There are a number of things about Japan’s society and culture that are quirky and strange, but still totally and undeniably Japanese. One of these is the hikikomori – people who, because of a number of reasons, have become so introverted that they withdraw from normal societal contact. In other words, these people have become “shut-ins”, mostly retreating into their homes and shunning contact with the outside world. For these people, life may just have taken a step towards normalcy, as Tokyo’s Bunkyo Ward has become the first in Japan to offer a one-stop approach to rehabilitation of the hikikomori.
The new system employs the ward’s education center – which usually is a place for educational support services for school children – to also become a rehabilitation center for Tokyo’s hikikomori. Rehabilitation work – mostly for people aged 15 to 39 – is now outsourced to a welfare outfit called the Myogadani Club. And the system has so far been a relative success. A Japanese man in his 20s – an admitted “shut-in” who had retreated for a year into solitude because of emotional imbalance after being unable to qualify for college education – is now being helped by the club to slowly insert himself back into society. “At a time when my mind was jumbled, someone from the club listened patiently to what I had to say. My feelings of restlessness slowly abated,” the man said. A testament to the hope being given by this new rehabilitation system, this man is even now having the courage to work — just once a week — a job the he found also with the help of the ward’s rehab center.
There was a system to help Japan’s hikikomori before this, but from experience, the system pushed more people away because of their inconvenient processes, rather than drawing them in. When these recluses finally get the courage to seek help, they were passed from desk to desk without getting any real help. So it is good news for the ward – and for Japan as a whole – that there seems to be a system that works with people who have issues like these. The situation is very real in Japan, and systems need to be in place to help these hikikomori out. There was a report of a “shut-in” who lived with his father, and when his father died, it took the recluse two weeks after his father’s death to even contact the police.