Hikikomori

Why a million people in Japan refuse to see the light of day.

He refuses to go to school. He’s unemployed and won’t look for a job. He doesn’t leave his house, his room or even his bed for months, years, decades. The only time he lets in the outside world is to accept the food his worried, but enabling, mother leaves outside his door. He’s a “hikikomori,” a “shut-in” or “withdrawn” person.

Over a million people in Japan—mostly middle-class men under 25—are hikikomori. When they’re not reading comics or watching TV, hikikomori spend their days online … living there in a virtual universe of chatters, tweeters, gamers, porn stars, simulations and everything else that can be imagined.

These days, “real” life in Japan is hardly enticing. The schizoid clash between traditional values like filial piety, reputation in the community (sekentei) and parental dependence (amae) with new capitalist values—individuality, self-reliance and independence—is instilling crippling anxiety in Japanese youth. Immense social pressure is coming at them from all sides, and it’s stressful enough to cause many of them to make the deceptively-sane decision to avoid reality … for good.