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Saturday, January 14, 2006

Japan's secluded hikikomori youth

The NYTimes on Japanese young men who enter extended seclusion:
After years of being bullied at school and having no friends, Y.S., who asked to be identified only by his initials, retreated to his room at age 14, where he watched TV, surfed the Internet and built model cars -- for 13 years. When he finally left his room one April afternoon last year, he had spent half of his life as a shut-in.

Like Takeshi and Kiyohara, 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.") ...

As a hikikomori ages, the odds that he'll re-enter the world decline... One result is a new underclass of young men who cannot or will not join the full-time working world...

Rental sisters are often a hikikomori's first point of contact and his route back to the outside world. (There are a few rental brothers, too, but "women are softer, and hikikomori respond better to them," one counselor said.)

The article says that a crucial ingredient of this phenomenon is that "school refusal" is widespread and somewhat acceptable in Japan. If I didn't have to go to school, I wonder if I might have slipped into seclusion around age 13? All my childhood, I preferred reading books and playing Nintendo to seeing friends.


Blogger Anna on Sat Jan 14, 02:50:00 PM:
I'm sure someone would have hooked you up with a rental sister before your case advanced too far.
Blogger Ben on Sun Jan 15, 09:38:00 AM:
"Rental sister":
1. great band name
2. super cool phrase to print on a t-shirt
3. Actually Anna, when I was 13 my mom actually did hire a Harvard student for one afternoon to hang out with me and play sports because I was depressed and didn't want to see any friends. To my horror, that student was later hired to tutor me and two other guys in math (because our school's math was too easy and we wanted to learn more), but he played it cool like we'd never met before. I can't figure out if it would have been better for her to hire a woman, or if it would have freaked me out.