A million Japanese boys, hiding in their rooms.
October 20, 2002 2:35 AM   Subscribe

A million Japanese boys, hiding in their rooms. I didn't know about this - but then again, by definition, maybe I wouldn't. Domestic hermits aside, I frequently see behavior I'd identify as "borderline mentally ill" slide right under people's radar here in Tokyo, and I'm certain a nihonjin might think the same thing after a year in my hometowns, New York and San Francisco. What culturally-specific form does neurosis take in your neck of the woods?
posted by adamgreenfield (51 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
posted by spazzm at 2:36 AM on October 20, 2002

very spreadout among cultures, even tho culturally based. (i.e. at the most basic, you at least need a culture with access to alcohol) ;)
posted by firestorm at 2:47 AM on October 20, 2002

Early this year I saw a documentary where the director spent several months with a Japanese "hikikomori" sufferer in his 30's who had been living in seclusion in a section of his home for years, and eventually coaxed the guy outside after winning his trust. The guy's mom had been enabling this, leaving his instant ramen packs and such outside his room for years.
posted by planetkyoto at 2:54 AM on October 20, 2002

This post will contain some personal details, so pleaseskip it if that upsets you.

I don't take it to quite the extreme in the article, but I've spent the past two years living in a small one-bedroom apartment, going out only to buy groceries every 2-3 weeks or to fly back to NY for a week every six months (where I behave like a completely normal person). I do contract work on the 'net, I do all the housework and I'm anal about hygiene - but I feel like I can relate to this.

There's nobody out there I really want to talk to. There's nothing outside that door that interests me. When I go out, all I can think about is how much I wish I was back home. I'm fairly good-looking, people tell me I'm a nice guy . . . I'm just not interested is all. I've met up with some IRC friends that really intrigue me in real life and yet still I wish I was back on IRC chatting with them rather than talking with them face to face (perhaps because I can't turn them off in real life?). The entirety of the real world just seems as utterly banal as anything on the television I haven't used in a year. You see a lot of stuff being said on this site about the government not representing the interests of the people, "Not In Our Name", etc. - well, what if you viewed the entire world that way?
posted by Ryvar at 5:14 AM on October 20, 2002

Ryvar, if I say "thanks for sharing," please don't take it as glib - I sincerely mean it. I post the article because I, too, can relate in many ways, it's just that I feel a countervailing (in fact, overbalancing) pressure to go out, be around other primates, that sort of thing...

My girlfriend, reading over my shoulder, points out that she has deep and real hikikomori tendencies herself, but she makes a distinction (as you seem to) between the classic hikikomori, who's hiding, and one who simply chooses to not engage the world.

I'm reminded a little of Steve Buscemi in "Ghost World" - one of the only true notes in that film, IMHO. For many, it seems, the world holds precious little in the way of enticements. The Japanese, as usual, merely take the tendency to an extreme.
posted by adamgreenfield at 5:33 AM on October 20, 2002

What culturally-specific form does neurosis take in your neck of the woods?

Cabin-fever induced mass-murder, apparently.
posted by MrBaliHai at 5:46 AM on October 20, 2002

I have noticed the tendencies described in the article, and in Ryvar's post, in myself.

I feel disinterested in life outside, since it offers so little in the way of social interaction.
Everything is fast food, stop'n'shop and efficient. The only place to really relax and talk is at the local pub, and if you don't happen to like drinking lots of beer you're out of luck.

People want to be safe while socializing.
And what's safer than the net?
Everyone's out of physical range, they can't see you or hear you. You're typing everything in, so you don't risk blurting things out or stuttering. You're in the comfort of your own home, in close proximity to your own fridge.

If my mom left me noodle packs outside my door I wouldn't leave the house either.
posted by spazzm at 5:57 AM on October 20, 2002


MacAndrew and Edgerton’s Drunken Comportment is out-of-print but Stanton Peele's synopsis here under The Social Custom of Drunkenness would suggest it's not so simple
posted by y2karl at 7:46 AM on October 20, 2002

Thanks, y2karl -- interesting stuff. I think the absence of ritual, including ritualized "time-out" drunkenness, is one of the defining features of modern (Western) life, and I wonder what its long-term effects will be. (Don't talk to me about political conventions and the like -- I mean real ritual, that's important to pretty much everyone and makes a significant difference in their lives. Ritual still exists for religious Jews, Catholics, etc., but I see that as a holdover of the premodern world; certainly it affects only believers, and not the society at large.)
posted by languagehat at 8:05 AM on October 20, 2002

Good Post!

