Hikikomori Conclusion

23 02 2009


If we bring all the commentary together certain similarities become more clearly apparent. Broadly, we can consider these environment and identity.

‘The goal is to find ways of creating supportive, appropriate relationship that allow for personal and societal growth and development … in order to create school environments for the next generation of Japanese children.’ [pp. 216]

Hikikomori is not just a phenomena of Japan, though in sheer numbers it leads. Similar problems are emerging around the world. Such places as (my own) Great Britain, but also in the Asian tigers of Hong Kong and South Korea. I am not surprised by this. My studies of education systems worldwide postulates that the increasingly standardized, globalized education systems, are themselves key.

They increasingly become more piecemeal, more abstract and getting further and further from the direct needs of the overwhelming majority and the reality that they face, day to day. Wither, the full blown planetary crisis we are now in: does schoolwork with “the children are all our futures” deal in any meaningful way with that? Does it have even the space in its agenda, what with all those tests, et al?

Time to think how to prudently prepare them for a radically different future, just now visible on the horizon. Well, are they preparing our youth over whom they have absolute power, backed by Law? Are they?? The hikikomori have given-up on the present way, that of forced study. It is patently not working for all kids, and is falling down all over the world.

These hikikomori are making a protest with their very lives. It is a cry out for another way, one which acknowledges their identity. If we can give them an environment where they can prosper, be themselves, and not face a barrage of non-useful information, or being labelled as a freak, or worse. Are not the children who also react to all this, those who take their own life, really making the same point as the hikikomori? And also, these children are not usually suffering mental problems. Dr. Watanabe in the book text says, “In most of the cases the children are fine.” [pp. 86] “Troubled” kids are actually less troubled than many of their parents and teachers.” [pp. 78]

‘We are arguing that the “problem” is not “in” the child but rather “in” the system of communication.’ says Fogel & Kawai. And I would argue education is in the prime, a system of communication. Is it not possible, that the ultra sensitive, intelligent hikikomori are the canary in the mine shaft of our degrading world and with its many bankrupt systems now emerging?

Here is Kaz Ueyama, a local hiki-boy from Kobe, “I couldn’t find any motivation to attend class. Why do I have to go to school where I’m not allowed to pursue my own intellectual interests, like history and philosophy, but have to memorize dates and names for college entrance exams?” [pp. 54]

“Hikikomori kids don’t have a way out … To survive in Japan you have to kill off your own original voice.” [pp. 57] He discovered on the web, sites concerning post-traumatic stress disorder. Did Kaz diagnose himself as PTSS? “Doomed to failure” and so have withdrawn from society, which in fact “set them up for failure” wrote James Young on the internet.

And the perfidious agent, I maintain again is, the education system. And anyway, why does an individual, unique and gifted, need a mass system at all? One based on the lowest common denominator of all? Why does accepted wisdom always advocate an eventual return to the system? As in ‘It is essential in all forms of bridging the child feels safe and protected.’ [pp. 213] The authors suggest ‘The fourth level of Japanese bridging frames – the return to school.’ [pp. 214] ‘It is the family and school which sets the agenda’

These lost young adults can prosper only in an open, flexible and a trusting environment. This is recognized as implicit in my own research. It is just therefore a case of doing it. Let us just see.

A Blueprint for a Way Forward

This long term research focuses on engaging Youth – all of them – by using their talents, skills, abilities all of which are often unique to each. I would set up a programme that would harness this — the power of youth and youth dreams, to haul them out, step by step, from the darkness. The programme will be a trajectory to education, good citizenship and yes, a happier life.

My early findings found that it is the system itself which (for some) works against children identity and environment. These – those that do not fit in – are run over like a trawler churning up the seabed of their childhood, flattening their young lives. Democracy Reaches the Kids does the opposite to this. A simple alternate curriculum, a framework, whereby ‘the kids that don’t fit in’ are given a clear alternate route to education, and led to success that way.

Identity ‘If the child is allowed to play a role in developing solution the child is more likely to make a commitment in the eventual resolution.’ [pp. 215]

The Adjusted Alternate Education Framework allows the individual student to decide when (and where) they will study. Who will be your teacher. (This includes themselves via the net.) How much time to spend or will it be none at all. Subjects, they select them.

Of course society DOES have certain requirements, expectations. These subjects I have suggested. If after they are explained, honestly, and still a kid wants to abandon something, or is not ready yet, not until later perhaps, then so be it. It is their democratic life after all.

However, these are smart people, too. For the most part, and maybe after other things done first, and a change of mind or two. Fine. The door of education will always be open to them, to us all.

Environment Those from within the Japanese culture cannot easily address this problem. Japanese culture, may be a factor for this social problem, an outsider is in a better position. First, do we necessarily need to be in “school?” As the saying goes, ‘the whole world is my oyster.’ Much can be done from an isolated bedroom. Education is just getting information into a persons head, where and how, and whereby is not an issue. [Winston Churchill, for example, just read books.]

