T Nation

Japanese Men Refusing to Leave their Rooms


#1

Cortes and I were discussing this a bit in his thread, but it deserves it's own post:

Hikikomori: Why are so many Japanese men refusing to leave their rooms?

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?

For Hide, the problems started when he gave up school.

"I started to blame myself and my parents also blamed me for not going to school. The pressure started to build up," he says.

"Then, gradually, I became afraid to go out and fearful of meeting people. And then I couldn't get out of my house."

Gradually, Hide relinquished all communication with friends and eventually, his parents. To avoid seeing them he slept through the day and sat up all night, watching TV.

"I had all kinds of negative emotions inside me," he says. "The desire to go outside, anger towards society and my parents, sadness about having this condition, fear about what would happen in the future, and jealousy towards the people who were leading normal lives."

Hide had become "withdrawn" or hikikomori.

In Japan, hikikomori, a term that's also used to describe the young people who withdraw, is a word that everyone knows.


#2

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#3

Eden of the East painted a better picture than I realized


#4

Thats hilarious


#5

Other than a little housekeeping and the number for a high-end escort service, what more could you want?


#6

That guy must have at least, 80 level 80 WOW characters.


#7

Japan is very much centered on honor and duty, even still today. In ancient Japan (and sometimes still today) people would commit suicide to forego shame of both themselves and their family. This is similar, although not nearly as harsh. These people are choosing to become recluses because they don't want to embarass their families by being seen in public.

People in Japan are especially shy. Women go many years without marriage because they wait for guys to approach them. Guys are distracted by other things (like anime, I'm not kidding here) and are even more shy than the girls. As a result, its tough for people to meet. The culture is very, very introverted.

Look up the suicide forest on youtube. I can't do that here at work. Its a place at the base of Mount Fuji that people who feel shamed will go to end their lives. Usually via hanging, but some starve, or just disappear in the woods. Its sad, but there is a lot of pressure in Japan to be successful. Many companies expect a very great deal from their employees - working 14 - 16 hours every day, etc. The people here work very hard, the younger generation is becoming more rebellious to this whole theme, but overall its still the same.


#8

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#9

As I posted in the other thread, we've got it happening here in the States, too. My agency has had a couple pop up, though I've never been directly involved. All boys.

Overly permissive and enabling parents/caregivers + kids with mental health as well as social issues + video games = the above. It's very, very sad.


#10

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#11

Chushin, I'm not being argumentative by the following question, just honestly curious, where am I off-base?

Perhaps it is only based on my experience, but the folks I know here in Japan are very shy and intro-verted, many women in their 30's still single and wanting to be married, and families do put a lot of weight on men's shoulders - especially first-borns to represent the family.

To answer your second question, 7 months.

Edit: Oh and to your third question. I can read hiragana and katakana. I speak some, but its more grammatical Japanese, not common Japanese (ie the lingo is different). I can usually understand people if they speak slowly enough but get lost if they speak too fast or use large sentences. Both happen quite often.


#12

I don't want to read too much into Chushin's question, but I believe the reason he asked you about your Japanese ability is that Japanese is an extremely nuanced language, with circumlocution practically built in. The thing is, without being able to speak deeply with your Japanese acquaintances in their native language, it's going to be very difficult to understand who they are in real life. In other words, who they are when you don't see them through a filter of their English, or your inexpert Japanese.

I hate to sound critical, but your assessment of Japanese society sounds very cliched; like something, in fact, written by someone who had read a little something about "traditional Japanese society", and had seen enough to comment from a gaijin's perspective to other gaijin who dont know anything about the place but what they've seen on TV, but hadn't lived in the country long enough, or learned the language or culture thoroughly enough, to understand the trees, let alone see the forest.


#13

I understand that Varq. I also understand that many Japanese do not speak directly, but in generalities. For example, a Japanese person will never actually say 'no' to a question, its impolite. I've been studying the Japanese culture for some time, its always been an interest and why I took this assignment.

