The social phenomenon of “hikikomori,” where people are compelled to remain confined in their own homes, is not new anymore. What is new, however, is the looming issue of what happens when a “hikikomori’s” parents become elderly or die.
Recently a scattering of cases has begun involving people who have filed for government support after their parents have died. And with estimates of the “hikikomori” population hovering around one million in Japan, experts are suggesting this is just the tip of the impending iceberg.
One group called Nadeshiko No Kai out of Nagoya is looking to take the bull by the horns and is nearly ready to issue a manual – the first of its kind – for “hikikomori” to aid them in becoming independent once their parents are no longer able to help.
The booklet is titled “Riku No Hitori Dake Shima] Hatsu [Shintairiku] Gyo” (Departing: Island of Only Oneland – Arriving: New World) and is 18 pages of everything from basic living tips such as cooking and cleaning as well as how to get the right government support like health care if needed. There are also tips and anecdotes written by real “hikikomori” and their parents.
Nadeshiko No Kai says they made the book as easy a read as possible using large print and illustrations. The head of the group, Masanori Ohwaki isn’t expecting everyone to read it, but hopes that those who might need it someday hang on to it.
The organization has around 90 registered “hikikomori” from three prefectures each, which they gather data and learn about. According to the studies on this group the average age of a “hikikomori” is 33 and their parents are 64. However, the average time for a “hikikomori” to get acclimatized to the outside world is about 12 years.
Those numbers alone show how little time left there is for parents to do something before it’s too late. This is a problem one 68-year-old father of a “hikikomori” in her 20s worries about saying, “It’s a serious problem, but we usually skirt the issue with each other. I hope this guide will help get something started.”
Experts say there is still a decade or so before the first large scale wave of “hikikomori” start losing their parents while they themselves enter their 50s and 60s. Nadeshiko No Kai and many like them feel that measures need to be taken as soon as possible to minimize the burden on Japan as a whole.
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