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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

One Million Hikikomori in Japan?

Hikikomori is a culture-bound syndrome found almost exclusively in Japan, most commonly among male teenagers and young adults, especially eldest sons, although a quarter of cases are female. It is characterized by extreme social withdrawal and near-total social withdrawal”(Oxford Reference Online Premium)


Although the phenomenon had received a large amount of attention from media and scholars, opinions varied when it comes to etiology , defining cases and treatment clauses.  There are still much to be explore in the study of hikikomori. While with the limited data we have in hand, there is a need to be cautious with how to deal with it. 


Currently there are different estimations of the prevalence of hikikomori in Japan, from 50,000 - 168,000,000 over more than seven written reports/opinions from 1999 - 2007.  One must not forget that these numbers were estimations mostly subjected to ecology fallacy. The reason to this is due to (i) the inconsistent definitions given to hikikomori; (ii) the expert’s opinions/clinical experience but not community study.


With these biases, we need to be aware of (a) the reported figures and (b) the suggested causes and (c) interventions that currently practice. Always check the source of information, keep praying as you skim through the evidence, allow the Holy Spirit to guide you in this search. 


Based on the nature of the phenomenon, there have been great limitations on what the research can do, yet it does not discount the need to discover what is really going on in the field. The fear and anxiety embedded in the public about hikikomori, and the seemingly epidemic trend, is a challenge to us to explore the phenomenon further. Perhaps these questions can help us to understand the hikikomori better: What is it like to live with hikikomori? Is it a cultural-bound disease? Is it another form of depression? Is it a new sort of behavior prompted by the pressure of work?


Our study conducted from 2006-2008 had observed 168 subjects of hikikomori, using a grounded theory approach with mixed-methods qualitative study had answered a few questions as below: (i)Hikikomori should not be taken lightly nor be considered comparable to depression, agoraphobia or other mental illness; (ii) Hikikomori should not be taken as simple as social withdrawal as the term, hikikomori has a much deeper meaning embedded to it; (iii)most Hikikomori are deeply unhappy about life and have a low quality of life and poor self-esteem, suggesting early intervention is most like to be beneficial; (iv) Hikikomori is not a cultural-bound social illness limited only to Japanese, but a growing cross-cultural phenomenon. 



There are several limitations to the study, yet to date it is one of the very first few qualitative studies aiming to explore the very basic elements of hikikomori including their own perspectives. 


The challenges before us is to examine: (i) if hikikomori is distinct from other mental illness? if yes, how much difference; (ii) future intervention - timing and methods; (iii) the appropriateness of current interventions; (iv)   the health and emotional status of the hikikomori; (v)influence of social-structural change on hikikomori; and (vi) how and why internet features are used among hikikomori.


There is still a long way to go before we can have a clear and distinct picture of what Hikikomori is about, and how do we as Christian workers could come into the picture for help. What we could and should do is to be equipped, always be prepared to reach out to these people through prayers and genuine love and concern. And as we do, simply let our ‘yes’ be ‘yes’, ‘no’ be ‘no’, for the Lord humble us before Him. Allow Him to lead us into humbleness, so that the people that we reach out to will be healed by the love and understanding of Christ. 


Re: 1.Dziesinski, M. 2005; 2.Isobe, U.C. 2004, 3.Itou, J. 2003; 4.Jones, M. 2006; 5.Okuma, H. 2005, 6. 川上2006; 7.Yong,2008; 8. Mat5:37

1 comment:

Russ said...

I'm going to post this as a link in my FB account. Something I think my friends need to know about.

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