Here are links to several valuable Japanese sites that provide more reliable hard data on hikikomori than the secondhand reportage of the BBC and Asahi articles and their like on hikikomori which have been floating around the internet for the last four years.
This first set of links are to Japan's Ministry of Health,Labour and Welfare's 2003 guidelines on hikikomori. Translated, it reads:
“Isn't that a hikikomori?”
A pamphlet intended for general questions about “Social Withdraw”
“Guidelines for returning 'hikikomori' within the 10-20 age bracket to activities preserving mental health .”
Guidelines for dealing with 'Hikikomori' (Notice that this is the Final Version to be drawn up.)
This site is interesting also. The title, translated into English, is: “ Center for the Health of Young People”.
The topic of the section I have linked to is:“Hikikomori and Childcare Anxiety”
You'll want to stick to the six light blue colored topics in the middle of the page. (The dark blue topics are about 'childcare anxiety', the yellow are “community topics”.)
Translated, the left column, from top to bottom, is:
What kind of condition is 'hikikomori'
An introduction to the definition of 'hikikomori'.
Hikikomori Q & A
Common questions and inquiries,
Answered by psychologist Dr. Tamura.
The resulting changes in participants of the Center for the Health of Young People's consultation activities in relation to 'hikikomori'.
And the three in the right column are:
For Families coping with (hikikomori)
A page on the method of supporting a family's approach to the situation of a 'hikikomori' (in the family) as well as directing attention towards the way the environment (is at home).
From every standpoint
Father, Mother, Specialist; visiting the position of each respectively.
An introduction on actions to cope with (hikikomori)
An introduction to useful activities on ways a family can continually keep at a hikikomori by the Center for the Health of Young People
For translation help:
The body of the text for all of the links above are in Japanese, so for the linguistically challenged, try plugging them in here:
Jim Breens WWWJDIC Server
Just cut and paste the url and see what that gets you.
Also try here:
...Though I find the translations by the last two not so useful.
Finally, here is NHK's official site on hikikomori. Very fluffy bunny:
Well, this post got a little longer than I intended, but it is pretty useful stuff so make of it what you will.
[If my translations are bad, well... that's why I'm training to be a sociologist not a linguist! If anyone is so inclined to provide better translations or even offer to translate the two Ministry of Health articles in English, I would be more than happy to host those translations on this blog and provide full credit to those who did the work. I would link them as PDFs on the left side of my blog under research links (Plus, you would make my life infinitely easier!). There is too little solid information on hikikomori in the English language. Currently, I have a half dozen books on the topic in Japanese, and if I had the resources (and natural language ability), that would be one of the projects I would be doing right now. It's a shame really, as that would be an excellent endeavor to undertake. Any takers?]