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First government survey of hikikomori (japantimes.co.jp)
137 points by Ultramanoid 87 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Funny how everyone’s response is always to suggest therapy or medication and never to question whether the society people are escaping from is one worth participating in.

Right? Diversity in aspiration and life experience tends to be tolerated iff its within a publicly accepted manner.

The man living happily wired into the net meeting his financial obligations and not breaking any law is fine in my eyes.

Sometimes the net is preferable to the available versions of meatspace

If those people would support themself they wouldn't be seen as a big problem. But as long as they are just a burden, society will be cautious.

It' doesn't matter whether someone participate activly with society, as long as they benefiting from it, they are a part of it.

my observation on suicide prevention too

people genuinely believe they are being empathic, but copy and pasting "prevention resources" isn't getting close to what people are going through

It's interesting what the sense of a direct translation of hikikomori implies. Original form is (if you have the font)


The first two characters imply someone who is dragged along and the second two refer to a nursemaid suggesting nursemaid-ing someone who doesn't want to be here. Not in defense of any such defeatist behavior but there is the question of how (and possibly why) would you impose measures to counteract that mindset if individuals and their support context are comfortable with it?

The second half of the word (the "komori" part) is not written 子守 but rather 籠り, which means "to isolate oneself".

The 引き part is less "dragged along" in this context and more "pull away from," so the literal meaning is "to pull away from (society) and isolate oneself."

Side note: according to EDICT:

引きこもり [ひきこもり] (n) (1) shut-in, stay-at-home, hikikomori, people

引きずる [ひきずる] (v5r,vt) (1) to drag along, to pull, (2) to force someone along, (3) to prolong, to drag out, (4) to influence strongly, to seduce, (P)

子守 [こもり] (n,vs) (1) nursemaid, nanny, babysitter, (2) child-minding

But starting from [ひきこもり] ambiguities are possible.

It's extremely difficult to find those around me with similar interests who actually have anything approaching 'spare time'.

Additionally, it's very difficult to be interesting without a diverse set of different friends and experiences to be the bridge between. As a 'natural leaf node' I find that I've been the first to get culled when others contract or otherwise shift their time allocations for higher priority slots in their lives.

The transaction cost of visiting friends is also affected by the size of metro areas, traffic/lack of good transit meshes, and the insane cost of housing. It often isn't worth leaving a small, opportunity isolated, corner of suburbia to meet someone else if it's going to take an hour or more one way for each trip; particularly if that's during 'rush hour' traffic hell.

Today's war for attention is insanity fueled by ad revenue and I feel like everyone's a looser in this war.

Do we have any statistics from other countries?

The numbers given in the article suggest about 1% of the Japanese population are hikikomori, that seems, at first glance, quite common.

In the West many of those with the hikikomori traits are medicated under anxiety and depression. Japan does not have the same mental health processes we have here.

I wonder which way is better for the people living with a predisposition to reclusive behavior. Is medication to allow these people to integrate with the rest of society better or worse for their well-being than having them live alone?

I like to imagine people who take medication for social anxieties do so because they managed to get themselves to a doctor and ask for such, then willingly continue to take the medication of their own volition.

Howber, now that I’ve wtitten that it occurs to me there may be expectations in a culture that are difficult to see from within.

They don't live alone and are unable to live alone. Someone must bring them food, cook for them and otherwise pay bills. Also, they do not report high hapiness.

I'd imagine it would be correlated almost 1:1 with unemployment statistics, which are very well documented.

it must have been, but with the internet remote activities have diversified enough to allow to have what would qualify as part time job without leaving the room/house.

For instance blogging, affiliate ads, game streaming, youtube ads, etc.

This might not a big part of the pie, but it’s not 0 either.

In the article they state that people that are hikikomori don't have a job. I would assume that if you are a content creator with income that stays at home all day you would be left out of the study.

I think as a large scale societal issue, we are about to see a lot more gatekeeping where modern, microtransaction, power-law distribution of revenue income streams don't really mean anything financially, but will disqualify participants from help and assistance to "save program money". If you amazon turk'd once for $2 total, you have a "job" so no help with medical care for you, etc.

