Times Higher Ed on Saito Tamaki's HIKIKOMORI

By Atsushi Senju
Times Higher Education

saito_hikikomori coverIn the Brothers Grimm tale, Rapunzel was shut away in a tower, while in Charlotte Brontë’s most famous work, Mrs Rochester was locked away in Thornfield Hall, hidden from the eyes of Jane Eyre. The common theme is that the two women see hardly anyone for a very long time and are cut off from society. Tamaki Saitō’s book is also about people who are locked away from society. The only difference is that Hikikomori: Adolescence without End is the story of real people, and there are 700,000 of them in Japan - only a little short of 1 per cent of its entire population.

In English, hikikomori may be translated as “social withdrawal”. Saitō, a Japanese psychiatrist, describes it as a state in which a person confines himself to his own room or home and does not participate in society for six months or longer. To be hikikomori, he asserts, this behaviour cannot have another psychological problem as its principal source.

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