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Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
Japan: The Missing Million - comments
Japan: The Missing Million. Thank you for sending us your comments. They will be published here and updated throughout the week.
I watched last night's programme whilst my son of 26 was in his room upstairs which he occupies for almost 24 hrs a day. Although he does come out of his room and joins me for meals, he has no social life, no friends and no job. His only social contact was a game of pool with his elder brother who has now decided that he will stop all contact as he is doing nothing to change the situation. I've sought counselling but my son refuses to believe he is in need of help and will not seek medical advice. I don't know how to help him.
Rosemarie Dowsett, UK
An interesting programme which shows that virtual reality and increase of technology can have negative impacts on communication skills. Shall we go to walk in the forest or sail instead of staying confined in front of a game console? I do think IT technology is good as long as used with care. The question is why Japan has only these symptoms. Maybe an answer: would you like your children to finish school at 12 a.m. or 1 p.m. and then sleep at school? Me, no because I believe children need to have a life and not a competitive surrounding them all the time.
Whilst last night's episode on hikikomori was fascinating, I feel that the producers of the programme
were mistaken in showing the particular cram school (juku) which was visited. Hikikomori is a strange phenomenon to the west, where we would be less likely to take such a passive approach to this kind of problem. I agree that the educational system can be partly responsible for the problem. However, the cram school shown was of such an extreme nature. Having lived and worked in Japan for many years I have never encountered one so extreme. This was a case of the producers deliberately choosing an example to prove a point.
I worked as a University academic for 34 years and in the later years endured a great deal of mental pressure in the changing market oriented culture of the University. I had a psychotic breakdown, completely lost touch with reality and went into the wilderness for four years. At home in one room all the time I wanted no interventions and I did not want to see anyone. I identified very strongly with the young man in the film. There does however seem to be a difference between us. In my case my enforced psychotic withdrawal led to a situation of doing nothing. Sitting quietly, shaking, meditating, gradually emptying my mind and finding some peace and quiet was part of the healing process. In the case of the young man seen in the documentary (and how many others?) they seemed to have withdrawn but they were filling (occupying) their minds with high-tech for very long periods of the day. That is to say they were 'socially withdrawn' but not 'withdrawn' in the clinical and depressed sense. We are living in new times and I feel that the real rates of psychosis are increasing. A recent study in Holland suggested the phenomenon of a 'psychosis continuum' i.e. the potential for up to 40% of the population (given the right circumstances and triggers) to become psychotic.
SA Mike, UK
To echo some of the mentioned views; to call this behaviour uniquely Japanese is utterly naive and short sighted. I believe that a great many of the viewers related to these young men, how many times have we all wanted to, "get away from it all"?
I found the programme very interesting but I am unsure that this condition only exists within Japan. I have a son with exactly the symptoms described and any one of the boys featured in the programme could have been my son. The only difference is that I insist on seeing him, I do not take food to him he has to come downstairs and fetch it and I have been seeking help for him.
I only watched a small report about this on BBC World, but it sounded interesting to me, and I appreciate your coverage on part of Japan's social problems as a former victim of school bullying when I was young (though I did not go into hikikomori.) I hope this will be fully broadcast on BBC World at our convenient time as well.
M Brown, England
I watched the program with my Japanese wife - resident in the UK for the last 17 years. As parents of toddlers we looked to the future and wondered whether social conditions in this country could ever allow this condition to develop. The influence of "Gaming" as a time-consuming solitary pursuit that replaces "friends" is not unique to Japan. We agreed that the social stigma attached to failure, and even illness (but specifically "mental illness") is greater in Japan than in the UK. Reluctance to seek help is universal I would imagine, but Japanese culture and private healthcare would certainly allow more pressure to remain silent.
Autism by another name?
I would tend to believe that this event is from poor parental guidance combined with social acceptance. Could illegal drug use play a role?
Japan is the most stressful society to live in the world! It has the worlds highest suicide rate for teenagers and adults! The capitalist system kills! We are human beings not robots!
I am a young male and do not feel this problem is unique to Japanese culture. Speaking from personal experience, my reclusiveness began with my depression although initially I was plagued by agoraphobia. I subscribe to the view that society is to blame for my outlook, having been bullied in the workplace, mugged and physically assaulted; I lost all faith in humanity. I only venture out about once a fortnight and dread most human contact, as I feel threatened by others. I am not unique as a close friend has similar feelings. I feel safe through isolation and enjoy my own company. There is nothing wrong with my reclusiveness; it is a choice I feel is right for me. What is wrong lies outside my front door, in the world at large. Who says that sociability is a virtue and reclusiveness a problem? If I became a monk and withdrew from society, would that be a problem?
Martin Berridge, UK
There are no hero's deaths available anymore. To what cause should us spare young men give ourselves?
Sorry but let me put an additional comment. I wonder if the show covered the fact that in Japan it is often the bullied (victims) not the bullying (offenders) that are to blame. And also how the show explained the situation Japanese males are in (as opposed to girls). I really hope that I can watch it fully on BBC World very soon. Thank you for your attention.
