31 March 2005

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Q & A about Hikikomori Part 1 <p> 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.... 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.... Question 1: I know that both of hikikomori and otaku can read manga or play video games all day.... 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. </p>
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Q & A about Hikikomori Part 3 <p> 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.... Question 2: Do you think hikikomori suffer from their isolation? I believe that it is pain dealing with society that drives them into their isolation in the first place and because that pain is never dealt with, it festers inside them as they avoid it, ignore it, deny it, and hide from it. That anguish builds over the time of their isolation and with no solutions to their social problem, they ‘over analyze’ the their problem in their heads as ‘what if?’... However, since they are in complete isolation, they are never able to act on their ‘solutions’ as they are still gripped by fear of the outside and the consequences of those very same ‘what if?“ questions they constantly ask themselves. The thing to bear in mind is in my research, the majority of hikikomori are NOT mentally ill, but are suffering from social anxiety or trauma. They are completely lucid and mentally acute; now imagine that you, a healthy and sane person, is put in isolation in a prison or mental institution: their rooms act in much the same way, as an isolation chamber where they are only left with their thoughts on how they came to be in the room alone. In such a state, you are going to become angry, frustrated, go into denial and yet retain cogent self awareness of your own situation as you are sane and lucid. So yes, hikikomori suffer from their isolation as only a self-aware individual can. </p>

Michael Dziesinski

I'm a University of Hawaii PhD in Sociology discussing youth issues in Japanese society in this blog.

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