I do however not claim to know the culture better than someone who is married to a Japanese woman. I have had the pleasure/benefit of spending the past four years with a manager/mentor/close friend, who lived in Japan for 8 years and is married to a Japanese woman - they taught me a lot of what I know. Its second-hand, but is a good source.

Edit: I don't waste my time learning from TV, anime, or what most "cool kids" do to understand a foreign culture that's trendy. There is a reason why I've already developed good relationships with my colleagues and the other "gaijin" who is also here on assignment is still out in the cold when it comes to that aspect. Most know it takes a long long time to build a relationship with the Japanese people and for them to open up to you, I've already experienced some of that. Like I said, if I am incorrect, please inform me, I am willing to learn and don't claim to be an expert. And what I posted is true, at least in the generation I work with regularly (40+) and my perspective of the younger generation I spend my weekends with (mid-20's).


#14

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#15

I live in Chiba-shi, so the east side of Tokyo Bay. I am always willing to learn, but I wanted to get the point across also, that I'm not just some kid who watched a lot of anime and read a book once, I've known a few Japanese people and those with a few decades experience also being married to a Japanese person - and her family - to build upon what I know. I've also had the pleasure of getting to know a half African American - Japanese fellow here who has also shared his experiences with me and that is what I based my information on.

I won't pretend to know as much as those actually living day to day and more than likely fully a part of the Japanese culture, but I offered opinion based on the fact that I do have some experience. As I was recently commented as being long-winded, I didn't want to get into gritty details for reasons why I stated each of the things I did. My input was based on my experiences and considering I was one of the few living here (that I knew of) I assumed that qualified me to offer some input, all based on personal experiences with the actual people.

I will defer to you folks to make the analysis from this point forward, I will simply follow along to continue to learn.


#16

I don't mean to imply that you got the bulk of your information from manga or TV, just that I can see a lot of why you wrote being taken at face value by people who do.

I am no athropologist, sociologist or ethnologist. I went to Japan with very similar stereotypical ideas as the ones you wrote about above. I had studied language and culture, and had read Reichauer and van Wolferen, so I thought I was pretty well informed.

What I found over the next two decades, after having gained a fluency in the language, and a facility with the cultural nuances, and having spent a lot of time with a wide variety of people, from business men to graphic designers, from long-haired rock and rollers to tattooed yakuza thugs, from jieitai officers to surfers, hippies, and the PTA, is that you just can't say that "Japanese people are (blank)" any more than you can say that Americans are (blank). Although there is a lot more racial homogeneity in Japan than in the US, it is not culturally or societally homogeneous at all.

If you're still in Japan ten years from now, it will be interesting to compare your observations then with what you wrote just a little while ago.


#17

Chiba, huh?

I lived in Chiba Prefecture for most of my time there. Ichikawa mostly, though I did live in Tsukiji for a while. If you like the ocean, hit the Pacific side of the peninsula. Down south around Katsuura is magnificent.


#18

My assignment is only for two years. My manager has offered/requested I stay full-term though, so I do know if I wanted to stay I could. I doubt my family back home would enjoy that very much.

You are correct that people are different here like everywhere else, and especially the younger generation they are striking out even more and defining new groups. I only tried to work in generalizations seeing as people wanted the general idea of the culture. All of my interaction has been with business people at this point, different careers but all that "level" of society.

I unfortunately do not speak well enough to make friends with the common folk easily and for as friendly as Japanese seem to be, the younger folks I've interacted with have seemed to lose interest or become frustrated if my Japanese can't keep up with theirs and aren't as willing to speak English. Though, I stay out of the international hubs like Roppongi, because I don't care to much for that scene.

I will have to give those places a look, thanks for the input. I passed through Ichikawa last night coming home from Shinagawa, though never actually visited. I'm hoping after two years, if that's all the longer I stay, I'll even have a better perspective of the culture/people.


#19

Totally agree with Chushin here. The Hikikomori guys are about as far from the Samurai ideal/Bushido as one can possibly get. If anything, this is the pendulum swung all the way back in the opposite direction.


#20

This right here tells me you still have a lot, a LOT to learn. And I'm not talking about your lack of language skills.

Chushin knows exactly what I mean.