Hikikomori

Hikikomori (ひきこもり – 引き篭り) is a Japanese term used to refer to the social isolation that many young Japanese suffer because they are afraid to start living by themselves in the real world. The ones who suffer this syndrome stay at home and spend their time sleeping, watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Internet. Usually they are adolescents who are worried about the high adult competitiveness in Japanese society, they refuse to become adults, stop studying and “decide” to isolate themselves at home.

This phenomenon was first identified in Japan, but it’s spreading to other societies where high competitiveness rules the system like Korea. Korea is a country where everyone “fights” in order to be accepted in the best universities, and once you enter in a good university your life is solved because you will be hired by a “good” company when you graduate. Psychologists studying the “hikikomori” phenomenon blame “super-capitalism” and a extreme meritocratic education system as the root of the problem. But why there are not “hikikomori” in the USA? Maybe because there is an excess of amae in Japan, would a family in the USA pamper their children to stay at home 24 hours a day during months? I don’t think so.

I’ve met Japanese and also not Japanese 😉 who really like to be at home, are not very social, spend 90% of their weekends at home and don’t do anything but watching movies during holidays. But that’s not ‘hikikomori’, that’s just being antisocial; to be considered as ‘hikikomori’ syndrome it has to be ALL THE time at home during months and even years. Having a ‘hikikomori’ in your family is not well seen, is like having some kind of curse and neighbors usually talk about it.

Better than my “blahblahblah” if you are really interested in ‘hikikomori’ you should watch Tamago, is a movie about a hikikomori’s life and his parents shame. If you are a Densha Otoko fan one of the protagonists friends is a hikikomori, and in Ikebukuro West Gate Park one of the protagonist’s brother is recovering from a hikikomori problem. By the way, if you have never seen Ikebukuro West Gate Park you should, is not about hikikomori 😉

Hikikomoris problem is real, but is VERY EXAGGERATED by the media. A psychologist called Tamaki Saito said that there are more than one million hikikomoris in Japan (Everyone was alarmed when this number was made public and it became world news). But Tamaki Saito confessed afterwards that he just made the number to call everyone’s attention about the problem, there are ‘only’ thousands of hikikomoris in Japan.

10 Comments
  • hendrik

    August 1, 2007 at 6:02 am

    i prefer going out with my friend and have fun. as i;m getting bored staying home, watching DVD, play game, and else.
    this is a good post

  • David-M-

    August 1, 2007 at 6:06 am

    I know about this problem because I have read the manga “NHK”, the main character is a Hikikomori !
    I think it is closed to the agoraphobia, but maybe Internet and his possibilyties increase this phenomenon, staying at home but staying “connected” with others…

  • Peter

    August 1, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Yeah, the “NHK ni Youkoso” anime is also how I got to know hikkikomori and NEETs. It gives a very good perspective on their situation. Of how they are actually terrified of going outside and walking in places where there are a lot of people.
    But I can imagine that the media exagerates it…

  • AS

    August 1, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    Wow, only thousands lol ^-^.

  • alafista

    August 5, 2007 at 7:48 pm

    I learnt about hikikomoris in my Japanese Studies classes. My professor also said its impossible to have 1million of them since that would mean having 1million households. In that case, it would already been a very noticeble phenomenon.

  • […] If you’re that hopeless you can probably still get a girlfriend through World of Warcraft. Juno scribe Diablo Cody met her husband on the internet. It’s the 21st century man, even hikikomories are getting laid just by clicking some buttons. […]

  • tom

    May 22, 2008 at 4:46 am

    That’s not true, hikikomoris exist in Western countries too!
    I read an article that they must be at least several thousands in the US.
    Except they’re not called hikomoris but shut-ins or hermits.
    I read postings by people (westerners) that said they lived shut in for 10,20 or 30 years. So it’s definitely not exlcuse to East-Asia.

    Except the media don’t talk about them and prefer to relay the vastly exagerrated news about hikikomori from the Japanese media…

  • tom

    May 22, 2008 at 4:49 am

    Also, Saito said most Hikikomoris are males, but when NHK conducted a survey, they found out an euqal ratio fo male and females hikikomoris.

    And the reasons cited depend on the individuals, some shut in because they were bullied or other reasons, just going out scares them, it’s not always a rebel gesture.

  • the draco

    June 22, 2010 at 5:34 pm

    I wasn’t aware this was a forum to talk about what you do on a day to day basis -__-
    I find it sort of silly that someone actually said there were a million hikikomori living in Japan when the number is actually in the thousands. He must have really wanted to bring the public’s attention to the issue, but I’m not sure that such an idea is really all that beneficial.

  • Shin

    June 22, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I know this is an old post, but the current estimate of hikikomori sufferers in Japan (reported cases) are 1.6 million and 1.3million of them are people in their 30s