Its likely the way the market will "fight" modern gig economy business models is by weaponizing socialized support systems. If you ever uber and make $5 or get $50 from admob annual income for a youtube channel, you're "a rich self employed small businessperson" with substantial legal and taxation reporting requirements and an official "job" so no college student loans for you, no food stamps, etc. Fight the business model by drying up the supply. If the only people doing mturk, uber, or recording youtube content are either dirt poor or independently wealthy, that will eliminate that segment of the marketplace via lack of supply. The income from gig economy isn't enough to live, so survival will dictate abandonment of the gig economy. The legacy marketplace players have a large financial motivation to implement something like this. I don't think taxi drivers or legacy TV network execs will oppose shenanigans that wipe out the gig economy.

The japanese article has a definition of how they labelled people.


It’s still pretty vague, my rough translation: “people who didn’t participate in social activities, like school or work for more than 6 months”.

Also it’s stressed that this time they didn’t automatically remove at home spouses, and they were flagged as hikikomori if they had almost no interaction outside of their family.

I wouldn’t surprised if blogging or content creating on the net would be excluded from “social participation” or not seen as communication in general.

There are European countries with 5%, 10%, 15% unemployment numbers. It'd be insane if they had that percentage of completely recluse population. And they obviously don't.

He said 1:1 correlated, not 1:1 equal. I.e. if for the sake of argument one in five unemployed are shut-ins but nearly no employed people are, then you have a good starting point to estimate populations.

Unemployment of the youth in Spain is at >33% now.

Interesting, I would have assumed no correlation with unemployment statistics.

Almost by definition, you can't be hikikomori if you're employed. So there's at least that.

The most common unemployment statistics only include people actively seeking employment. Since you'd 1) be actually willing to work and 2) have to interact with strangers to go on job interviews, it that wouldn't be considered a hikkomori.

Unemployed almost never includes retired people and 36.2% of those surveyed cited retirement as a trigger for social withdraw.

True, although I would have thought they fell outside the definition of unemployed as well as they aren’t seeking work.

Strange that Japan considers older recluse becoming more common than younger recluses a new development. That is the opposite of the stereotype on the West, where the "old hermit" is a longstanding archetype.

I always have the "mouse utopia" experiment in the back of my mind when I read this kind of story...

I think about this too. For those who don't know the reference, I recommend reading [1].

What happened is that Dr. John Calhoun made a series of increasingly large "utopias" for mice and rats. Mice were fed, kept warm, and placed in a controlled area where there were no predators. After a bit, the mice begin to thrive and expand. But after a while things start to go astray in ways that are unexpected and a bit strange. And ultimately the population collapses and completely dies out --- even in utopia.

[1]: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-doomed-mouse-utopi...

Since we're talking about Japan, the 2003 anime Texhnolyze had Behavioral Sinks at its conceptual core.




Mental health has become far too medicalised in the west in the interest of multiple large entities (including but not limited to the pharma mafia), so your vision of Japan might be influenced by your standards for mental health.

Worth pointing out is that the mental health issues are only the symptom and not the cause, the cause should be adressed first rather than the symptoms.

Treatment for mental health involves more than just medication, for any program worth its salt. My current treatment includes weekly group therapy, weekly individual therapy, and weekly mindfulness class, in addition to medication. All of this together has completely changed my life over the past six months, to the point I'm actually about to be able to seek employment in programming again (sincere thanks for the fantastic healthcare for people in poverty, Massachusetts!).

Too medicalized compared to what? Is there strong evidence of other approaches delivering superior outcomes on a cost adjusted basis? I know CBT has been shown to work well for some patients with some conditions, but it isn't effective for everyone.

How do you determine the root causes to be addressed?

As an example, maybe instead of giving kids speed so they can concentrate we might admit that being forced to sit in a room all day with less and less recess is actually quite boring.

You could say some mental health issues are symptoms of underlying social/cultural issues. Since the latter are difficult to diagnose and heal, it's up to the individuals to cope and adapt to the "sick" mental environment.

No treatment and just letting it as it is does not sound superior to western approach.

I did not say otherwise.

Or, you know, Japan has the right idea, treating these people are normal but reclusive, and the US sees their own as "sick" to sell them all kinds of drugs and processes.

