Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Japanese Have a Word for It: "Hikikomori"

Michael Zielenziger's book, Shutting Out the Sun, describes a strange social phenomenon peculiar to Japan, but not to Western nations or even other Asian countries.

"More than one million young adults shut themselves in their rooms for years as a time. These adolescents and adults, known as "hikikomori", withdraw from societies for months or years at a time, not going to class, not working, not even leaving their homes, and often not even abandoning their rooms. These recluses become wholly dependent on their mothers to feed them....

"...Hiro a 26 year old, had locked himself in his room for seven years after being ridiculed by peers in his junior high school. He described to me his life as a hikikomori. Kenji, 36 years-old, had been alone in his room for almost two decades before he agreed to meet with me. He was unwilling to come out, unable to work or go to school or even sneak off to a movie. These men rarely even talk to their mothers, who leave hot meals at the bedroom door.

"These social isolates also account for much of the domestic violence in Japan, because frustrated, isolated men beat up their parents. These men are shut down and shut out of a Japanese society that demands a harsh and confining social order even as the new global architecture of commerce and media demands more individual autonomy, more self expression and ultimately more freedom for adults to shape their own destinies."

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