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Read your comments Sunday, 20 October, 2002, 20:19 GMT 21:19 UK
Japan: The Missing Million - comments
Boy locked away

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.
Vincent D., UK/France

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.
Sarah Hyde, UK

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.
Michael Kingham (Retired Academic), UK


I have a son with exactly the symptoms described and any one of the boys featured in the programme could have been my son

Jacqueline Yates
Seems this condition is a kind of 'quiet' rebellion to parents, society etc as opposed to the more well known running away.
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"?
Michal Z Kruszynski, UK

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.
Jacqueline Yates, UK

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.
Yoshi, Japan


He [my son] started playing truant from school then getting aggressive if he was confronted about his behaviour

M Brown
After watching your programme, I realised that what a lot of those boys were going through in Japan, is very similar to the way my son is behaving. He started playing truant from school then getting aggressive if he was confronted about his behaviour. Now all he does is stay in his room all the time, and doesn't want to talk to anybody. Only coming out at night when he thinks everyone is asleep. Is there any more information on this, or is there any evidence that this is going on with teenage boys in this country, and most important of all is there any help out there for these kids.
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.
David Noble, UK

Autism by another name?
Chris Brody, UK

I would tend to believe that this event is from poor parental guidance combined with social acceptance. Could illegal drug use play a role?
Ronald Sopher, Canada


This must highlight the fact that the competitive culture which is dominant in our society is not for everyone

Anon
This must highlight the fact that the competitive culture which is dominant in our society is not for everyone - especially those who are of an introvert personality. Our society is very inflexible in that it does frown upon those who either cannot or will not conform to the rat race, rather than nurture the widely varied needs of individual citizens. Wake up society - one size does not fit all.
Anon, UK

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!
Gareth, UK

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?
Anon, UK


I have a number of friends who are children of academic parents who failed to meet up to expectations and suffered as a result

Martin Berridge
My wife is Japanese. According to her the pressure put on teenagers depends on parents. She chose to go to a high school which didn't make her study 16 hours a day and her parents didn't mind that she didn't go to University and work for a big corporation and she is not unusual in that respect. Remember there are pushy, ambitious parents in the UK too who "hot house" their children and I have a number of friends who are children of academic parents who failed to meet up to expectations and suffered as a result.
Martin Berridge, UK

There are no hero's deaths available anymore. To what cause should us spare young men give ourselves?
Doug Selby, UK

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.
Yoshi, Japan

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.
Mrs T Browett, UK


My daughter, 18-years-old hasn't gone out for over a year now

Isabelle Fleming
It is not just in Japan! My daughter, 18-years-old hasn't gone out for over a year now! Although she moves about the house she won't even step in the garden. Her father and myself don't know what to do any more. She refused all help from health services etc...
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.
Michael Vaughan, UK

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
Anon, UK

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'?
J Owen, UK


I'm doing this same thing right now, and have done many times before, though I wish I didn't

Joe
I withdraw when I feel overwhelmed and perplexed. I think I became addicted to reading and watching TV as an escape mechanism, but now I lack life experience. Often when I feel suicidal I withdraw to my room and try to sleep, but I cannot sleep all day. At these times the only thing that forces me out of bed is to go to the toilet or to drink water.
Joe, UK

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.
Dr Sanjay Singhvi, UK

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.
Dr Erica Warner, Chartered Clinical Psychologist, UK


In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends

Anon [Dr. Martin Luther King]
I am reminded of the quote by Dr. Martin Luther King: In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. As a father in Japan, I can tell you categorically that the biggest problem is not society or the education system (although these clearly are contributing factors), but the parents themselves. Not having the courage to fight the system by actively encouraging their kids to be themselves marks the greatest failure of Japanese as parents.
Anon, Japan

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.
Mike Shiels, UK

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.
Floyd, Japan


I think many young men are subconsciously choosing to opt out from society

Anon
Well my ex has a daughter who stayed in her room for 6 months having food passed in and watching TV, sleeping all day and he could tell you how they forced her to school in her pyjamas. My own daughter refused to go to school for 6 weeks and was reclusive. So there are sure to be lots of cases to study in the UK.
Anon, UK

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.
Ivor Catt, UK

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?
Anon, UK


Here in the US this is an invisible phenomenon which is occurring among black woman, both young and middle aged

Robin Lee
Why do parents today all seem to feel that it is the right thing to do to give children their own room? When I and my children were growing up, we had a bedroom - we only went there at night to sleep. Surely the living room is the family room where all the above should take place. Maybe it's that parents today are too selfish and feel that everything that goes on in the living room is for them alone? Perhaps the child is being conditioned to live in their room, literally!
Helen Hamilton, UK

This is nothing new; millions of depressed people live like this for decades with nothing more supportive than a monthly prescription.
Eliza, UK

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
Robin Lee, USA


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

Lio
Today's fast paced society hands young people a great deal of social pressure. This can easily be overwhelming, and sometimes it may seem that the easiest option is to hide away from it. There needs to be more awareness and subsequent education to help young people cope with the changing world.
James, UK

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.
Lio, Japan

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?
James Young, UK

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