When I was going undiagnosed with my thyroid problem, I almost slipped into this type of behavior. If I could have grown a giant "Jim Morrison in Paris" beard and just put up a wall that kept people away from me I would have. While people look at the psychosocial means, there could also (like in my case) be actual medical causes.
posted by mkelley at 8:33 AM on October 20, 2002

re: ghost world and socialisation, acb had an interesting comment recently:
it's the more general case of "romantic love is the answer", and the importance of having a partner to one's value as a human being/the meaning of one's existence.

It's even more subtle; while it's relatively easy to deprogram oneself from associating romantic involvement with existential meaning, the socialisation thing is harder to question.
it's like the seymmour glass figure (recently presented as the bill pullman character in igby goes down :) the person that goes into self-exile. like society doesn't have a problem with total outcasts per se (by definition!) but with the supremely disaffected. hence, the interest and voluminous treatment by film, tv, books, music etc.

um so the neurotic takes the form of self-help/paths to success/re-socialisation in general literatally! and ironically :D
posted by kliuless at 8:35 AM on October 20, 2002

I am agoraphobic. It runs in my family. I have an uncle who still lives at my grandparents house, unable to leave his bedroom. He's never held a job, or had a family. My grandparents continue to feed him, although they rarely see him, as he creeps about the house after they go to bed. He is near 50 years old, and I haven't actually seen him in almost 30 years, although we live in the same city.

I'm not as bad as my uncle, a "functioning agoraphobic" if there is one, since I was able to recognize what was happening & I sought treatment. I was getting to the point where I was having severe panic attacks when I would vary from a strict regimine of where I was going/doing. There are places I still cannot go, as too much stimuli will bring a panic attack--Target stores, for example.

I take medication for it, so that I can get about better. But it is so frigging easy to be agoraphobic now! Peapod delivered my groceries, and Amazon delivered everything else. But see...I worked in the outside world. Getting to and from work was a struggle, but I had a strict routine, and as long as I was able to follow the routine, I was ok. If anyone asked me to join them for a beer after work, I would break out in a sweat--and never join them. Eventually, after treatment, I am now again able to do things like travel--I went to Barcelona within a year of starting treatment, something before that merely thinking about would have sent me crawling into the smallest box in my house.

If I had a job where I didn't have to leave my house, I may have never bothered to seek treatment. I had (and to an extent still do) a rich online life--my boyfrind & I met online, and he came to see me, and we bought a house together; and the magic of UPS can deliver everything else to me.

The kids mentioned in this article seem to be agoraphobic, but also to an extent enabled to be that way--like my uncle. Agoraphobics need to seek treatment on their own or have it brought to them. The hikikomori kids I think may have more than just agoraphobia going on, and I doubt very much that many of them actually just snap out of it after a while. My uncle hasn't seen the sun in years.
posted by macadamiaranch at 8:43 AM on October 20, 2002

This is not unhead of in the West as the bbc article points out. The OCD Foundations says it's OCD
posted by m@ at 8:44 AM on October 20, 2002

Thanks for sharing your story, Ryvar, and for your honesty. I have to admit, I can relate to a lot of what you say. I can't pinpoint exactly when it began, but several years ago I started to prefer the comfort of my "cocoon" (as I often refer to my house) over anything offered Out There. My husband noticed the change and observed once how I used to enjoy going out to eat as often as possible, and now I'm more inclined to say "let's just make something at home." I work at a small company and have my own office, and most days I just prefer to keep my door closed and attend to the matters at hand. I find I have more and more difficulty making "small talk" with my co-workers....(quite frankly, I don't *care* that their kid is on the varsity wrestinling team, yada yada), and I look forward to 6:00 when I can scoot home to my cocoon. I "socialize" via trivia chat rooms and message boards, where I don't have to dress up and folks don't care how much you weigh or if your hair is a mess.

Several of my friends are forever emailing me, asking when we'll get together, and I keep putting them off....again, I find it easier and more satisfying to communicate with them via email, getting the Cliff's Notes version of what's going on with them, rather than having to sit through an overlong dinner and hear the same stories told with so many off-topic tangents that I lose the original thread.

