The Real Truth of Hikikomori in Japan
Many families come to me to seek advice regarding their family issues and there seems a noticeable trend in recent family sufferings. That is ‘Hikikomori’, who have literally withdrawn from society and retreat in their rooms for a long period of time, get more violent with time and eventually they treat their parents like a slave. Finally, parents come to me for help or hikikomori’ siblings come and ask me to rescue their parents from hikikomori. The number of similar cases is increasing.
For example, hikikomori demands his(or her) parents (or parent) to purchase things he asked every single day, and if parents make mistakes like purchasing wrong stuff or didn’t purchase the exact amount he asked, he becomes super abusive to his parents and blame them abnormally. Other case is that parents cannot use a shared space in their house like kitchen or bathroom as they want because hikikomori children make a strict regulation on use of those spaces, and he gets extremely mad, even sometimes violet at parents if they don’t follow his regulation. Some hikikomori order their parents leave home at a certain time, e.g. from 6pm to 9pm, every day, so they have to leave home and kill their time during this specified hours at supermarket, café or relaxation-spa in their neighborhood every day.
Parents need his permission to go out or even make a phone call. They have to go home on the exact time he orders, so they are forced to limit their social life. In result of this, parents lose a relationship with their friends or even relatives. Hikikomori makes his parents to change the ownership of family assets or savings from his parents to himself, so parents have no money to control at all. Parents even cannot go to a hospital when they get sick unless hikikomori gives them permission and fees for hospital.
I have endless stories like this, and surprisingly I often hear those similar stories from many families who come to me to seek help in recent days.
Some of those parents had to evacuate their home since their hikikomori child has become extreme abusive and violent at them. Some of them said to me “We wish we could leave behind my hikikomori child and everything, and escape somewhere he cannot find us. But we cannot do it because he might become violent towards our neighborhood and cause huge troubles with them if we leave”. Others are pushing themselves to their limit to live with their dangerous hikikomori child.
From my understanding, there have been also similar cases in the past, but there is a considerable rise within recent days.
Hikikomori has been a national problem for almost 2 decades, and there were some psychiatrists who studied about hikikomori and made a proposal to solve this social problem. However, that proposal did not really work for hikikomori. The government just followed what so-called hikikomori professional psychiatrists have proposed and did not take any countermeasures. In result, hikikomori situation have got worse and hikikomori child and his family are facing tremendous serious problems like cases I showed above. Hikikomori professionals and government have a great responsibility in this result. The age range of hikikomori in dangerous cases I explained above is mainly from 30’s to 40’s. They became hikikomori when they dropped out from school or could not succeed in job-hunting or, had some kind of human-relation problems when they were teenagers or 20’s.
Japanese Health and Labor Sciences Research conducted a research on hikikomori from 2007 to 2009, and in result, they summed up their findings and made a “guideline for evaluating and support of hikikomori”. Based on this guideline, Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare have started a varitety of outreach activities, established hikikomori local support centers, job assistance centers for hikikomori and so on. However this is not effective on cases like families which have a prolonged hikikomori child for decades and also have aging problems.
Those psychiatrists who are professional in Hikikomori and school refusal issues proposed that parents should affirm everything hikikomori children do to cure this. They recommended and guided parents that “Parents have to show their respects to hikikomori children’s intention and follow them closely.”, “Parents have to accept everything hikikomori children do and forgive them whatever they do”.
Despite the fact that parents have meekly listened to and followed professionals’ proposal for 10 to 20 years, the power relationship of parents and hikikomori child has reversed in the result, meaning that hikikomori dominate and rule the house, not parents. Parents paid too much respects to hikikomori and had let them whatever they wanted, in other words, hikikomori has got just spoiled for such a long time and the situation became worse and worse. In the end, hikikomori became the oppressive ruler inside the house. In those cases, parents have lost their right judgement since they had been treated like a slave by their hikikomori child for too long, and became mind controlled. When they come to me, they are usually not healthy in both of physically and mentally.
His siblings are too scared to help their parents because of his violence and abuse. Even though they could rescue their parents from their house, troubles will never end since he controls all family assets and family house.
This is quite simply “TATEKOMORI” meaning barricading himself in and taking over the house, HIKIKOMORI is not the right word any more.
All of Tatekomori children who do such things have extreme anxiety for their future. They know as they get older, parents also get older. They wonder “How would I be able to live after my parents pass away?”. This anxiety directly connects to their life. That is why they are obsessed with family’s assets, parents’ saving and house. They dominate their parents by threat, and started to control all of the family savings, stop their parents and siblings use the money at all, so that he will be able to keep the enough money to live without working forever. If things don’t go as they want, they would blame on their parents and siblings to take the responsibility of their ruined hikikomori lives. They blame on their parents they have become hikikomori, could not have recovered from hikikomori and could not have had a normal happy life because of their parents. This is very dangerous situation. Any small incident might pull the trigger which leads to murder or violent cases between family members.
Hikikomori issues have become this far. This is the reality. However, I surprisingly hear from some families, some professionals still recommend that parents have to “respect hikikomori children’s intention and follow them carefully” and “accept and forgive everything hikikomori children do”. This is totally ridiculous. Families who have followed these professional’s suggestion for more than 10 years even notices that “Those so-called hikikomori professional’s advice is not helping the situation at all, it hasn’t changed anything at all. It even got worse!”. The number of families who are facing the extreme dangerous situation with their hikikomori child is increasing.
I understand for sure that some people criticize that “Not all hikikomori become violent.” ”This could give the wrong and biased ideas of hikikomori to the people”.
Of course there is a certain amount of hikikomori who have recovered from hikikomori by getting helped by public support services and start to have a social life again. However the stance of those public services is “We could provide our supports to hikikomori if they wish to join us on their voluntary basis.” This is nonsense to call people “HIKIKOMORI” who can join the social party on their voluntary basis.
I have checked foreign news and articles about “HIKIKOMORI” before I had an interview with foreign media. It was surprising to me that people who can join social services on their voluntary basis are introduced as “HIKIKOMORI” in those article, they never mentioned any examples of “TATEKOMORI” cases which lie ahead of “HIKIKOMORI”. They never mentioned the suffering voices of those families at all. I understand that the truth of hikikomori situation cannot be revealed to overseas since it is extremely difficult to have an interview with those families even by the Japanese media, so Japanese media even rarely report on hikikomori topics.
If I leave this situation as it is, I am sure that the current Japanese treatment for hikikomori will spread to the world, which is to “respect hikikomori children’s intention and follow them closely” “they get public support to break out from hikikomori situation only when they wish”. This is totally wrong and I have to correct to right direction. In the interview I had with foreign media recently, I made sure that HIKIKOMORI is now TATEKOMORI. HIKIKOMORI is originally from Japan. This is not cool Japan like anime and comic books culture. HIKIKOMORI is definitely a negative social phenomenon in Japan, but we Japanese have responsibility to tell the truth and report front-line news, what is really happening in Japan about HIKIKOMORI to the world.
First of all, I betake myself to say to the world that the word HIKIKOMORI is no longer proper expression, the right word for this is TATEKOMORI.
Photo of TATEKOMORI’s room ①：TATEKOMORI’s room with full of garbage.
Photo of TATEKOMORI’s room ②-1：One case of TATEKOMORI smoked and threw out cigarette end everywhere in the house, so there was always a danger of fire.
Photo of TATEKOMORI’s room ②-2：A knife was in TATEKOMORI’S room.