Job-hopping Japanese were called “freeters” – a combination of the word “freelance” and the German word for “worker”, arbeiter. In political discussion, freeters were frequently bundled together with “neets” – an adopted British acronym meaning “not in education, employment or training”. Neets, freeters, hikikomori – these were ways of describing the good-for-nothing younger generation, parasites on the flagging Japanese economy. The older generation, who graduated and slotted into steady careers in the 1960s and 1970s, could not relate to them.

BBC Magazine has a story about hikikomori, a term used in Japan to describe people who withdraw and stay in their rooms for long periods of time, often years. Some academics link the rise in hikikomori to the bursting of Japan’s bubble economy in the ’80s, and the recession that followed.

After BBC published it’s story, readers from all around the world wrote in to reveal their own experiences with hikikomori:

I shut myself away from society about 12 years ago. I still haven’t recovered and spend my time alone. I don’t work, I don’t go out, and I survive on welfare. I think a major problem with people like me is that we’re ultimately afraid of failure. Things have changed in the world. There are no longer secure career slots open for everyone with a little ambition and an education. We’re afraid of becoming a part of even worse statistics, such as being homeless. – Nicholas, Massachusetts, US

The most in-depth story I’ve read about a shut-in was written by someone who goes by the name K-2052. He earned money via coding, and ordered most of the things he needed on Amazon.



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