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Why Are Japan’s “Hikikomori” Isolating Themselves from Society?

The stereotypical young man who stays hidden away in his room playing video games might make for humorous fodder, but in Japan, it's no joke. The nation is dealing with such an epidemic of working-age people isolating themselves in their bedrooms in their parents' homes that this phenomenon has a name: hikikomori. According to recent figures, at least half a million Japanese between the ages of 15 and 39 are committing themselves to a life without socialization, often for years at a time. And that figure is considered a very low estimate, since it's hard to even identify these people, mostly men, who don't leave the house. There are now organizations aimed at drawing out the recluses, though the process can take a long time and requires the commitment of others, mostly women, who are willing to spend hours writing letters, making calls, and dropping by for brief and often unsuccessful visits. While no single cause has been identified for the existence of so many social recluses, many believe that the pressure Japanese society puts on young people to succeed is at least partly responsible, with many hikikomori cowering in fear of failure to live up to such high expectations.

Life under the Rising Sun:

  • Japan has a higher percentage of senior citizens than any other country.
  • Ninety-eight percent of all adoptions in Japan are of adult males; they are usually adopted to help with a family business.
  • Japan has more pet dogs and cats than it does children under the age of 15.
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