4 July 2013 Last updated at 19:21 ET
Hikikomori: Why are so many Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?
By William Kremer and Claudia Hammond BBC World Service
Link to article
As many as a million young people in Japan are thought to remain holed up in their homes – sometimes for decades at a time. Why?
(h/t Barry Hammond)
The article describes what it set out to find, but it addresses the other side of the issue like this, and make sure not to miss it:
What about the girls?
[Photo of an unhappy Asian girl]
- Hikikomori are seen as predominantly male – Tamaki Saito says males occupy 70%- 80% of the group
- However, an internet survey by NHK found just 53% to be male
- Andy Furlong at the University of Glasgow speculates that female withdrawal into the home seems so natural to Japanese society that women hikikomori may remain unreported>>>
What is the truth? For one thing, who is NHK? (The article mentions “NHK” twice but fails to explain what the abbreviation stands for.) Secondly, Internet surveys are not statistically-valid survey tools, at best very imprecise; they are self-selecting and represent sample populations that are not randomly selected. That means that no statistically-valid projections can be made from such surveys to a whole population.
There is a wide range in the estimates for boys and men offered, substantiated by — as far as I can tell — two anecdotes. Statements such as “Hikikomori are seen as predominantly male – Tamaki Saito says males occupy 70%- 80% of the group,” without identifying what comprises the “group,” are not very helpful with establishing the dimensions of the issue.
Given the anecdotal evidence observed by my wife and me here in Canada (and we never made even an attempt to formally study the issue here or anywhere else), we are led to believe that the problem could be as prevalent in Canada as it is in Japan, except that perhaps no one has yet bothered to investigate whether the problem exists here, let alone report on it.
I grant that the problem exists but am not convinced as to how prevalent it is, that it is a uniquely Japanese issue, or that anyone can state with any acceptable degree of confidence what its global distribution or trends are. Seven billion people have not been studied sufficiently well to permit the conclusion that what the article describes deviates from a global norm.
Take note of another side-bar:
Hikikomori – just a Japanese thing?
[Photo of a man and his son arguing]
- Hikikomori has entered the Oxford English Dictionary as “In Japan: abnormal avoidance of social contact”
- But Saito Tamaki believes it is also a problem in Korea and Italy
- After a 2002 BBC documentary, Saito received a flurry of emails from British parents who said their children were in a similar condition
- Andy Furlong points out that young people in Western societies frequently “take time out” in gap years or have “false starts” on careers or courses without attracting stigma
- He adds that the preconditions for a hikikomori-like problem are falling into place in Europe, with 50% youth unemployment in some countries, forcing young people to continue living at home
Well, as I had stated above, Canada is another nation where the problem exists.
Still, I see why the BBC article puts the emphasis on Japan. Someone needed justification to investigate the problem in Japan:
The Truth About Mental Health Episode 6 of 6
Duration: 29 minutes
First broadcast: Friday 05 July 2013
In Japan hundreds of thousands of young people withdraw from society for years or even decades.
They are known as hikikomori and Claudia Hammond travels to Tokyo to discover more about this mysterious condition and why it is so prevalent in Japan. [My emphasis --WHS]
With a few more articles on Japan’s epidemic of hikikomori, the BBC should be able to get enough funding to send a few more of its staff to Japan to study the issue in-situ — never mind that the problem exists elsewhere, even right at home, and could be studied there far more economically. Still, that would require common sense, and it is my impression that the BBC lost just about all of that a long time ago, but that is to be expected, given a practically open-ended budget funded out of the virtually inexhaustible pockets of the taxpayers.
Sure enough, here is a link to another BBC article on the epidemic of hikikomori.
Hikikomori is being presented as a malaise. Individuals afflicted by it are called “patients” and “sufferers” who must be treated with kindness to cure them of their affliction, so as to ease their return to society.
Is it really a disease? Would it not be more accurate to consider it nothing other than simply malingering?
Is it conceivable that hikikomori will be possible for parents who are not sufficiently affluent to be able to feed idle hands or in a society without a welfare system that eagerly jumps to the rescue of those who can but don’t want to work, even if it is nothing more than to pay those who cannot find work?
In a country where the GDP per capita is not more than $500 a year, at least 99 per cent of the population would not dream of indulging hikikomori “sufferers.” It seems reasonable that the problem of hikikomori becomes the more prevalent the more affluent a society becomes, with the highest incidence rates to be found in countries with a GDP per capita of $50,000 or more a year.
Why are some people in the affluent nations surprised that people in less affluent nations and in those with a substantial portion of their population starving hate them? One should not be surprised that the BBC and its staff were to be the least likely to find out about the reason for that. They appear to be “suffering” from hikikomori, as it is obvious that they retreated from society and live in an ivory tower all of their own. Maybe what should be done to cure them of their affliction is nothing other than what any responsible parent should do: stop feeding them, and they will soon come to their senses.
I will come out and say it: Hikikomori is an affliction caused by affluence, a “disease” that only the jaded can afford to acquire.