15 years or more.[snip]

Fujiwara says that urban Japanese parents lead increasingly isolated lives - removed from the extended family and tight-knit communities of previous generations - and simply don't know how to teach their children to communicate and negotiate relationships with peers.

In other societies the response from many youths would be different. If they didn't fit into the mainstream, they might join a gang or become a Goth or be part of some other subculture. But in Japan, where uniformity is still prized and reputations and outward appearances are paramount, rebellion comes in muted forms, like hikikomori. Any urge a hikikomori might have to venture into the world to have a romantic relationship or sex, for instance, is overridden by his self-loathing and the need to shut his door so that his failures, real or perceived, will be cloaked from the world. "Japanese young people are considered the safest in the world because the crime rate is so low," Saito said. "But I think it's related to the emotional state of people. In every country, young people have adjustment disorders. In Western culture, people are homeless or drug addicts. In Japan, it's apathy problems like hikikomori." [snip]

"I don't have anything I want to do," he said. "That's why I'm in this trouble. I missed the chance. I was in graduate school while most people were getting jobs. If I'd gone to work it would have been good."

Hiroshi didn't say why working would have been better or why it was too late at age 26 to start a career. He said only that he wouldn't leave the house "until I know exactly what I want to do." It was typical hikikomori thinking: better to stay in your room than risk venturing into the world and failing.