Excellent programme but I don't agree that this syndrome is in Japan alone. It may be more severe there as help is not sought, but I have a teenage son who I am shortly taking to a psychiatrist because he seems to have withdrawn. I would like to have seen more about the role of computer games in the programme. Thank you.
Isabelle Fleming, England
One of my relatives, who is half Japanese and lives in the UK, behaved exactly like the young men in your film. Over several years he refused to go to school, stayed in his room, wouldn't communicate and reversed day and night. A bright intelligent and lively boy became very withdrawn. He has now come through it; he has a job and is making a recovery. It was fascinating to see your programme because I had no idea it was so common in Japan.
I've also done the same thing when I've felt overwhelmed, or even suicidal. I've shut myself in my room, and only got out of bed when I could no longer put off going to the toilet or to drink water. This is to avoid meeting anyone and being forced to interact. It started when I was a teenager. I wanted to know the meaning of life, and drove myself mad. As a result, I don't feel part of regular society, and when I can work, am only fit for cabbage-brain jobs, even though I have a university degree
As other comments have previously indicated, this problem is not unique to Japan. I'm currently recovering from my 'seclusion'. Time and time again I recognised the situations in the film, sometimes down to specific phrases. There is little doubt in my mind the problem stems largely from failing parents. However unless parents are made aware of the problem, how can we expect all of them to adequately cope if it hits their 'child'?
I found the reporter and Dr Grubb very patronising and narrow minded in their approach to anything non-western or not in the DSM handbook. Who says that isolation and solitude are wrong or to be frowned on. To see you two expressing amazement at the inability of Japanese parents to knock down the door was laughable. Get a grip on the other 6 billion people, and stop forcing your prescription onto them.
I watched your programme today with interest. I do not believe this is uniquely Japanese. My own son had locked himself away for the past two or three years. Even as a psychologist I found it difficult to reverse the process I saw before me. I have heard of another Westerner who has experienced the same with her son and I suspect there are many, many more here... It is time to start researching this in our own culture.
Oh come on, they're just nutters, aren't they. Giving it a fancy Japanese name doesn't change that. Give 'em a slap and tell them to pull up their trousers. Blimey.
While many Japanese parents are indeed far too pushy and ambitious for their kids, the majority of them who produce socially dysfunctional kids do so through their silence and inability/unwillingness to truly communicate with their children.
My son spent six months in his room, in England. I feel his case will help to shed light on the problem, which during the programme was continually said to be unique to Japan. There are many similarities with the cases shown.
I was surprised to watch this programme and draw parallels with my own life. I lead what could be described as a hermit's existence. I think many young men are subconsciously choosing to opt out from society, the problem cannot be seen as the reserve of we who choose to live in seclusion but what is happening in society that is driving us into this behaviour?
Helen Hamilton, UK
This is nothing new; millions of depressed people live like this for decades with nothing more supportive than a monthly prescription.
I think you will find that this is not unique to Japan. My 18 year old son lives a similar but not quite as extreme life. He has no job, talks to very few people, has few friends, and spends almost all his time in his room. Only difference is he has cleared out everything other than a mattress on the floor and a table where he eats all his food.
Although much attention has been given to males, specifically Japanese males, here in the US this is an invisible phenomenon which is occurring among black woman, both young and middle aged. The reasons are complex, yet the propensity for violence is one aspect which hasn't matured, yet. The alienation of modern life is taking a toll greater than society is willing to examine. Be it in Japan or the notoriously heterogeneous USA
I decided to write this comment because this topic is one I can talk about properly and I think this may help your research. I am 23 years old and I was one of the missing million about 9 years ago, something like for 2 years. At first I refused to go to school. There wasn't any meaning or proper reasons. I didn't get bullied or have any pressure from parents nor school. I only felt like I wasn't being myself. I felt like I was being mind-controlled by something which was not from any person in particular. I wouldn't go this far but that's what I felt anyway. During that time I taught myself history, world affairs, science etc. through books and television. I restarted my education in the U.K about 6 years ago. Although I dropped out from school while studying A-levels I had an unforgettable great time even after I left school. It will be whole year since I was refused to live in the U.K. I am kind of homesick for the first time of my life. Things are this, when I was in the U.K nobody told me about patriotism but I am a patriot of the U.K. I wouldn't say which country is better or worth but if I can choose between societies I choose British society.
The phenomenon of young men withdrawing from society is not a peculiarly Japanese problem, although the severity is perhaps worse there. From my own experience I can attest that it is happening in the UK, and it is probably happening in industrialised nations across the world. Society has created a situation where many young men are doomed to failure, asked to live up to unreasonable expectations, without strong, positive male role models to help guide them on their way, and then they are strongly castigated when they fail to reach those expectations. Is it any wonder that many young men are lost, and decide that withdrawing from the society that set them up for failure is the only option left to them?
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