My rheumatologist suspects some of this is organic, as mkelley mentioned. I've got Lupus with CNS involvement, and have had two small strokes. He's convinced that that has had an effect on my behavior. I, on the other hand, say so what if it has. I'm happy this way, my husband is happy this way (he works from home and is pleased to not have to dress up and go out and feign interest in the potty training progress of our friends' offspring)...so what's the problem? I keep up with what's going on in the world via the Net, I chat and joke and such regularly with my Trivia pals via the Net...as spazzm said, what could be safer?
posted by Oriole Adams at 8:49 AM on October 20, 2002

I'm sorry and I know phobias and fears are irrational and very difficult to control or deal with, but isn't indulging your agoraphobia really somewhat of a luxury? I have a few friends with social anxieties and the people around them really enable it. I had a friend who couldn't have a job because it was just too much for her. Of course, her parents helped her to live this way by bailing her out of tight financial spots and sending her a family welfare check every month. She eventually got tired of being a sad sack and actually enjoyed working and being independent. Most people in this world don't have the luxury of indulging in their anxieties and phobias. If you're poor and have a family of 4 to take care of and buy groceries for you're not going to be sitting around the house worrying about how other people are going to look at you at the store.
posted by letterneversent at 9:16 AM on October 20, 2002

"I'm happy this way, my husband is happy this way (he works from home and is pleased to not have to dress up and go out and feign interest in the potty training progress of our friends' offspring)...so what's the problem?"

When you deal with people via email you are not engaging in true social contact or human interaction. You don't have to, but don't have any illusions about your predicament.

I think this is a problem of the alienation of the modern, materialistic capitalist system.

It reminds me of some of what Theodor Adorno wrote about:

From Theory.org:

Adorno suggested that culture industries churn out a debased mass of unsophisticated, sentimental products which have replaced the more 'difficult' and critical art forms which might lead people to actually question social life.

False needs are cultivated in people by the culture industries. These are needs which can be both created and satisfied by the capitalist system, and which replace people's 'true' needs - freedom, full expression of human potential and creativity, genuine creative happiness.


Products of the culture industry may be emotional or apparently moving, but Adorno sees this as cathartic - we might seek some comfort in a sad film or song, have a bit of a cry, and then feel restored again.

Boiled down to its most obvious modern-day application, the argument would be that television leads people away from talking to each other or questioning the oppression in their lives. Instead they get up and go to work (if they are employed), come home and switch on TV, absorb TV's nonsense until bedtime, and then the daily cycle starts again.

I guess what I'm saying is that emailing and chatting is helpful to your social needs, but that you are missing a more potentially rewarding experience due to the difficulty involved with real, unmediated human relationships. The whole quote about the potty training really says it all. You don't want to have to have the normal back and forth required by actually talking to a real person.
posted by letterneversent at 9:25 AM on October 20, 2002

Letterneversent, your comments boil down to "just snap out of it". Have you any personal experience of mental illness? I rather doubt it, because if you had you'd know that it's not possible to "just snap out of it". Being ill doesn't make one a "sad sack", and living a fulfilling life within the constraints of an illness does not mean that one is missing out, your prejudices notwithstanding.
posted by sennoma at 9:36 AM on October 20, 2002

No, I'm not saying snap out of it. However, all anyone else ever does is say that its not crazy, but its not normal, but hey its still okay. Did you read what I said? It is not healthy regardless of how well you can live with groceries delivered to your house. Social anxiety is not completely out of a person's control. In many cases, chemical factors are involved, but most mental illness is either caused by lack of social stimuli or results in anti-social feelings.
posted by letterneversent at 9:44 AM on October 20, 2002

It is not healthy regardless of how well you can live...

Why? Some people just don't feel the need to have in-person social interactions and fulfill their need to be social in other ways. Why is this not healthy?

And as for your comment about "indulging your agoraphobia" being "really somewhat of a luxury", well, I see where you're coming from, but true agoraphobics aren't "indulging" anything. I agree that there are some people who feign illnesses which are difficult to diagnose firmly to make their lives easier (which is not to say that this is not, in itself, a mental illness), but to tar all agoraphobics with the "lazy self-indulgent" brush simply because you have a hard time accepting that such a thing can truly be crippling and beyond someone's control (without meds, anyway)...that's just ignorant (I don't mean that in a nasty way, I mean that you clearly don't know enough about it).
posted by biscotti at 10:42 AM on October 20, 2002

Back to the original article, this is parental passivity taken to a ludicrous extreme. These people act like prisoners in their own homes, held hostage by their own offspring.

