Arama They Didn't

2:53 am - 02/05/2013

Counselor's Harsh Words for Parents of Hikikomori: Over 30 yr-olds Are Screwed, Over 40 Are Hopeless


As the social phenomenon which goes by the Japanese name of “hikikomori” continues to grow in Japan and other parts of the world, with the first generation is now well into middle age.  Hikikomori refers to people who engage in social isolation by remaining in their homes for extremely long periods of time.

Carpe Fidem is a website which offers support to families with members who have become hikikomori. However, a column they published recently describing questions which come up during consultations with parents of hikikomori children has been stirring up controversy. In it, the counselor recommends some “tough love” style approaches and may have offended some with their level of frankness.

The column lists about 50 questions that were documented from actual consultations with parents. For the most part they are what you’d expect to hear during such a session, such as:

Q: Do you think a child’s hikikomori behavior is the fault of the parents?
A: The parent isn’t really responsible for triggering hikikomori, but if it goes on longer than it should the parent takes some blame.

Q: If a child becomes hikikomori should the parent immediately stop it?
A: Any parent would worry about their child, and you shouldn’t react immediately. However, don’t let it continue for a long time; the possibility of returning to a normal lifestyle decreases.

The counselor also maintains that the parents should set firm yet reasonable rules for children to help prevent them from becoming hikikomori. For example, setting a firm age for moving out of the family home is good, but demanding that your child become a lawyer at an early age doesn’t help at all.
Around the middle of the questions things get a little heavier though.

Q: Sometimes we see murder cases in the news where a hikikomori kid kills their parents. Could our child also be dangerous?
A: If you ignore the child without doing anything and they become fully hikikomori, trying to remove them from that can be risky.

Q: Violent cases are not rare?
A: If the hikikomori behavior goes on for a long time, acts of violence smaller than that which you see on the news happens a lot. Murder cases and assault cases are not common but equally are not rare.

Q: Why does it happen?
A: Simply, if the parent ignores the problem, the child becomes stuck in their situation. Then, if the family suddenly tries to become involved, the situation can become explosive with anger and violence. Also the older the child gets the more volatile the situation can become.

The word “stuck” which the counselor uses here is translated from the Japanese word tsunda. The word has various meanings like dense, clogged, or checkmated. The counsellor’s use of this words has caused the most hurt feelings for its tone. To use a loose analogy in English, it’d be like saying the child is “screwed.”

Due to the response to this article, the author amended their column explaining their choice of word. The main purpose was to use a word that resonated more with the younger generation who experience hikikomori. While the parent’s generation feel the word is offensive, their children relate more to it.

The counselor also repeatedly points out that a hikikomori child who misses high school and/or college education has little to no chance of obtaining meaningful work in this day and age. Therefore someone in this situation – hikikomori or not – are truly stuck.

Q: What do you mean “stuck”?
A: Generally, if the parents leave the kid past 30 years of age, the possibility of getting a decent job is gone, so they are almost completely stuck. So, during their 20s what they do determines whether they get stuck or not.

Q: What if a child remains hikikomori into their 40s with nothing done?
A: Hopeless.

Q: What do you mean?
A: You just have to accept it. Their connection to society is completely shut down. It’s sad, but at this point some families’ true worth is revealed.

Q: Each family has their own circumstances, so is it right to compare families like that?
A: Maybe in principle, but in real life a good or bad families clearly exist. Phrases like “everyone is different” and “you can’t compare” are nice to hear, but they don’t help to solve real problems. If the family is too slow to act then they have the same indulgence as the child.

Q: What’s bad about being kind?
A: The point is that the parents misunderstand what true “kindness” is. In the case of hikikomori, so-called kindness just glosses over deeper problems. They may think they’re being kind, but it’s simply avoiding the problem. The family who can solve their problem is the family who can identify and fix it. The family with no ability or desire to solve problems, meanwhile, says abstract things like “everyone is different” and “kindness is important,” and tends to be avoiding their problems.