One could indeed gain an education based on the Internet alone, as some have done. So these just need a qualifying authority. A sort of Open University, as pioneered in GB. But we can go a step further. Not arbitrary subjects selected by tradition and by some faceless entity, but ones own private studies and leanings. All has value.

We can proceed with Adjusted Alternate Education Framework a trail programme, set-up in Kobe. I postulate the setting-up of a loose framework which would give the spirit of ‘community,’ using a mostly empty building on the campus. A core task will to be bolster local/national culture. As said, ‘Japan will never lose its long history.’ [pp. 216]

In western approach there is more input from the child and more room for the child’s autonomy some sort of challenge is presented to the withdrawn. (Fogel & Kawai) They say: ‘At the first level of Western bridging frames some type of challenge is presented to the child who is withdrawn.’ [pp. 214] I suggest a much bigger bridge, wider. Examples I read included the Shikoku shrines, adventure, using tents. At any rate always an open environment.

‘It is essential in all forms of bridging the child feels safe and protected.’ [pp. 213]

‘At the second level of Western bridging frames the child is asked to articulate his fears, concerns.’

Open, ‘mutually respectful, accepting produce a sense of relieve in the child because of being understood at a deep emotional level.’ [pp.215]

At a special Hikikomori meeting in Seoul, 2008, they spoke of the terrible need to avoid the isolation of affected families. This is urgent and should be confronted at the earliest. I stand ready to immediately take this into the field and begin in earnest the great and sensitive task of creating a safe environment for these intelligent young Japanese and thereby also give hope to their traumatised families.

It only remains for the model to be set-up and running. I have no doubt that from reading the literature that Democracy Reaches the Kids! can have a positive, potentially galvanizing effect on the dynamics surrounding the hikkikomori phenomena. Once again these children may re-enter the sunlight. Let’s begin in Kobe! Thank you

George Meegan / Kobe / 23rd February 2009

With special thanks to Mr. Masahisa Okuyama, founder of the Hikikomori Support Association (KHJ) and his Advisor, Mr. Suguru Sato. For material sent, including ‘Hikikomori – A Dynamic Systems Theory Perspective’ by Fogel & Kawai, and the web addresses.

Fukae campus, the old KUMM gave me the space to workout ‘Democracy Reaches the Kids.’ Author Michael Zielenziger and Vintage Press for ‘Shutting Out the Sun – How Japan Created its own Lost Generation.’ The BBC for their film ‘The Mystery of the Missing Million.’



6 responses

23 05 2009
Ennobling and Enabling

Hi, My name is Gilig

I am interested in studying about alternate education, but I am not quite sure what it’s all about. In my country, Indonesia, there are trends that some students do not feel fit in school anymore, so then go to what so called HOMESCHOOLING. Does this have any relation with hikikomori?


26 07 2009

Gillig! great to meet and now I confirm to yuo that you have the right background, age and heart to make a real impact on Indonesia, beginning with vast Java!

Best Wishes …geo

10 07 2009
Sioraf as Killeens

I find this article to be spot on. Here in Ireland I see the same problem as the boy from Kobe, no point in going to school when I can learn more at home. Both Japan’s and Ireland’s education systems are in need of masssive reform.

25 07 2009

It’s worldwide and could well explode into numbers like Japan. {1.3 millions}
I have yet to meet a single individual who can break free of bureaucractic
inertia, which trys merely to shoehorn these bright people back into the system they fully reject. I advocate an education system which fully recognizing their individuality, which systems about the globe do not. especially here in Japan.

27 07 2009
David Stafford

George, I went to an alternative school in Anchorage Alaska, it was a public parent chartered school that is still thriving today: Steller Secondary Alternative School. The school was filled with kids like myself who for one reason or another rejected the system we still have elsewhere today. Grades were based on improvement of ones own knowledge and skill not a curve pushed up or down by the efforts of your classmates. You might look into this school as well as the Paideia Program by Mortimer Adler which was trialed at this school.

also, i doubt you remember me but I actually met you in person once. In 1990 you came in to the Anchorage Hotel and convinced me to let you use a room for just an hour so you could watch the Tammy Fay Baker story on tv. I got an autographed copy of the longest walk from you the next day and truly enjoyed every page.

28 07 2009

I do indeed remember you very well. What a wonderful world!
I believe you are in my other (self-published) book concerning your wonderful
open spirit that distant, cold Alaska night. I wanted to catch that wild bit of Americana! The book is printed in AK
Call Pat Foster 3497506 or 240 6616

Sounds better than the standard, viz. a viz. school. And look what a wonderful person you were … and continue to be!
Charter schools are an increasingly popular flavour in education “reform.” The status que at all odds teacher unions of course
want to block everything that can maybe help kids … including charter schools. David, are they not essentially just regular schools without
school board bureaucracy? What does that say about the value (or not) for the mainstream! However, do charter schools not teach the same rather pointless
stuff so ofen useless in life and that we find everywhere, including regular school?

best wishes

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