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Meet the 'hikikomori', the people you will never meet.

A recent phenomenon in Japanese society is that of the so-called 'hikikomori'. These are young people who renounce all kinds of physical contact and live secluded in their rooms, although they live in their parents' house. In the most extreme cases, they do not leave their rooms even to eat and only go to the bathroom when they are sure that nobody will see them. They can spend many years in this situation, and sometimes even decades. Although it is a typically Japanese problem, there are more and more cases in other countries. These are usually middle and upper-middle class males who develop acute symptoms of agoraphobia and social anxiety.

It is difficult to give an exact figure for the number of hikikomori in Japan because their parents often do not seek help or admit that there is a problem. They are simply too ashamed to admit that their children are confined to their rooms and refuse to work or study. In any case, some estimates tell us of a million hikikomoris in Japan alone.

Although there are different causes, psychologists have detected that Japanese young males, in particular, feel overwhelmed by the demands of the society in which they live and the pressure to fulfil a certain social role. They want to stay away from the responsibilities and constant decision making that adult life entails. In addition, the pressure to achieve good academic results is enormous. Competition among young people is fierce in the highly selective Japanese job market. Faced with the demands of their families and society in general, their response is to withdraw from society and communicate with the outside world only through electronic devices and the Internet. Some refer to them as the post-modern hermits.

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