In trying to fix the problem with Google's image servers hammering my bandwith I came across a trackback on a blog named Delphiki.
The trackback in question linked to my two part article on hikikomori not being violent.
Here is the original blog entry on the Delphiki site about hikikomori.
I chewed over what he had to say for awhile and wrote response to his article in the comments. It is so long winded that I decided it should probably also post it here as a blog entry:
First, I want to say thank you for posting an article on the hikikomori. It’s always good in my opinion to get the word out and encourage discussion and thought on this topic. Your analysis of the causes and behavior patterns of hikikomori, due in part to Japanese cultural influences, are pretty accurate based upon my own ten months of field research in Japan on this topic.
However, I have to disagree with the violence part as well as the million strong hikikomori army you read about in the various articles online. For the violence, you provided links to my site, Japan’s Lost Generation, to my articles ‘Hikikomori are not Violent’ where I argue the opposite. In my interviews of support staff at a hikikomori rehab center in Tokyo, they firmly state that hikikomori violence appears to be rare. In the cases that it does occur, the hikikomori is often ALSO afflicted with mental illness. What I found in the field is that most hikikomori are socially crippled rather than mentally ill; contrary to what the BBC was reporting in 2000 with the ‘Japan’s Missing Million’ article. I would say that 80% of the hikikomori at the rehab center where I worked were re-socialized and functional within six months to one year of admittance.
On the one million hikikomori— I found that that estimate actually came originally from Doctor Saito Tamaki, the man who coined the word ‘hikikomori’ and subsequently published a dozen books on the subject since the mid 1990s. From there, that one million figure was quoted, re-quoted, and spread through the various media treatments on hikikomori reportage as it makes great headlines.
I think it's suspect.
The Japanese Ministry of Health, in a survey done in 2000 on hikikomori, estimates the number is closer to 50,000 individuals; that is still quite a lot, but not 20% of the entire nation’s 13-18 year old Japanese male population that the one million figure would account for (see my paper on my blog for more depth on this).
Your economic look at the effect of one million people missing from the workforce is prescient and I came to the same conclusion in my literary review I wrote on hikikomori back in 2002. For IF the one million Japanese people were NOT to join the workforce in the next ten years, and considering the graying of the Japanese population…well you’re right on that time bomb.
But maybe for different reasons.
I’ve found that the hikikomori are actually the most extreme subset of a larger group called freeta (which also includes a group called ‘parasite singles’); young people who live at home well into their thirties and refuse to work in demanding career path jobs at corporations, but instead prefer low-pay positions as clerks in convenience stores and the like. So your worry about the Japanese economy may be right, but because of the growing numbers of freeta (of which the hikikomori is a very small percentage).
Sorry to be so long-winded but this is a topic very near and dear to my heart.
Again, great post!