Fifty-three-year-old Kenji Yamase doesn’t fit the traditional image of a hikikomori, but then perceptions of Japan’s social recluses are changing.
“People think of hikikomori as being lazy young people with
personality problems who stay in their rooms all the time playing video
games,” says Yamase, who lives with his 87-year-old mother and has been a
recluse on and off for the past 30 years.
“But the reality is that most hikikomori are people who can’t get
back into society after straying off the path at some point,” he says.
“They have been forced into withdrawal. It isn’t that they’re shutting
themselves away — it’s more like they’re being forced to shut themselves
A hikikomori is defined by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry
as someone who has remained isolated at home for at least six
consecutive months without going to school or work, and rarely interacts
with people from outside their own immediate family.