Not to mention in the US many of these would have ended up on the streets...

The first step to solve a problem is to acknowledge there is a problem.

What makes you so sure they're due to mental health issues? If I could chose to play video games all day instead of working, I probably would.

Try it out. It can be somewhat okay the first year. Never heard of anyone making it through three years and still enjoying it.

I mean, you go for variety. There are countless games / type of games to choose from. You can also watch shows/films/educational content. Read interesting stuff on social media / hn. So many different interesting ways to spend your time. And online communities can give you the bit of social validation you need without being productive to society or justifying aspects of yourself.

To me the bigger cause of not enjoying it was/is external life getting back at you, notably worries about the future. I don't want to go to far into personal details, but I enjoyed it long enough to be confident I could indefinitely, if our society would be supporting it. This might be fine for a "robots do all the work" kind of future, but I have my doubts about UBI.

Anyway, after some point you most definitively want help to get out. As for mental health, there are probably reasons that made you retreat, but it likely caused new issues as well. But that's just one part of a well functioning support network.

I think it's more the "not interacting with others" part that's unhealthy, not the "not working outside the home" part. We don't consider, for example, stay at home parents to have a problem, nor do we consider retired people.

playing video games all day long is probably just to fulfill a deeper need for something else.

Which country are you from and what qualifies you to criticize Japan I wonder?

I'm more curious as to why one would need a particular qualification in order to criticize Japan.

I’m from US and live in Japan. I know first hand about the lack of availability of mental health services and even the basic acknowledgment of depression as an issue that requires treatment. I would wager a large majority of these recluses are suffering from treatable depression.

Oh, there is acknowledgement that it needs to be treated alright. Especially by those who suffer it, counterintuitive as it sounds.

It's the basis for the wildly successful and profitable "mental clinic" franchise business. There is one of those ( or two, or three, or four ) in front of every train station in Tokyo. For those who don't know Japan, take a look at a train map of Greater Tokyo and count stations, just for fun. You'll be doing that for a while. Then multiply the number by 2 or 4 to get to the number of "mental clinics".

Those are little more than drug dispensers run by legally authorized pimps with no medical expertise of any kind or a psychiatrist or psychologist anywhere on the premises, but anyone ( and millions do ) can "treat" their anxiety, depression, or insomnia, with half a dozen prescriptions a month. For good measure, they make sure to book appointments weekly in both the clinic near home and also the one near work. And maybe have a third one as backup.

What's needed is proper mental health services, on that you're spot on. And as another comment points out, to erase the stigma of suffering a mentall illness, so people don't use alcohol or these vending machine style clinics with no oversight to treat themselves.

That it is a problem and it needs to be treated everyone's perfectly aware of.

Easy to explain, Japanese deny themselves the right to be weak, they are all supposed to be samurai. Same as in Russia, you are supposed to be a Communist hero whatever happens, mental health issues, especially among men, are as if don't exist there - guys just 'fix' themselves with vodka when they have to, or with suicide if vodka doesn't help anymore. In Russia people can't become hikikomori en masse just because the country is poor so their parents won't be able to feed them - and also because they have same hero mentality so would just beat the crap out of their kids if they tried to lock themselves up in their rooms.

Also, on the good side, in Russia there are much fewer social obligations before people. As in Japan, if you didn't get a college degree to become a salaried employee in a huge company, you are fucked and no one respects you. In Russia, you can do a lot of things and with vast majority population being dirt poor and apathetic, social standards of what constitutes 'successful enough' are very low - some kid who dropped out of college to make $1500 on Upwork writting crappy PHP code at the age of 30 is a success story and his parents are proud of him - in Japan he would be a hikikomori because it would be a total shame to be in that state.

You are getting downvoted for some reason but you are right, in fact this problem and this attitude is present in almost all countries from post-soviet block [0] Men are not allowed to be 'weak' and any display of it is usually ridiculed by society

[0] https://jakubmarian.com/suicide-rates-by-country-in-europe/

With the added problem of the very strong stigma in japan against mental health issues which means that most would be very unlikely to consult.

I don't have any first hand experience but I have several Japanese friends that got diagnosed with mental illness or depression and given paid months off work by doctor's recommendation, something I'm not aware of in the USA

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