Retreating from the world is one thing - and I think we can all sympathize with that to some extent - but one problem, in Japan at least, is that sometimes it doesn't stop there:

Two years ago, a 17 year old hikikomori sufferer left his isolation and hijacked a bus, killing a passenger.

Another kidnapped a girl and held her captive in his bedroom for nine years.

posted by gottabefunky at 10:49 AM on October 20, 2002

When you deal with people via email you are not engaging in true social contact or human interaction.

That's not a bug, it's a feature! (I am not being flip.)
posted by kindall at 11:04 AM on October 20, 2002

This all sounds like a biochemical problem to me...with the component that if you don't fight it, it gets worse. My grandmother was agoraphobic (we just didn't know what it was called back then.) I have a few tendencies myself, and that has been brought to my attention.

I think the responsibility one has with this disorder is to seek treatment of some sort...unless they truly are happy this way and it doesn't inconvienience someone else. I don't think most people WOULD be happy with this lifestyle, so they would be the ones that need to do something besides hope it just goes away.
I have heard of cognitive therapy being of some use to agoraphobics. There are probably other treatments...I have even heard of therapists who would actually come to the person's house to start the treatment.

As for me, mine comes and goes, so I don't give it too much thought.
posted by konolia at 11:14 AM on October 20, 2002

I would think that any of us using MeFi regularly for conversation and self expression should be able to identify with this and would spend valuably time to figure out what's going on based on what value system.
posted by semmi at 12:06 PM on October 20, 2002

I can't believe these Japanese fathers don't make their "Peter Pan" sons come out of their rooms and ack like men. We don't tolerate wimps like this here in the U.S.
posted by jasontromm at 12:30 PM on October 20, 2002

This is a fascinating article. Thanks for posting it, adamgreenfield.

Let me add that I don't think the hikikomori sufferers are experiencing what some people in the thread are describing as simply not having any desire to go outside, because they can be happy in their homes. It's not that they can take it or leave it; these people are so terrified that they've locked themselves away not only from the world, but from their families who live in the same house.

I think in the west we suffer more commonly from something that's not quite the opposite. Many people try to lose their identity in crowds, parties, et cetera, and are desperately afraid of being alone.
posted by Hildago at 12:37 PM on October 20, 2002

I suspect at least part of this phenomenon could be related to the cultural issues surrounding the way mental illness is viewed and treated in Japan. Some contend that there is such a stigma attached to mental illness that often families would rather allow their lives to be ruined than seek assistance. Obviously this view is not limited to Japan.
posted by biscotti at 12:56 PM on October 20, 2002

Oriole Adams:

I've got Lupus

You're a werewolf!? No wonder you don't go outside.
posted by son_of_minya at 12:59 PM on October 20, 2002

Upon reflection, that reference to Seymour in Ghost World resonates with me, probably because it's too close to home. Certainly I share his alienation and many tastes with him--I only wish I had Seymour's job.

And he wasn't entirely antisocial--remember his record collector party where Enid and Rebecca were trapped on the couch? I've been to variations of that party in variations of that apartment, and actually the boy/girl ratio is a bit better than at Seymour's, Enids or not. And the people are far more social and interesting and musical instruments are often played. They are, however, few and far between.

I'm all for getting out and seeing people--I have friends, like having people over, going over to their houses--as long as a tv is not involved. But I'm at an age where my contemporaries either have children and inlaws and rare time for an extra-familial social life, or have chosen vocations that leave them rare spare time. So, I've become someone who can and will engage strangers in small talk--with great Cardosian cheer--at garage sales, on the bus or when walking their dogs, and this is in no small part due to so much time spent alone.

So many of my conversations now are with strangers, or checkers at the store, because this is the way the world works now. We are separated more by force than choice.
posted by y2karl at 1:21 PM on October 20, 2002

Interesting links, thanks. Here's more about the relationships between hikikomori, otaku (nerdy, motivated shut-ins) and violent crime.
posted by mediareport at 1:29 PM on October 20, 2002

It's weird to see so many people choosing to stay at home. I worked from home for 4 months, when I started I thought "allright - no commute!" But I was bored....so hopelessly bored. I also have hit an age where friends have spouses and children and I don't, and it does make things harder. So, I am choosing activities and events where I meet people as well as trying to forge new friendships. Seems to be working so far.

