Milano-Tokyo Dialogue over Hikikomori
Round 9 (Final) “After the Dialogue”

Milano and Tokyo / Photos: Pixabay / Retouched by Vosot Ikeida

After The Dialogue

by Vosot Ikeida


The Start of Dialogue

Round 1 : Italian Hikikomori 30 Years Ago
Round 2 : Hikikomori and Banboccione
Round 3 : Support and Ibasho
Round 4 : Supports Needed?
Round 5 : Violent Supporters
Round 6 : Internet Addiction?
Round 7 : Hikikomori and National Character
Round 8 : Why One Becomes A Hikikomori

As above, the 8 rounds of dialogue between the up-and-coming socio-psychologist in Milan; Dr.Marco Crepaldi and just a middle-aged hikikomori in Tokyo; me, Vosot Ikeida, are based on a countless number of the e-mails, which were exchanged mainly in April 2017, and thereafter edited as a common document on the web.

I am just a hikikomori, and merely a patient in the psychiatric care system, but for a long time, I could not accept the viewpoint by psychiatrist experts that “hikikomori” and “taijin kyofusho (interpersonal phobia)” are the culture-bound syndromes which can be found only in Japan.

In the meantime, a piece of news that hikikomoris are “discovered” in Italy, obviously outside of Japan, popped into my ears.  I wondered what the situation around hikikomori is like in foreign countries, so I made a contact to Marco, who is presiding the network for hikikomoris and their parents in Italy, and started to exchange various opinions and information.

Delivering it as a series of articles on the web of the Hikikomori News, we paid considerations to the equality for the Italian readers to receive our information by setting up a system to release the both; English and Japanese articles at the same time. Marco would have had to take some more pains to translate it into Italian, but it seems that the reader has spread all over the world because of the system.

In fact, I have never met Marco in face to face.
The delivery of dialogue went on while I did not know his face until the Yomiuri Shimbun went to Milan reporting about him and published his photo in August 2017.  However, it is possible to imagine what a person looks like only from his words or thoughts. His features were not so far from what I had envisioned, when I saw his photo after all.


Enjoying the Discussion

It often happens that a young scholar tries to overwhelm the opponent of discussion by listing various quotations from famous books, sounding, “I’ve studied so a lot”. However, Marco was never such a type of scholar who attempts barren intellectual defense, and he wrote to me only with intelligence and sincerity, so I was very comfortable to carry on our discussion.

In fact, it reminded me of young days.
As writing in “Odyssey of Hikikomori“(Japanese), I once ran away from Japanese society in my 20’s and was doing “hikikomori” outwardly, and the situation did not allow me to shut myself in the hotel room all the time. I had to talk with people in town I was wandering, passengers who shared a compartment of the train, or roommates in the same cheap lodge, under reluctance at the beginning.

Those who appeared in front of me, whatever the country they might have come from, were always fond of discussion. However, it was not a fist fight with words. It was rather an intellectual game like chess. At the beginning I grudgingly started, but in the end I was absorbed in discussions.

While young people of my ages in Japan got employed and educated in companies and were forming social personality as a Japanese adult, I might be forming up mine through discussing with people at a cafe in foreign town, roommates at a cheap lodge, or passengers in a compartment of international train or on a deck of ship.

I think Japan has a culture in which people do not like to discuss. As soon as discussion starts, it turns into a quarrel. It frequently leaps up to “Dekin (banishment)” or “Chakkyo (blocking communications)”. And this kind of leap will not allow going back.  So if you wish to continue the discussion, you always have to approve of your opponent, but then you can never insist on your opinion. It forms the Japanese society where conformity is most prioritized.

It looks like they are projecting self onto the logic so much that they only concern about whether to win or lose the argument. Conversely speaking, they don’t know a pleasure to be defeated in debate.

That being so, no matter how much English education is promoted from elementary school, Japanese communication skills would not reach the global standard easily.


The Predestined Task

Marco is a socio-psychologist, so he does not like to speak out anything that is not based on evidential data. On the other hand, I am nothing more than a hikikomori, so all I could talk was based on my own experience as hikikomori. It often happened that I chatted carefreely whatever I liked only with imagination, and Marco corrected for me and returned our dialogue to the positivist rail.

