Hikikomori Part 3

23 02 2009

Part Three ‘Shutting Out the Sun – How Japan Created its own Lost Generation’ by Michael Zielenziger [Vintage Press]

This book is dedicated to Kenji {Some linking words are mine, underscore of certain words are also mine indicated by 14 Point.}

Masahisa Okuyama is founder of the Hikikomori Support Association (KHJ). He has been battling for years to bring attention to this tragedy. Alas, the official response has been poor. He received a letter containing this appeal:- “Desperately searching for a way to rejoin society – seeking “a single ray of light” to help open the door.”

Mr. Okumura says this:- “They are only too aware that good old Japan will never come back. When anyone’s child can become a hikikomori, it’s a scary time.” [pp. 42] Mr. Okuyama went round the bureaucracies to get help; he says of them: “There is hardly any place for improvisation, for compassion, or for commonsense. They keep running on automatic pilot. We need more black ships!” [pp. 46]

Hikikmori: intelligent, isolated and alone: “Barricade themselves inside their room … rather than attempt to engage with a society they feel denies then any expression of self.” [pp.11] Kazuki Ueyama – hikikomori of Kobe: “Hikikomori kids don’t have a way out.”

Japanese journalist: ‘If you demonstrate “reason” or “logic” that differs from the group, “it is very dangerous. You could be killed for it.” [pp. 291]

Kenji – 34-year old (20-years of self isolation) gave this gloomy observation of being Japanese: ‘He could point to no adult who had grown up to be “free,” to become what they wanted.’ [pp.289]

Jun (aged 28) hikinomori who cycles through the Tokyo night without purpose: “Why should I be studying so hard to pass these entrance exams? I just wanted to sit down and study … (Kantian philosophy) That’s not something I should do in class, is it?” [pp. 26]

Taka (aged 24) hikinomori who says studied so hard for a high school exam: “burned out” at age 15 … I looked around and said, “Why do I have to be like they are?” [pp. 32]

Hiro hikinomori – Hiro found classes so easy they bored him. Tested very high on intelligence tests,’ mother said. Hiro recalls, “I’d go to juku at four and come home every day around ten at night. I didn’t have the physical stamina … One teacher said I needed ten days sleep to get what other students got in one night” … ‘He was weary from the accumulated years of juku, tests every Sunday and other activities like swimming and tennis.’ Meanwhile, father a usual salary-man, and thus out most nights on extra work or required to socialise with clients, he accused mother, Keiko “of sabotaging Hiro’s education.” [pp. 35] “I remember one time yelling at her (mother) and saying ‘I am not going to be your robot anymore.’ I threw my pencil box out of the window. She pushed me so much … she ruined my youth.” [pp. 36]

Hikikomori: ‘Often beat their elderly parents with anything lying around – a baseball bat, a hammer. Attacking a parent has become one of the most common forms of domestic violence in Japan.’ [pp. 43]

Monbusho 2003: “English abilities is an extremely important issue for the future of our children and for the further development of our country.” [pp. 282] How not to do it: “Half-baked methods to get its people to master foreign languages.” [pp. 277]

D. Mizusawa specializes in alcohol addiction: “Our society says; ‘Don’t make a mistake. Don’t take a risk. Don’t take responsibility. Just go along with the others and prognosticate.’ That’s the culture.” [pp. 217]

Hokkaido University researchers: “Children are worn-out dishrags.” [pp. 203]

Yukio Saito set up Japan’s first suicide hotline: “It isn’t just the hikikomori, as a people we Japanese are socially withdrawn.” [pp. 200]

Hiroyuki Itsuka (author) on group suicide made up of strangers met in web chat rooms: “Japanese today do not know who they are … They think it is an extension of a game in cyberworld.” [pp. 198]

Kazuhiro Keitoku(56) a vice manager of a bank, a gentle man wanting to help, it is said. He took on the principal’s role of a Hiroshima elementary school. He would greet the pupils in the morning, reviewed homework and often stayed until late at night. He proposed “To take the students mountain climbing on a fine day so that they could experience nature beyond the confines of their classroom.” The teachers union said that the hectic 5-day-a week calendar left no time for frivolous expeditions. 
Then there was the business of the government wanting the flag and national anthem which the left leaning union detested, and so on. It was after planting a school flower garden that he returned, attached a rope to a handrail and hanged himself. His note read: ‘I’m sorry that I have caused trouble for many people because, an incapable person, was appointed principal.’

Mariko Bando, government minister says: “(Hikikomori) might be an organic response to prosperity, that young people are too coddled and spoilt to seize the moment.”