My mom has agoraphobia as part of a psychiatric condition, I couldn't live like that. I feel so badly for those who suffer from it, it must be very hard, and lonely.
posted by Salmonberry at 4:44 PM on October 20, 2002

(The people I refer to are the ones on this board, not the Japanese teens)

Did anyone see the MAD skit with Bob Newhart as the therapist? He charged $5 for a 5 minute session, where the patient described the problem and he treated it by yelling "STOP IT!" It seems some people here are *this close* to suggesting a similar solution.
posted by Salmonberry at 4:47 PM on October 20, 2002

son_of_minya, I got so pissed I opened a MeTa thread for you.
posted by eddydamascene at 5:54 PM on October 20, 2002

I found this link fascinating and thought-provoking, adamg. - thanks. It made me examine what I do and what my interests are, and for the most part, at the end of my work day, all I want to do is go home. It is easier when one has a spouse or significant other to hang out with - I'm sure I'd participate in more away-from-home activities if I were single. One thing that gets people up and about is the activities their kids participate in. Our kids are grown up now, so we don't go to games or other kid-based activities, nor do we go to social events held in our very small town, except for one. My husband and I went to a Halloween party yesterday. As it is an all-ages party thrown annually by the hosts with pumpkin carving, many kid activities, lots of food and congenial people of all ages and backgrounds who attend, it's the only party we ever go to. Ironically, one of the topics of conversation was how "insular" many of us are, since we never see or hang out with each other at any other gathering.
posted by Lynsey at 6:00 PM on October 20, 2002

I'm gratified so many of you found this provocative.

A couple of points:
- I rather agree with the Adorno point in broad, but find it interesting that we've been using "Ghost World" - an "unsophisticated, sentimental" product, to be sure, if not quite as bad as most - as a touchstone to discuss and challenge one of the central tenets of Western society. That is, that society and socialization are the right and proper goal of properly-socialized adults, in full "mental health."

- I can't believe these Japanese fathers don't make their "Peter Pan" sons come out of their rooms and ack like men. We don't tolerate wimps like this here in the U.S.

I can only hope you're trying to be funny, albeit in an astonishingly hamfisted way.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:11 PM on October 20, 2002

Hikikomori just sounds like a cool Japanese name for avoidant personality disorder.

Avoidant people are not happy in their self-imposed exile, but the fear of rejection is greater than the longing for contact. There are schizoid and autistic people who isolate themselves and are quite content. But if you're avoidant and you start rationalizing your behavior, you're lying to yourself. Yes, the world is scary, and there are all sorts of stressors out there, but if you start trying to convince yourself that there really is no reason to do things that force you to deal with the outside world, you're deluding yourself. True, if you don't go out in public, nothing bad will happen -- you won't be in a car wreck, you won't have to deal with assholes, you won't feel self conscious -- but nothing good will happen either. APD sufferers are generally intelligent and perceptive, but usually don't achieve their full potential because in order to do so they would have to face some harrowing situations in which they may criticized.

I have avoidant traits myself, and it's all motivated by the fear of rejection, ridicule, criticism, or being scrutinized in any way for that matter. Shutting out the world is giving in to the disease, and people tend to get worse the longer they stay in their caves. Exposure (even if you have to force yourself to do it), is the best thing for it. The key is to not to run back home when something upsetting or embarrassing happens, because that only reinforces the avoidant behavior. In other words, ride it out. You will be glad you did.

I remember going to packed concerts ("festival seating") where it took all my will power not to bolt for the door and run home. I felt so self conscious that I actually felt nauseous and couldn't breathe. But by the end of the evening, having stood there among thousands of people my own age in a party atmosphere (usually the most stressful situation for an avoidant), I felt totally relaxed. Much more relaxed than I would have felt sitting in my room by myself all night.