However, whenever we try to talk about hikikomori phenomenon empirically, we always strike the wall; that is “There is no statistic data for it”.

As I said in the dialogue, as long as “hikikomori is something that never comes out”, it may be a fateful difficulty that the figures related to this phenomenon do not come out to the surface smoothly.

For example, recently in Japan, on 24 September 2017, it was reported that a questionnaire survey conducted by Kyodo News to all the prefectures, 21 of which publicized the actual state of hikikomori in the jurisdiction. Each prefecture seems to have issued every figure based on interviews with the welfare commissioner in their respective district.(*1)

*1: Kyodo News  2017.09.24, 16:37
(in Japanese)

However, even this latest statistical result does not include a hikikomori called me; Vosot Ikeida, for example. The first reason is that Tokyo metropolitan, which is the prefecture I live in, has removed my age group from survey subjects. The second, because even if my age was included, I have never met the welfare commissioner in my district. He or she would not know even my existence nor, needless to say, the fact that I am a hikikomori.

In this way, even in Japan which Marco praised as a developed country about the issues, the actual state of hikikomori has not appeared in the table figures yet. Therefore, it will take a considerable length of time to be able to discuss the hikikomori phenomenon of all over the world, with being based on positivistic data.


Global Hikikomori Organization

As Marco said in the dialogue, their website “Hikikomori Italia” has been frequently accessed from the neighboring country; Spain.

Here is a report to support the fact. According to the Spanish media “La Vanguardia“, the experts at the Del Mar Hospital in Barcelona, the second largest city in Spain, researched the actual state of hikikomoris living in their district in April 2017. (*2)

*2. Los hikikomori también existen en España
La Vanguardia  2017.04.15 00:02 GMT
Por MARTÍ PAOLA (in Spanish)

It sounds to be a more detail survey than the one done by the Japanese Cabinet Office in 2016 because they investigated as deeply as every individual hikikomori’s educational background. On the other hand, the area that they researched was limited only in Catalunya, which is now swaying with the issues of independence, so it was far from surveying throughout Spain.

Also, they made the research under the premise that “Hikikomori is one of the mental illnesses”, which we find problematical.  It is dangerous in many ways to step beyond the basics of “Hikikomori is just one of the social conditions”.

“La Vanguardia” I mentioned as above says,

“It was first reported in Japan. Initially it was thought to be a phenomenon occurring only in Japanese culture, but thereafter it has also been reported in Oman, Italy, India, USA, Korea, etc.”

I am interacting with a number of hikikomoris in France, and I have already published an article based on my interview with one of them. (*3)

*3.A French Hikikomori Talks About His Life
The Hikikomori News, 2017.05.19
(in Japanese)

Our website of Hikikomori News has got many accesses from Taiwan and Hong Kong.  South Korea is assumed to have many hikikomoris in as well, but we have not yet confirmed any of them.  If you can kindly inform me the contacts to the hikikomoris in Korea, I would be grateful if you send it to me by email to the address; vosot_just[at-mark]

Thus, now hikikomoris are beginning to connect each other on this globe through the Internet. The general people may have an image on hikikomori, “a person who does not come out”, but in reality, even if we don’t come out of the room, we are spreading out to the world, linked over the world as hikikomori, just like some kinds of silent plants do not have many leaves on the ground but actually have extensive network of subterranean roots underground.

With that extension, I suppose it may be a good idea to found the GHO (Global Hikikomori Organization) as the worldwide network for hikikomoris, just like alcohol addicts founded the international network A.A.

If the idea is realized, as Marco thinks, it will be worldwide questioned why hikikomoris have been increasing in the modern industrial society and how it should be evaluated in our history of civilization, and be elucidating the questions of magnificence, such as “what a progress is” or “what a human is”, from the back side.

The hikikomori issues are so profound. If possible, any sequel will be planned.

<Milano-Tokyo Dialogue over Hikikomori, Season 1; The End

To the Japanese Version of Round 9