The writer and counselor(s) in this column are unnamed but have not edited or changed their opinion since receiving complaints. The have simply defended their remarks saying that it’s okay to let a child go through a reclusive phase if it happens, but it’s up to the family to pull them out of it before it becomes so severe that they can never become independent. If not then they are truly screwed.


dramaticsurgeon 4th-Feb-2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
I remember hearing someone in Japan describe their friends--a mixed marriage in which the mother is Japanese and the father is German. Their son tried becoming a hikikomori, but when the mother explained to the father what was happening the father took a drill, unscrewed the hinges off the son's door and removed it entirely, physically picked him up off the floor and sat him at the kitchen table. That door stayed off until the kid started opening up about his problems and agreed not to shut himself away.

An extreme example to be sure, and a definite display of the difference in cultural approaches. But the question begs to be asked: how is it showing kindness to let your child isolate him/herself to the point they'll literally and physically never be able to function in society? While other countries might allow adults at 30, 40+ to return to school for vocational purposes, Japan's just not set up that way. Rather than kindness, I'd almost say they're committing a crime.

Besides, what happens to the now-adult child who has never learned to BE an adult when their parents die? Are they passed on to another family member, like inherited debt? Do they just shrivel and die too? How is that fair or kind to anyone?
agirlsgarden 4th-Feb-2013 10:14 pm (UTC)
The scenario with the German and Japanese parents is interesting - but it would only work if the parents really wanted to get involved and help their child.

I went through a bit of a reclusive phase in middle school, and my parents couldn't be bothered to deal with it. I think if they had unscrewed my door and made me eat dinner with them, it would have helped a lot - even if it just meant showing that people cared. Being ignored certainly didn't help.

I think some parents (selfishly) assume that ignoring the problem is easier. And it probably is, until their child becomes a 35 year old shut in who won't leave the house.
(no subject) - Anonymous
dramaticsurgeon 4th-Feb-2013 11:49 pm (UTC)
Haha! Maybe it's encoded into their genes to remove doors when faced with an unruly child who locks himself in his room. XD
blazingeternity 5th-Feb-2013 01:28 am (UTC)
Hahaha, I don't know about that, but that saying "going German" does have to come from somewhere. We're pretty straight with things, confront problems directly, and over here it's unheard of a kid that locks itself away to never leave again. Even more so, if a kid wouldn't go to school anymore, officials would investigate the parents and eventually take the kid away by force. I guess in most Western societies, if a child hides itself away, everyone will automatically regard it as the fault of the parents.
So apart from being all "wtf kid, you must be joking. Stop that shit and just SAY what's bothering you", protecting one's own reputation might also be a reason to solve the situation quickly.
citrine047 5th-Feb-2013 09:53 pm (UTC)
can i just say that i work mostly with German bosses, and I only have high praises for them regarding their straightforwardness in solving problems. (and i don't mean to generalize the whole population based on my experiences alone, but that's really my consistent observation)
blazingeternity 6th-Feb-2013 08:57 pm (UTC)
If you compare people of different regions within Germany, you'll find groups that are less straightforward than others. But in general I think it's accurate to call "the Germans" a very direct type of people and to me it's one of our strong points (next to timeliness & orderliness xD).
At work it's helpful and I'm kinda happy you made such a good experience, but in more private situations this character trait CAN seem really rude and reckless to members of other cultures...
frostedblossom 6th-Feb-2013 03:32 am (UTC)
My family is pretty heavily German (among other things) and this sounds exactly like what my Dad would do if I tried the same stunt. I think it must be genetic. XD
blazingeternity 6th-Feb-2013 09:05 pm (UTC)
Suddenly I have this picture of big, bulky Teutons in my head... and the genes theory starts to make sense! XD
I'm only half German but I cannot rest until things are settled. I prefer a fight over ignorance. And I grew up with the mindset that if you can confront & fight with someone, it means you care, but if you let a problem pass, then that someone means nothing to you.

Maybe a bunch of Germans need to be sent to Japan as hikikomori's-parents-counselors? xP

Edited at 2013-02-06 09:06 pm (UTC)
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