In addition to exposure, examination of faulty thought processes are key:

Q. Why am I nervous about going out?
A. I think I will be laughed at.
Q. Do you really think you will be laughed at in public? A. Um...probably not, but it's happened before.
Q. When did it happen last?
A. I don't remember, years ago.
Q. So you haven't been laughed at or ridiculed for years now. Why do you think it will happen again?
A. I don't know...it was very painful at the time, and I'm afraid it'll happen again.
Q. So it hasn't happened for a long time, and the people you have encountered since then have been generally accepting of you. What is so scary about someone ridiculing you anyway?
A. It makes my heart pound and I feel short of breath. I break out into a cold sweat. I panic.
Q. Why should you have that reaction to someone who you haven't wronged in any way putting you down? No one has ever died of embarrassment, have they?
A. No....it just confirms my own insecurities.
Q. So you feel inadequate, and when one person (read asshole) in a thousand zeros in on you, you take it as proof positive that you really are what you fear?
A. I guess.
Q. What about the vast majority of people who don't make you feel that way?
A. That doesn't really register. I always fixate on the negative assessments people have of me.
Q. Is that rational? If 999 people say the vase is blue, and one person says it's green, is it likely to be green?
A. No.
Q. Ok I'm done babying you fuckwad, head out NOW! And don't be so self-centered; people are too consumed with their own problems and lives to take time to concentrate on you.
posted by Devils Slide at 6:31 PM on October 20, 2002

In addition to exposure, examination of faulty thought processes are key:

Devils Slide, mental illness is not logical or rational. Anybody can say STOP IT to themselves to try to choke an addictive or self-destructive behavior. But this usually rings hollow because there is no method to carrying out a strategy based on rational behavior. Successful treatment, whether through psychotherapy or medication, will validate this impulse with positive action.
posted by PrinceValium at 8:04 PM on October 20, 2002

What culturally-specific form does neurosis take in your neck of the woods?

Men cheating on their wives with other men and pretending it's not adultery.
posted by WolfDaddy at 8:25 PM on October 20, 2002

Sound like (50% or so) my roommate. I'd do something about it, but it (15-25%) also sounds like me.

We're a real happenin' couple of guys. Semicolon hyphen left parenthesis.
posted by Guy Smiley at 8:42 PM on October 20, 2002

You know what G.W.B. says about shut-ins and terror.
posted by inksyndicate at 10:34 PM on October 20, 2002

PrinceValium, you're absolutely right. Antianxiety drugs and a supportive experienced therapist are very likely to result in some improvement in most avoidants. I suppose I took it for granted that everyone knew professional care is always the first line of defense in treating mental illness. But according to most of the literature on APD, it is generally agreed that exposure is the single best thing for avoidants. Meaning, regular prolonged exposure will often produce better results than therapy and meds, especially if the patient evaluates their cognitive processes at every turn. But ideally, one would expose oneself to the feared situation under the guidance of a trained professional.

Sorry about the flippant ending to my last post, I didn't mean to imply that once you reach the conclusion that there is no reason to feel so overwhelmed in public everything is fixed forever. It's an ongoing process, and the "voice of reason" should never turn on you by calling you names and telling you to just knock it off :).

There are different degrees of severity in personality disorders. People range from low functioning to high functioning to everything in between. I consider myself closer to the high functioning end, but two therapists (albeit not APD specialists) and a variety of antidepressants (they insisted antidepressants would work better than antianxiety meds) had little effect on my condition. Higher functioning avoidants tend to have some insight into their condition, and if or when they get sick enough of missing out on life, or at least some aspects of it, they can force themselves to confront the big bad world armed only with logic and a determination to get better. It's not pleasant at first, but every little victory sustains you and makes you stronger. Believe me, it can get very tiring always consciously dispelling the negative automatic thoughts in your head, but it can be done.
posted by Devils Slide at 11:11 PM on October 20, 2002

Great link.

Like a lot of us here, I have some avoidant tendencies myself. Although this is slightly off-topic, I'd like to note that my avoidant behavior began and developed as a psychological reaction to physical illness (hypothyroidism and hypermobility syndrome). I notice that I'm not alone in this, and I think this situation is more powerful than physically healthy people can imagine.

My problems started when I was sick but undiagnosed. I would find myself -- on foot or on bike -- far from home and so exhausted I was afraid I couldn't get home under my own power. That's not agoraphobia. That's rational fear. Now I'm under medical care and live a much quieter life; the only one truly upset by my lack of an active social life is my mother. Go figure.

