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]

Hikikomori Part 2

23 02 2009

Part Two Comment on the BBC film ‘The Mystery of the Missing Million’ [Found on the Internet] This was also shown on Belgium television. (Some punctuation, added). These stray comments generally support the approach I recommend:-

Sarah Hyde UK:- “I agree, that the education system can be partly responsible for the problem.”

Micheal Kingham, academic for 34-years:- “The potential for 40% of the population (given the right circumstances and triggers) to become psychotic.”

Michael Z. Kruszynski, UK:- “To call this behaviour uniquely Japanese is utterly naïve, shortsighted” {Apparently, entrenched in Italy, growing in Germany, that land of the eternal student.}

Anon UK:- a hikikomori:- “There is nothing wrong with my seclusion … if I became a monk, would that be a problem?” Michael Vaughan tells of his half-Japanese relative, who eventually came through it:- “A bright, intelligent and lively boy became very withdrawn.”

Anon UK:- “I wanted to know the meaning of life. I am only fit for cabbage brain jobs, even though I have a university degree.” James UK, age 13, taught himself history, world affairs, science, etc., all through books and television. “I only found I wasn’t being myself.”

Dr. Erica Warner, who is a Chartered Clinical Psychologist:- “My own son had locked himself away for the past two or three years.”

Anon UK:- “Not encouraging their kids to be themselves marks the greatest failure of Japanese parents.” Helen Hamilton, UK and concerning the TV and or PC are often found in 21st Century bedrooms:- “We only went there at night to sleep. Perhaps today the child is being conditioned to live in their room – literally!”

Eliza, UK:- “Cleared out everything, other than a mattress and a table where he eats all his food.”

James, UK:- “There needs to be more awareness, and subsequent education. To help young people cope with the changing world.”

A Graduate student studying history at CSU, Stanislaus:- “The sense that one is forced to behave under a suffocating series of prescribed rules, and the sense that withdrawing from these expectations is the only way to survive.”

James – an Australian, a former teacher in Japan:- “Wow! What’s going on with the Japanese school system? The whole idea of cram schools is insane, children at age 12-year shown in the docu should not be exposed to that sort of emotional and physical strain. If that had been me at 12/15 I would have crawled into my room and locked the door too! How many of these young people are ‘bucking ‘the system and trying to strike out on their own, to find some of their own individuality?”

“One more frightening aspect of Japanese culture found during my teaching experience is that most young people don’t have big dreams or aspirations. They are content with mediocrity. For example you ask 16-years old that their dream job is and more than likely they will answer an office worker. One major problem with Japanese education system is that the students never get chance to use their imaginations, creativity or analytical skills. At school all they need is an excellent memory to succeeded.” I surveyed this myself. {Meegan}.

I asked my Japanese student classes this, and wrote on the board. “It is said that Japanese students have the smallest spirit among any others in the world.” In most countries this would, I guess, be considered outrageous, indeed insulting. Not in Japan. Majorities, reaching up to the high 80s agreed! Sada: “Materials were already prepared. We had a house, car, PC so what else should we buy? Of course people work not only for money, but it seems to me true, that money encourages the working. What kind of dream can children have in such circumstances? That is the reality that Japanese society is encountering now.”

“Hikikomori does not start as mental illness, but with time it is just as debilitating. Other cultures use drugs. To cope with their dissatisfaction of society … As well as ease of access to any sort of information without leaving room. I sympathize with the hikikomori, the word is aspects of a terrible place and those that don’t fit in would naturally want to withdraw.”

Danish Human Arts student at Roskide University: “The Japanese education system and Japanese society and culture on the whole play a very important role.”

Kenneth: “I think that self system communication classes should be mandatory at high school. It is our societal obligation to prevent such terrible occurrence.”

Renae: “Chaotic atmosphere of everyday life, rapidly consuming people and their lives. The hunger for material possessions is becoming increasingly disturbing. The young are taught by their parents that to have money is to be successful. If we have then power to build the present then we can shape the future, the potential is endless provided we keep our eyes and hearts open.”

Lotus: “I believe that if we fail at school or anything that modern man is based open, there is nothing to fall back on at all.”

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]

ACTION for CHILDREN – Beginning: ‘those that don’t fit in’

30 01 2009

I don’t know about yourself, but for me, after so many activities and actions here and everywhere, I felt that it was about time to get something down, like solid, while I still have the chance.

I could see the problem right enough, and it revolves around kids and the future! For God sake, what kind of world we leaving to them? Clearly, the spaceship, the planet we call Earth – our only home in the vastness – is degrading. What to do? What to do?

So, I created a framework which can allow – at last – our children, who are the inheritors of it all, to be best equipped to deal with the future. A future where the rules of life are being rudely redrawn. For this and other reasons, I turned to education and its renewal.

By harnessing the great power of Youth itself. By recognizing ALL their talents, abilities and yes, dreams. By allowing all to ‘become the best they can be.’ So much of what they will have to deal with is not addressed by school. It has become a vast amalgam specialized to the point of practical uselessness. This nonsense has got to end.

Preserving your own culture, knowing where you come from, speaking your language, understanding your heritage and its teachings, are all important things that ‘school’ has ignored.

In the process of this very broad thrust, I got the USA to (nobly) say “sorry” (and officially) to the Indian Peoples. That led me to stand inside the tragic school [Red Lake, Minn.] where the blood of 17 had washed, shot and wounded. In Alaska, with singular honour, I embraced the last speaker, and last of the Alaskan Eyak People, Chief Marie Smith-Jones.

Education renewal is the key to greater safety in Indian country; these and other catastrophes are preventable. And the application far beyond, the safety and happiness of all children is right there, too. It is for real. Join me in better securing the future.

Call for Support

Up to now many important things have been done toward guiding our youth, and supporting their families, towards a full education and yes, better ensuring the happiness of call concerned in a dangerous and changing world.

All my actions of the last 16-years, if not a lot longer, have been in this direction. You know, the toughest agency in the US, they gave me a special visa called “extraordinary.” That is, they recognized the sweeping education alternative being blogged here, to be one of the 300 ideas which could – if implemented – transform America itself. That it could effect a sea-change in the dangerous world of the American Young, that which has already done much too distort life in the Great Democracy.

As much has been done, as can be done, I think. To move to the next stage and act on the firmly established groundwork will need funding. If you have thoughts, or capacity, in this then we can grasp together this vast hope?

I am at your service and I am at georgemeegan@gmail.com

George Meegan

171a. … And too Many Lawyers!

23 01 2009

‘At a school in Florida, for example, a five-year-old girl decided to throw everyone’s books and pencils on the floor. Sent to the head teacher’s office, she continued to wreak havoc. Her teachers dare not restrain her physically.


Instead, they summoned the police, who led her away in handcuffs, howling. The teachers acted as they did for fear of being sued.


A teacher at a different school was sued for $20m for putting a hand on a rowdy child’s back to guide him out of the classroom. The school ended up settling for $90,000. In New York where more than 60 bureaucratic steps are required to suspend pupil for more than five days, teachers are so frightened of violating pupils’ rights that they cannot keep order.

“Bureaucrats rip up climbing frames for fear that children may fall off and break a leg. So children stay indoors and get fat.”