The phenomenon, known as hikikomori, was explored on the BBC World Service last Friday.
Hikikomori translates directly as ‘abnormal avoidance of social contact’.
It is thought the numbers of young people withdrawing from society in Japan are on the rise, with the figure currently estimated to rest somewhere between 700,000 and a million.
So just why are these young people hiding themselves away?
Some experts believe powerful social and cultural forces put strain on young people in Japan today. One such force is known as ‘sekentei’, which is a person’s reputation and the pressure he or she feels to make a good impression on others. The longer a person hides away, the more aware they become of their social failure and the more difficult it becomes to reinstate themselves into the community due to self-esteem and confidence issues.
The Japanese are traditionally very family-orientated and Japanese men are expected to stay in the family home as adults. The might of parental expectation can weigh heavily on some young people and cause them to withdraw into themselves or act violently.
One young man spoke to the BBC about his experience of hikikomori. He explained how the problems at home began when he quit school. His parents blamed him for giving up and he also blamed himself, leading to a gradual withdrawal which saw him eventually fearing the outside world. He stopped communicating with friends and eventually stopped talking to the parents he shared a home with.
He said: “I had all kinds of emotions inside me. The desire to go outside, anger towards society and my parents, sadness about having this condition, fear about what would happen in the future, and jealousy towards the people who were leading normal lives.”
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