But as for the hikikomori, I have to admit that if I lived in a place like Toyko, where people are hired to push commuters into trains so the doors can close, I'd hide in my room too. I'm serious. (And I'm a city person, used to crowds.)
posted by swerve at 2:49 AM on October 21, 2002

Tokyo isn't that bad, crowd-wise. And for the record, in my nineteen months here, I've never encountered the legendary broomhandle subway users.
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:22 AM on October 21, 2002

excuse me: "ushers".
posted by adamgreenfield at 4:22 AM on October 21, 2002

What's alarming is that a million young Japanese boys are afflicted with hikikomori ! I agree with gottabefunky above. It strikes me that what these boys need are proper guidance and strong encouragement from parents, more than mollycoddling or psychological evaluation. As the condition is not being diagnosed as a mental illness, but rather due to an inability to cope or live with the daily rigidities of a highly-structured and educationally competitive environment, both parents and teachers have much to do to help ease the pressure, fears or confused feelings harboured by these kids.

If the condition affect boys only, it would be the higher expectations and paramount responsibilities placed upon them that isolate them further as individuals.

For all the efficiencies and innovations Japan is known for, the article presents an opposite and sad picture of the "missing million".
posted by taratan at 11:18 AM on October 21, 2002

anybody have an opinion regarding whether hikikomori, and by extension the "cocooning" tendencies y'all rather movingly discuss above, bear any relation to the unsettling rise in autism seen among children in the US and elsewhere?
posted by UlfMagnet at 12:20 PM on October 21, 2002

- I rather agree with the Adorno point in broad, but find it interesting that we've been using "Ghost World" - an "unsophisticated, sentimental" product, to be sure, if not quite as bad as most -

And I thought I sounded pretentious at times....
posted by y2karl at 1:54 PM on October 21, 2002

smile when you say that, cowboy...
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:48 PM on October 21, 2002

Well, for some it's fear and for some it's boredom. Against fear the best medicine I found is to confront the situation; fearful imagination in most cases is worse than reality. Against boredom, travel to places with different people and culture I found to be a great remedy. As for mental illness, I'm somewhat in Thomas Szasz's mindset: "Mental illness is a metaphor (metaphorical disease). The word "disease" denotes a demonstrable biological process that affects the bodies of living organisms (plants, animals, and humans). The term "mental illness" refers to the undesirable thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of persons. Classifying thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as diseases is a logical and semantic error, like classifying the whale as a fish. As the whale is not a fish, mental illness is not a disease. Individuals with brain diseases (bad brains) or kidney diseases (bad kidneys) are literally sick. Individuals with mental diseases (bad behaviors), like societies with economic diseases (bad fiscal policies), are metaphorically sick."
posted by semmi at 8:58 PM on October 21, 2002

The first example in that article....I hate to say this, 'cause y'all are probably going to think I'm an insensitive prick...but I'd pull that kid out of the kitchen and smack him upside the head, "WTF is your problem, boy?" But then, I'm not a japanese housewife, so I'm guessing we do things a little bit different.

I would hazard a guess that the reason it's so prevalent in japan is because of their incredibly (based on my puny observations) non-confrontational culture. I couldn't even read the whole article - it was too weird. Though I have read most of your posts - very interesting stuff.

Someone I know has some tendencies like that. She doens't like to leave the house to do things like go shopping or whatever. She buys a lot of stuff online. Most of the time, I think she's just being a dork, because she does go out, and she goes on trips and stuff. But sometimes...it's weird. She makes a big deal about how she never has to leave the house. QVC. Amazon. Outpost. Etc. It's all a little creepy.

As a programmer, I find that I need long periods where i'm left alone, and it's sort of a viscous circle. I need to be left alone...so I don't socialize....but when I want to, there isn't anyone....so I can't...I have a hard time keeping in touch with friends.

And the worst part is that usually, when I make the effort to socialize, I regret it. Not in a big way, I just find that it was nowhere near the effort. I find the conversations of interest to so many people to banal, willfully ignorant and pointless. I don't care about who won the game - I didn't play. WE didn't win anything. You sat on the couch and watched.

What reallly really gets on my nerves is hanging out with someone that has to tell the same story to everyone we run across. By the end of the day, I've heard the story some 16 gagillion times and I'm like "shut the fuck up, already".

I may need to get out more, but I probably would if I felt the like the world was worth the trouble.
posted by jaded at 12:06 AM on October 22, 2002

Definitely OT here, sorry. semmi: some mental illnesses are exactly that. Illness. There's nothing metaphorical about hearing voices no one else can hear.
posted by swerve at 10:34 AM on October 22, 2002

There's nothing metaphorical about hearing voices no one else can hear.

swerve: But why call it an illness?
posted by semmi at 9:43 PM on October 25, 2002

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