Saturday, October 09, 2010

Hikikomori, Japan's Lost Generation

An estimated 1 million young Japanese men have closed the door to their room and have decided to stay there in the wake of a bubble collapse which began 20 years ago.Ryu Murakami delves into a social phenomenon which probably has implications for the United States as well:

"Hikikomori has become a major issue in Japan. Loosely translated as "social withdrawal, "hikikomori refers to the state of anomie into which an increasing number of young Japanese seem to fall these days. Socially withdrawn kids typically lock themselves in their bedrooms and refuse to have any contact with the outside world. They live in reverse: they sleep all day, wake up in the evening and stay up all night watching television or playing video games. Some own computers or mobile phones, but most have few or no friends. Their funk can last for months, even years in extreme cases. No official statistics are available, but it is estimated that more than 1 million young Japanese suffer from the affliction. One such young man was the protagonist of my latest novel, Symbiosis Worm."

Murakami goes onto attribute this to affluence however the loss of security in the Japanese middle class particularly as it relates to employment is an important component. Now in the U.S. it's quite likely there are several generations that will either return home or never leave. A real question may be can they ever be mobilized in a social or political way that can change the country for the better.


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