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:
I hope you will find these answers helpful (and that I got them to you in time).
Can you tell me why the phenomenon mostly concern teenagers and adults from 20 to 30? Why can’t it also concern older people? Can a person who is more than 30 become a recluse?
Actually, it does affect older people from time to time such as a salaryman who has lost his job or some such, but the majority who become hikikomori seem to be young people who are trying to rectify their direct personal experiences in society with the built-in hypocrisy that is inherent in a functional adult society.
The Japanese call it tatemae/honne, outside face/inner desires, but I would also say that George Herbert Mead’s essay ‘The Self’ is a more detailed assessment of the problem with hikikomori. Using Mead’s theoretical framework, hikikomori are unable to successfully integrate the individual and deeply personal desires of “I” with the more pluralistic “Me” that is defined by its role in society existent inside the mind of every individual.
Young people have not yet solidified these two halves of consciousness and won’t until they reach full maturity after many natural setbacks and disappointments that life metes out as the ‘reality’ of society settles in.
By contrast, working adults, dealing with the contradictions of daily life, have a hardened shell and are able to cope with the stresses that Mead’s two conceptions of ‘self‘ place on an individual. Therefore, undue stress on a young person can fracture these two ‘selves’, as an attempt is made to find ‘one truth’ to society; one which can never be found. The “I” remains and seeks separation from a ‘Me’ that causes anguish.
One solution is isolation, however suicide may be another extreme example which falls in line with Emile Durkheim’s theories in his 1897 work SUICIDE on the effects of upheavals in society on the individual. The ten year economic malaise in Japan and the end of lifetime employment for incoming 21st century company employees may be one reason many youth are questioning their lot in life and choosing social withdraw or suicide over the alternative of years of schooling with no reward at the end and no answers by society at large.