Written by on December 27, 2018


The answer to that question is yes.

For those of you like4 me who have never heard of this word, hikikomori is a Japanese psychological & social phenomenon affecting up to 2 million people who withdraw from society, hiding in their house or room for months or years at a time. From what I understand, it affects mostly men, but there are instances where it affects women as well.

I accidentally came upon a documentary of this condition as I was flipping channels on my television. What caught my attention was the subtitle of the documentary, “Japan’s Vanishing People.” The documentary focused on several individuals.

The first was Masahito Kanzaki, who is 39. He became a hikikomori in 2006. Kanzaki lays in bed all day playing video games. He explained that it was the constant teasing of young people who rejected him. Kanzaki said they would call him names as they walked past him. He not only became frightened of young people but as society as a whole.

The second person interviewed was Yuta Sato, who is 40. Sato revealed he became a hikikomori in the summer of his senior year in college. Yuta claims that the sounds coming from the apartment next door frightened him so much that he moved back to his parent’s home and stayed there since. He was diagnosed with extreme social phobia.

The third person that was featured was an elderly man, whom I felt extremely sorry for. His name was Yoshihito Sasaki. He looked like he was in his late 60s to early 70s. Mr. Sasaki is not a hikikomori but his youngest son, Junya, was. Sasaki lost his son from the massive earthquake and tsunami Japan suffered in 2011. Junya had been a hikikomori for about ten years at the time. Mr. Sasaki, his wife, and his eldest son all tried to get Junya to evacuate with them when the tsunami sirens were going off, but they couldn’t persuade him to leave. Junya knew of the upcoming danger and didn’t care. He was too frightened to evacuate. By the time Junya’s family had no choice but to evacuate without him, it was too late to leave by car. The tsunami ended up killing Junya and his mother. His mother at the time was extremely reluctant to abandon Junya, even though her husband and her eldest son finally persuaded her. From his photos and the way Mr. Sasaki described Junya, I had this sneaking suspicion that Junya was bullied for being LGBTQ.

In Tokyo, there is a building called “The Youth Rehabilitation Center,” to assist young people afflicted with hikikomori. The Head Counselor, Futa Mitsuhashi explained, “When you are so isolated in your home for so long, having simple interactions can become a daunting task. So, at this facility, we not only teach practical skills but improve communication skills. The goal is for them to gain confidence and practice relating to others. We help reclusive youth become more independent and employable. In Japanese culture, it is shameful to expose family affairs to the public. Seeking help from others because of your child being a recluse would become an embarrassment. This makes the home an even more isolated environment. These cultural aspects may be affecting the state of hikikomori in Japan.

One hikikomori being housed in the facility expressed, “Anyone can face the danger of becoming a hikikomori, because once you experience failure, it’s scary to rechallenge yourself, especially in Japan, where there is little support for those who have failed.”

Listening to some of these folks afflicted with hikikomori, I wondered what they think will happen to them when their parents pass away.

It sure seems from listening to some of these folks; Japan has established a culture of hikikomori. But not fitting in with mainstream’s society mold of a responsible adult, then, I would think that becoming a hikikomori is just not a Japanese thing.

With the threat of gun violence in places one would never have imagined in the past, internet bullying, LGBTQ hatred, racism, bigotry, misogyny, propaganda passing off as legitimate news, etc… I would imagine the phenomenon of hikikomori would not just be isolated to the country of Japan. The atmosphere of today would make this affliction ripe for anyone in any country to have, I would think.

According to the end of the documentary, numerous cases of hikikomori have been diagnosed and reported in Hong Kong, South Korea, India, Oman, Italy, Spain, and the United States.

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