Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Hikikomori and Otaku

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to get informed about one of the most controversial social problems in Japan. My classmates talked about Hikikomori and Otaku in Japan.

Social issues in Japan affect both girls and boys. Things such as social withdrawal equally affect growing boys and girls because of different social experiences and expectations. However, with this being said, the condition known as Hikikomori affects boys more than girls. These boys are from the middle or upper classes of society. Usually, the cause for this shift toward the Hikikomori lifestyle is from traumatic events such as academic or social failure.  
What are Hikikomori?

 Hikikomori are people who do not want to leave their house or room and isolate themselves from society for a period of more than six months. In some cases, people remain in isolation for years or even decades.

What is an otazuku?

Otaku is the name given to people who have immersed themselves into the world of Anime and Manga. They somewhat stray away from the social norms of society. Most otaku are socially awkward in normal terms, however unlike Hikikomori they have the ability to communicate with others for networks of connections with people who share their interest. Hikikomori, on the other hand, simply shut people out completely.

Do they have a disease?  

Hikikomori has been connected with people who go through pervasive developmental disorders, which are also known as PDDs. PDDs are a group of disorders which include Asperger’s PDD-NOS (Atypical Autism) and “Classic” Autism. However, these are Western terms, which describe things according to a Western mindset. What puts Hikikomori in a different light is that Hikikomori occurs with social and cultural pressures that are found in Japan.

When did this issue start?

    - Tokokyohi -> School Refusals
    - Otakuzoku -> Obsessive Anime and Manga Fanatics
    - Great economic prosperity of post-war Japan and the technological boom, which changed Japan’s social structure.   

I never thought that these people exist! The first time I met one was here at Kansai Gaidai; a female born in the United States. I tried to have a conversation with her and it didn't go well because I have no clue about manga, anime and video games. I asked her polietely where is she from and what is her name. And the reply was, “I am from United States. Do you like pokemon?”

Is she a hikikomori or an otaku? I don’t know. I came from a less fortunate part of the world where people cannot afford these kind of expenses. Can be manga and anime regarded as a hobby, passion, obsession, or a lifestyle? I don’t want to judge anybody. Yet I would like to ask why some people spend money on games, anime and manga as opposed to having intimate relationships with others (both plutonic and romantic).


  1. A nice treatment to the topic, especially the recognition of the disconnect between Western medical science perspective and Japanese socio-cultural environment. I imagine your closing question is found within the broader scope of social relations and escapism, not just isolated to otaku or hikikomori.

    Strongly urge you to cite sources for the images/text that you borrow, just as you would for any other academic assignment.

  2. Well, R.A. Stern (your sempai) again beat me to the punch... What he said, especially about citing the sources for your images.

    I do like it when Contemporary Issues meets Visual Anthro...