What Is Hikikomori?

Hikikomori means being isolated or confined in Japanese. It’s used for adolescents or adults who withdrew from society and seek extreme degrees of isolation. This became a national problem in Japan. It affected 800,000 people in the country according to 2019 data.

According to the Japanese government census, 540,000 people between the ages of 15 and 39 experienced this problem in 2016. (Source) However, mental health and treatment in Japan are seen as a serious weaknesses. Instead of treatment, they find a temporary solution called folding.

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29-year-old Fuminori has locked herself in her room for a year. In fact, Fuminori Akoa says that he has done well, but explains that he cannot do the best. This has seriously reduced self-confidence. Photo: Maika Elan Photo Source: witness.worldpressphoto.org

Almost all of the inhabitants of Hikikomori are male. They do not work in a job, do not go to school, do not estaAlmost all of the inhabitants of Hikikomori are men. They do not work in a job, do not go to school, do not establish social relationships with the outside world (except the internet). They often contact their families, even reluctantly, and often rarely. The majority isolates themselves in their rooms. Very few of them only come out at night to satisfy some of their needs such as shopping and eating.

Between the ages of 35-49, the number of men who have this problem increases everyday. In this video, Kazuo Okada is a patient with this condition.

Hikikomori Disease

This disease can be observed in Japanese men between the ages of 15 to 30. These people isolate themselves from society as a result of failure, social pressure, or bullying. These people lock themselves in a room or a house. Hikikomori is the name given to this closure behavior.

Usually, the underlying problem disappears within a few days. But sometimes it is long-term. They read books in the room, spend time on the internet, play video games. The time spent in isolation is very important for this diagnosis. When there are more than 6 months of isolation, the diagnosis can be made. In some cases, this isolation period can be 20-30 years long.

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Riki Cook, 30, has an American father and a Japanese mother. His family lives mainly in Hawaii while he lives alone in Japan. “Riki always tries to be outstanding,” writes Elan, but has a fear of making mistakes. Photo: Maika Elan

According to the Japanese State Hikikomori Criteria and Diagnosis;
  • Going to school and not going to work.
  • Difficultly interacting with people outside family members.
  • And these are going on for at least 6 months.
  • Clearly and permanently avoid social situations and social relations.
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Sumito Yokoyama in his room in the city of Chiba in Japan in 2016. He was found dead in her home in September 2017, a year after taking this photo. His family died two months after he died. He had no serious illness, but was constantly tired.
Photo: Maika Elan

From time to time, we encounter people who are isolated from the world, for example (Genie). Examples of this are frequently seen in the cinema. In the (Room), the life of a mother and child who live in a closed room is being told. In (Oldboy), the screenwriter talks about the issue more fantastically: an office worker remains mysteriously locked in a room for more than 15 years. He is released after 15 years of captivity. However, his mental health deteriorates beyond recovery and he wants to punish those who are responsible.

A Big Problem for Japan: Hikkomori!

This behavior of consciously isolating himself/herself is a very serious problem for Japan. These young people do not finish their education, do not work, do not participate in any social activities. They are living with their parents’ income or pension. They don’t pay taxes, they don’t pay for health insurance. As a result, these young people cost about 1.680 billion yen ($ 15,456 million) each year. ( Source)

Why Did Hikikomori Became a thing? What are the reasons?

First of all, Hikikomori is not a formal disease. However, it is known that the Japanese culture has a significant impact on this problem affecting hundreds of thousands of people. Most psychologists and psychotherapists agree that this problem is linked to the Japanese social belief (sekentei).

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Ikuo Nakamura is 34 years old and has been hikikomori for 7 years. He thinks life is unfair. He locked herself in her room for arguing with teachers and her friends in college.

So what is the “sekentei?”

For centuries, Japanese culture has established loyalty in their social structure. So, your reputation in the community and your ability to influence others depend on the secular belief.

Japan, which has created a country from scratch after the Second World War, has became one of the strongest economies in the world in a very short time. (1950 – 1970) However, in 1980, Japan entered an economic recession. The generations that were raised during this period understood that their parents could never achieve success. But their parents still expect them to create a better future.

The next generation will remain in the shadow of this success. Most young people in Japan accept this pressure at various levels and continue their lives by struggling. There are a great number of Japanese people who have been crushed under this pressure. When these young people feel unsuccessful, they isolate themselves from society. They feel more unsuccessful and consequently further punish themselves.

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What Is Hikikomori? Source photo: americanhikikomorifilm

The Dependency Between A Japanese Mother and Child Is A Problem!

The only reason for Hikikomori is not the success of the Japanese. One of the most important reasons is the relationship between mother and son. In Japan, there is a very dependent relationship, especially among the eldest son and mother. The mother shows deep respect and compassion for the boy. This bond is so strong that it continues even when the boy is 30 years old. Yes, every mother loves, cares, and protects her son but that also causes dependence. It also causes the boy to be weaker and more vulnerable in society. If the boy is sensitive too much, and if he does not fulfill his wishes, he can be increasingly violent. 

This unhealthy mother and son relationship ensures that the child will always take care of his mother. The reason why a mother shows such unconditional love to her son is because of society and it comes from a hundred years of tradition.

This unhealthy relationship between the mother and the child can decrease the child’s resistance to pressure. The boy might give up instead of fighting the pressure. He accepts defeat, abandons his expectations from life, and just wants to linger. However, he will often fail to accept how unrealistic this life is.

“Amae” is a Japanese concept/word to describe the feeling of wanting to be loved and to be taken care of by someone. You can often hear this term in articles about Hikikomori. This unhealthy behavior starts from a very young age, it is crucial to fix this situation. Even though it’s the son’s problem the mother primarily must have this awareness as well.

Japan Interviews What Is Hikikomori?


Although Hikikomori seems to be a problem in Japanese society, it is a disease and needs to be treated. It is known that young people have isolated themselves in their rooms and authorities have massive problems in the method and application of treatment because their patients refuse to connect with them.

Today, non-profit organizations like Newstart-Jimu are working for the solution to the Hikikomori problem. In this case, “rented sisters” are being contacted from outside world to reach those people. We discussed this subject in detail in the topic “A different solution to the problem of Hikikomori”.

You can find more information about mental disorders from here.

Last Updated on October 16, 2021 by Patric Johnson

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I am studying in Florida about Dialectic Behavioral Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I'm doing research on Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET), Cognitive psychology, Metacognitive Therapy.

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Comments (2)

  1. Girl, no offense, but your articles are awfully written. If you’re not a native speaker (which neither am I) you should definitely get someone to proofread them. I have a hard time finding out what you are even trying to say.

    • 2 years ago

      Hey Emma,
      Thanks for the feedback. As you mentioned, some of the articles need adjustment but I want you to know that we’re working on it.

      Have a good day,

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