I was contacted via email by someone interested in the topic of hikikomori and posed me several excellent questions. I thought I’d post the questions and my answers to the blog as the answers might prove useful to others looking into the hikikomori issue. I’ll be posting the questions and answers over several blog entries.
Hi M. Dziesinski, I am writing an essay on hikikomori, and as you worked on the subject, I would like to ask you a few questions about that:
My apologies. My spam filter must have caught your previous emails. I also apologize for this late response. I hope you will find these answers helpful (and that I got them to you in time).
I know that both of hikikomori and otaku can read manga or play video games all day. But what’s the different between the two of them? Can’t the otaku be qualified as a hikikomori?
First, otaku are people who are extreme fans who immerse themselves into their hobby to the point of alienating people, but they must maintain networks of communication with other ‘otaku’ in order to feed their habit. While ordering products on the web is becoming more common in Japan, otaku still must venture outside to support their interest in a particular hobby; they have to go out and interact with other people and they thrive on others knowing about their interest.
Second, while the behavior of otaku and hikikomori reading manga and playing video games on the surface may seem similar, their motivations are very different.
From my own direct experience in my field research, hikikomori read manga and play video games in part as activities which allow them to AVOID interaction with people and the possible shame and scorn they anticipate receiving in such interactions. It doesn’t matter if it’s a manga, a TV show, or a videogame- the purpose they do these activities is to take their mind off and mask the real problem in their lives; the pain of human interaction. I had one female hikikomori tell me that after several months she became bored with these activities and began to simply stare blankly at the wall for hours. Others might carve words in their room’s walls like “why?” or “who am I?” The point being, that unlike otaku, such activities are not an end unto themselves for hikikomori.