While doing an image search, I found this article on the topic extremely helpful. I highly reccommend reading it.
Suffice to say, the rest of the world is starting to really pay attention to the phenomenon in Japan called Hikikomori. The reason Hikikomori is extremely rare in the US compared to Japan is primarily cultural. In the US, most parents will not tolerate their adult children isolating themselves in the home indefinitely and more so if they’re not working or in college unless they have a significant health condition. In Japan, Amoe is the reason adult parents of Hikikomori will continue to take care of them.
For those who don’t know, Amoe basically means “No matter how old they are, they are still your kids. You should love and take care for your children always.” Of course, some Japanese parents are (far) more tolerant than others. In some extreme cases, parents will hire people to forcefully remove their Hikikomori child from their bedroom and drag them outside (with disasterous results of course). Some Hikikomori do live on their own, sometimes in an apartment being paid for by their parents. That said, not all Hikikomori are young adults. The overwhelming majority–80%–are young men. There certainly are female Hikikomori but since culturally and historically it’s considered the norm for unmarried women to live with their parents in Japan, they often go unreported as Hikikomori. From what I’ve been reading, almost all Hikikomori live in cities as well.
Hikikomori has become a serious problem in Japan and now quite common. Numbers put Hikikomori at over a million a few years back.
As a reminder, Japan is home to the largest senior population in the world. Most of its aging population is retired, close to retiring or is of age to be retired. Between that and Japan’s merit-based immigration policies, their workforce is in danger of being seriously compromised. No one has been able to figure out a singular reason or cause for the start and continued rising number of Hikikomori. Everyone has a theory of their own.
That includes me:
It means death by overwork in Japanese. It’s a serious problem in Japan and has been for almost 30 years now. On average, over 2,000 people commit suicide in Japan due to severe overwork. This is to aside from those who literally drop dead from a heart attack or stroke directly related to severe overwork. Again, the reason such a thing is so common in Japan is mostly cultural. It’s the norm in any society to want to work hard to earn a raise or promotion. The problem is in Japan, too often many employers exploit their employers and labor ethics commonplace in most of the developed world is not in place in Japan.
Japan is taking some steps to address the problem that is now simultaneously threatening their workforce and economy. One is requiring all employers to give everyone an hour to sleep during the day and requiring non-essential employees to be off the clock after 3PM on the last Friday of the month so they have extra downtime. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who promised to spearhead Labor Reform actually vetoed legislation that would have put limits on how many consecutive hours a week employers were allowed to let their employees work. He vetoed it because the bill did not account for Public Transit employees, who are considered Essential Employees in Japan. For those who might not know, yes Japan does have paid Maternity Leave guaranteed for all (The US doesn’t have this mandated). As a reminder: Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympics.
…Getting back to the main topic now.
It’s hard to believe there isn’t some kind of connection between Karoshi and Hikikomori. Those who are Hikikomori have basically given up on society and isolate themselves as a coping mechanism. Enormous Stress is placed on many of them from the moment they enter their senior year of high school. They’re expected to have a job or college waiting for them by the time they graduate. That’s something those of us in the West can relate to if that was all. The difference is it’s an unwritten graduation requirement to be accepted at a well known college or goo-paying job. Not just for the family but the high school as well. Same with college students in their final year. They are expected to have several job offers waiting for them by the time they graduate and…yeah.
There’s no way these Hikikomori are not aware of Karoshi. They feel like they’re in a lose-lose situation where success is unattainable but giving up in not an option. So, they shut down socially.
The issue of the Hikikomori is being taken very seriously as it should be. Some non-profits, business owners as well as former Hikikomori are putting their heads together to find ways to reintegrate the isolated back into society. One venture that recently made the news worldwide are “professional” girlfriends or boyfriends. In short, families can hire someone for their son or daughter to befriend, fall in love with and spend time with. The idea is to get them to willingly want to get out and back into the world.
In many cases, some non-profits offer job training to Hikikomori who have either been away for years or want a refresher before the start looking for work somewhere. In other cases, former Hikikomori turned business owners offer jobs to recover Hikikomori to help them build confidence. There is a lot of promise and progress but more needs to be done.
…This is my first time writing a blog post that had nothing to do with Anime or Manga but I felt it was too important to not talk about. I definitely plan to write more blogs like this in the future!
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