Milano-Tokyo Dialogue Over Hikikomori
Round 2 ”Hikikomori and Bamboccione”

(Photo: Subway Stations / Milano:Pixabay / Tokyo: Vosot Ikeida)

< Profiles of speakers >

Marco Crepaldi
A young socio-psychologist in Milan, Italy. Founded the web site “Hikikomori Italia” to respond to the increase of hikikomori in Italy, presiding liaison meetings of about 170 families. Refer to his article “What hikikomori is and what Isn’t” which was translated also in Japanese and raised big reactions.

Vosot Ikeida
A middle-aged hikikomori in Tokyo, Japan. Has been a hikikomori intermittently for over 30 years. Refer to his career “Hikikomori Horoki (Odyssey of Hikikomori)“(Japanese). What he speaks out here is his personal opinion and nothing to represent the Hikikomori News.

Continued from Round 1

What is the proportion of hikikomori in Italy like, between male and female?

That’s an interesting question. A Japanese literature about
hikikomori phenomenon tells us that 90% of hikikomoris are male in Japan.

In Italy, it’s very different. The proportion is close to 70% male and 30% female. Of course, that’s not an official estimate, because in Italy we don’t have any research about this problem yet. As I said, we are standing at the very beginning.

If you say you have read so in a Japanese literature, it may be only officially said that we have 90% male for all the Japanese hikikomoris.
However, according to my personal feeling, which is formed up through our hikikomori network, 70% male – 30% female may be the actual proportion, just like in Italy.

As I am sure you agree, here is a problem which can be said to be even “fateful” concerning the hikikomori-related. Hikikomoris are hikikomoris just because they don’t come out on the surface of everything, – society, statistics, media, research, and so on. So it is inevitably difficult for us to know the exact overall picture of hikikomori.

That’s right.
When did you get familiar to the hikikomori phenomenon by yourself?

Originally, “hikikomori” is not an unnaturally, artificially-made word in Japanese language, though it is rather recent to be spotlighted. In other words,”hikikomori” is not like “neto-uyo” or “tsun-dere” which are newly created words.

The verb “hikikomoru” has been existing since long ago. Its noun form “hikikomori” was initially used for the translation of English term: “social withdrawal” in the diagnostic criteria of DSM-III compiled by the American Psychiatric Association. It is said to be the beginning of history that we consider this phenomenon with the expression “hikikomori”.

I personally started to have chances to hear the word “hikikomori” around 2000.
In those days, I never thought I was the one. People were using the word quite negatively, so I didn’t feel like thinking I was the one. I felt, “Oh, no thank you. It’s not me!”
I think it is sure they were using the word with strong prejudice like “A hikikomori is a male” at that time.

In other words, Japanese people in those days were thinking that a female would never become a hikikomori.

You could say so. It is only recent a few years that female hikikomoris were “discovered” or started to be openly identified as hikikomori. Now I said the proportion is 70-30, but I think it is still on the way to proceed the work for identification. It means more female hikikomori may come out without hesitation on the surface of statistics in the future.

In Italy, too.

As far as the male – female proportion in the general human society is 50 – 50, it won’t be a surprise even if the proportion of male – female hikikomori becomes the same.

When and how did you start to use the Japanese word “hikikomori” in Italy?

In Italy, we are used to borrow words from others languages, mainly from English. The Japanese word “hikikomori” is slowly spreading through the country, but it has not yet entered in our everyday Italiano. This is also one of my main objectives to make “hikikomori” penetrate as a daily Italian word.

The very first time I heard the word was in an anime called “Welcome in the NHK” in 2012. Personally, I started to use it since my first day, because I think “hikikomori” is a global phenomenon and it needs a global word. In this way, when we speak about hikikomori, we can speak about the same concept, even if we are from different country, just like us.

As a similar Italian vocabulary, I have heard “bamboccione“.
Is this somehow connected to hikikomori?

That is something you could confuse with hikikomori, but actually they are really different.

A “bamboccione” is an adult male who lives with his parents or family even after he becomes able to make money to get independent and live alone. Because Italian are often very close to the original house or city and they don’t want to leave them.

But obviously, a “bamboccione” has no problem to go out with his friends or to have social relations with others. So it’s totally different from “hikikomori”.

I see. Then, “bamboccione” might be rather similar to the Japanese-made English word “parasite single”.

Italy didn’t meet the national unification until the period which falls on around Meiji Restoration in Japan, so Italy is known to still have big local differences, for example, north and south, city and countryside.
Does the pattern of hikikomori have local differences a lot?

I cannot answer this question. Because, I have to say again, there isn’t any research about the hikikomori phenomenon yet in Italy.
Based on my experience and contacts, the answer could be “No”.
I’m in touch with hikikomori guys and parents from all over the country.
Maybe the number of hikikomori increases near big cities, like Rome, Milan or Napoli, but it’s too hard to ascertain now. It’s only my impression.

…to be continued to Round 3

to the Japanese version of Round 2