Hikkikomori – Canary in the mineshaft? Part 1

23 02 2009


FRGS, AFRIN Associated Professor Graduate School of Maritime SciencesKobe University

5-1-1, Fukae Minami, Kobe, JAPAN 658-0022

E-mail: meegan@maritime.kobe-u.ac.jp

Phone : +81-78-431 6200

Fax : +81-78-431 6365

New Approach of Hope

This is not an academic paper in the usual sense, but is my thinking based on my earlier research. My writing following suggests I believe, a hopeful alternative to the hikikomori, whereby they can become fully educated, but on their own terms, in their time and when and how they themselves decide.

According to my reading the education system itself is said to be an important cause in triggering this phenomena. It could in fact be the prime cause for hikikomori, as it exists in other parts of the world which have zero Japanese culture dynamics. The only thing common seems to be modern, mass schooling and that’s found almost everywhere. So, this being so then an answer, a least in part, should lie in mass schooling. If we can provide a viable alternative to that then we can certainly hope for improvement. That’s where I come in. I have in fact developed such an alternative. It is entitled Democracy Reaches the Kids. {Here called this or also correctly called Adjusted Alternate Education Framework.} Considerations of the theory underpinning such a programme have already appeared in Kobe Journal, etc. passim] I also sent this framework curriculum to likely the highest panel of peers in the USA. They judged it, and sent it back together with the US “extraordinary” visa. {On the US government website they state the qualifications for such an award: they offer as example the Nobel Prize.} Therefore, I think, we can take heart that Democracy Reaches the Kids is fundamentally sound and practically workable. So, I think, you can have confidence in this.

Lets begin were I began. I initially became aware of this startling hikikomori phenomenon from a book entitled ‘Shutting Out the Sun – How Japan Created its own Lost Generation’ by Michael Zielenziger. [Vintage Press] The follow up literature that I have seen would seem to offer little by way of answer, not much real hope. The dedication of the book was for a Japanese young man, Kenji. At present there maybe over one million others in Japan like Kenji. “What do we do when half the population is hikikomori?” asked one speaker in the book. With this urgency in mind I proceed. I have pulled out key quotes, importantly including what the hikikomoro themselves say. What they ask (and alas which, modern education rarely gives them) is actually covered by my earlier research, that into ‘kids that don’t fit in.’ It may also offer hope to hikiknomori. I understand that many are said to be sensitive and often very bright. I am confident that given a genuinely new approach to learning then we can begin to reach these many fine young Japanese caught in this web. I do understand that many are said to be sensitive and often very bright. I am confident that we can together create a liberating outcome.

Part One I take the liberty of going through the following paper; this kindly sent to me by KHJ and their esteemed advisor, Mr. Suguru Sato. I have underscored items which dovetail in some way with my own research into school system failure. Some paraphrasing, quotes in 12 Point. These are the “Notes.” Hikikomori – A Dynamic Systems Theory Perspective by Alan Fogel, University of Utah and Mastoshi Kawai, Mukogawa Woman’s University. The scale of the problem is indicated by this: ‘Hikikomori comprise about 20% of all male adolescents and about 1% of the population of Japan.’ [pp. 206] Here is spoken of the need to change the child to “fit in.”

How about changing the school method so that all from any point of view can automatically fit in? This is what my adjusted schooling framework does. ‘The conventional way to understand this problem is to assume that it resides within the child and to alleviate the problem. We need to find a way to change the child to fit in more with social expectations.’ [pp. 206] A call for another route is surly indicated when children abandon one size fit all school, where no allowance is made for their unique individuality – and they are not sick! ‘… who leave school for long periods are not otherwise diagnosed as schizophrenic or depressed’ – Miiki (2002)’ [pp.207]

One answer attempted was moving sufferers in together with other hikikomori. ‘often against their will.’ [pp.207] We are looking in at a system problem. Both Kondo (2001) and Yoshikawa and Murakami (2001) describe hikikomori as a problem within the family system, rather than simply a problem within the youth. ‘We have written that hikikomori needs to be understood from a dynamic systems perspective.’ (Fogel & Kawai, 2006) Concerning self isolation in their rooms, etc.

I offer a bridging frame. An education alternative which can change the frame as the authors suggest here: ‘Can these problematic consensual frames be changed? ‘The system of relationships must change … and that means stepping outside the familiar frame … Bridging frames are useful to help make a developmental transition between existing and emerging frames. Typically, bridging frames contain elements of both the existing and emerging frames … and have the purpose of allowing people in a relationship to “try out” new ways.’ [pp. 208]

The authors also note the reality of one of the fearsome hurdles at the end of the line in modern, mass schooling: [pp. 208] ‘Children and their parents were also under intense stress during times of entrance examinations, in which a child’s identity depended upon passing or failing.’ [pp. 208] The authors talk of the comradeship that can be found on the net. Internet companions can be more available than any real person. A former hikikomori boy wrote and said:- “Love exchange texts all day.”

Adjusted Alternate Education Framework can easily use this as an approach to these self- isolated folk. It also confirms their intelligence: ‘Adolescents who are typically shy, sensitive and intelligent … Hikikomori is a closing of the border of the child’s world to outsiders. With a small bridge to the outside world via the internet.’ [pp. 208] There is no need, as in the US, for families to try to get the refuser back to the very cause of the problem in the first place. ‘Actively encourage school return.’ [pp. 208]



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