Shigesato Takahashi, Chief demographer for the National Institute for Population and Social Security Research: ‘His statistics depict young Japanese as distressingly isolated and lonely. More than half of unmarried men between 18-34 report no sexual relationships, friendships or even casual companionship with woman.’ [pp. 182]

Masahiro Yamada – sociologist: concerning the infantilization of adult Japanese: “Many people think thee is nothing else to life than to chase money and live the affluent life style … In order to fill the void all (we Japanese) can do is read manga, take trips abroad or go shopping.” [pp. 155]

Vuitton bags: ‘A direct expression of the modern Japanese to find identity.’ [pp. 151]

Bullying is international: ‘But in Japan it is surprisingly intense and widespread.’[pp. 51]

School sets the stage as it were. Koh Tanaka was elected to the Diet — He was bullied: “I was not allowed to hold my own opinions.” [pp. 53]

Monbusho: “2% of high school students never show up for class.’ ‘In 2002, more than 131,000 children, including nearly 3% of all junior high school students simply did not attend school at all.’ [pp. 80]

The Ministry of Health finally, in 2003, brought themselves to make their first Hikikomori guidelines: ‘No motivation to participate in school … Even as recently as early 2004 no peer reviewed journal had published any research on the nature of this malady, nor any rigorous field studies into its causes been disseminated. [pp. 76]

Those from within the Japanese culture cannot alone answer this problem. Foreign perspective can give answers. Tamaki Saito, a leading clinician on hikikomori notes: “They really live in a parasitic state.” [pp. 60]

‘Unlike Koreans, for young Japanese there is no drafted military service. [pp. 66]

Nobuyuki Minami, a non-academic and outside the education system, has been trying to help deep seated hikokomori: “They looked at adults telling them ‘You have to study hard or you won’t be successful,’ and the kids just didn’t trust it. They didn’t believe it. This is when hikikomori started — which is something most people, especially officials in the Education Ministry, simply don’t understand … When you look closely, what they are seeking is community. They are seeking friends” …

‘In Minami’s neighbourhood, he told me, one juku (cram school) sent its students home at three in the morning and another class started at four.’ [pp. 81]

Dr. Hisako Watanabe of Keio University, of three folk trying to grapple with the hikikomoro phenomenon: “However, such “perfect” children have proven ill-equipped to parent their own children … Outwardly they look as though they have very good control,’ but they create households in which nurturing expressions of love or real conversations are totally absent.” [pp. 84]

Sadatsuga Kubo and Mr. Minami: ‘They recognize that these lost young adults can prosper only in open, flexible and a trusting environment — precisely the sort of surroundings modern Japan tries to undermine. [pp. 92]

“In most of the cases the children are fine.” [pp. 86]

“They are far more mature than ordinary school children.” She believes that: ‘offering hikikomori an chance to build attachments with others at their own pace, and slowly creating networks of trust, represents the first step in eroding self-imposed isolation.’ [pp 87]

Mr. Minami: ‘Hikikomori sought refuge of their own bedrooms because they were far more sensitive and intelligent than their average classmates.’ [pp. 98]

Hikikomori – ‘Desperate to free themselves from the country’s rigid educational pattern, they know if they choice the risky personal route and flee into the sunshine, they will be doubly punished. Shunned by the school from which they have withdrawn, they likely will find no other group willing to accept them. They feel certain that few strangers will reach out to help them find a new path. And shorn of social context these hikikomori have precious little identity to fall back on … They are practically invisible.’ [pp. 142]

‘… Never having been taught to think critically, and lacking any social mechanism that would allow them to rebel, all to many of these young – those in their twenties, thirties and forties are, like the hikikomori, finding ultimately self destructive ways to detach from society.’ [pp. 145]

“From Minami’s perspective, these “troubled” kids are actually less troubled than many of their parents and teachers.” [pp. 78]

Zeroing in – Toward ANSWERS Dr. Yuichi Hattori, a Japanese psychologist tells us: “The main cause of the problem (hikikomori) comes from the suppression of the individual. Eventually, they become defeated, emotionless zombies. Developing a “false front” or front personality is essential for young children if they are to survive within the rigid Japanese education system.” [pp. 72]

‘Parents who are desperate, demoralized and shame-filled flock to any treatment that offers even a glimmer of hope.’ [pp. 76]

And Hikikmori: intelligent, isolated and alone. “… rather than attempt to engage with a society they feel denies them any expression of self.” [pp.11]

Denial of individual identity is seen as a root cause. This is born out in the case of Shigei, who when aged 14 was shunned had refused to join the school basketball club. By age 16, Shigei had withdrawn from school for good. “I couldn’t find my own identity.” [pp. 33]

“When doctors look only at biological symptoms and give me drugs they don’t solve the problem … The environment is the underlying cause.” [pp. 77] I believe that we must absolutely give these sensitive people the environment he said he needs. In other words another way, a way out of the maze.

 Nobuyuki Minami, a non-academic and outside of the education system said this: “These kids have been rejected by the school culture which forces everyone to be the same. But each kid is unique, each one of them is different. I don’t want to do anything to damage that. I don’t want to suppress them at all, so that puts me at odds with the traditional Japanese culture … The kids who come here are those who have been rejected by those schools.” [pp. 77]

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