From: Grant Callaghan (email@example.com)
Date: Sat 26 Oct 2002 - 20:52:56 GMT
>I see and understand your point here, no doubt about that, but I do think
>the picture is not that simple I suppose !
>The way in those kids isolate themselves, as I undestand it, they don 't
>even search contact with the outside world, is quite of a different order
>of the one you refer to !
>Staying for two years in your room just playing video games !?
>In the program Phil Rees mentioned that hospitals just opened
>their doors for those who needed help, thus IMO before that time
>there was no help, moreover, they blocked the issue completely out.
>As to the point that kids have a network to phone eachother and
>talk about these things, ok I can agree on that, but not on the fact
>that everyone would talk about it.
>The question of being the smartest, be the best, be better than all
>the rest, those Crammer schools,... the whole issue of competition
>within Japanese society let me think that if a kid or kids won 't
>show up at school that neither his/ her classmates, or even the
>board would give a damn. Just another drop- out, just another
>failure, just another who fails society and our culture...and every-
>body shuts up, no phone, no discourse, no information leaks out.
>In the program not a single one example was in anyway asked
>by the local auhories, by the police, by teachers or by friends
>for that matter to come back to school, neither a single autho-
>rity forced those kids out of their room.
>They all kept quiet and did nothing and that is the fact !
>In memetic terms, the memes of the ones who did isolate
>themselves in their room were lost, were driven out, have
>no survival- value whatsoever, the memes of the ones who
>can handle the competition, the stress and the social/ cultural
>pressure survive and propagate.
>In other words, the memes of the formers ' protected ' their
>host before he/ she was total lost to a total mental failure, by
>which they the memes, would certainly die with him/ her and
>in the way of the latter, memes didn 't give a sh.. about the
>Oh, yeh, that wasn 't mentioned in the paper, ' they ' think
>about 1. 200. 000 kids / youngsters are ' infected ' with this
>If we take the telephone- issue serious, hikikomori must be
>the talk of the town and IMO is wasn 't and it still isn 't !
Here's another look at the phenomena. This writer lumps it in with crimes and gangs, but gives some reasons for the cause of the phenomena. I take it you've heard about the high rate of suicide among kids who are bullied at school. Hikikomori might be an alternative in the minds of some to thoughts of suicide.
Homicidal Teens of Japan
Americans and Japanese are both fond of pointing out the difference in crime
rates. To many Japanese, America is seen as an outlaw nation, bristling with
guns. And for many Americans, the juxtaposition of Japan's often
ultra-violent entertainment with their low crime rate is fascinating.
Japanese pop culture and crime statistics are often cited to defend American
entertainment when it is accused of inspiring violence. But for anyone
paying attention, startling crimes have a way of popping up in Japan
unexpectedly. There were the "Otaku Murders" of 1988 and 1989, where Tsutomo
Miyazaki kidnapped and killed four girls of around five years of age,
reenacting gruesome scenes from his hentai collection. The serin gas attack
in 1995 is another notable incident in the analogs of Japanese crime
history. Perpetrated by the Aum Shinrikyo cult, almost a dozen people were
killed during the terrorist attack.
I asked a Japanese friend of mine once, "Are there gangs in Japan?" I've
since learned that Japan has a long history of gangs, including everything
from high school motorcycle gangs to the Yakuza, but he shook his head. He
said there were no gangs, but in Japan sometimes kids just go crazy. He told
me the story of a boy who would kill people on the street, discretely, and
then hide in an alley to watch the ensuing action. He was eventually caught
with the murder weapon near one of his crime scenes. This was several years
ago, and I wrote the story off as an urban legend.
Recently, however, there have been several articles published about teenage
boys committing gory crimes in Japan. Over the last year there have been
multiple incidents. A 65-year old woman in Aichi prefecture was murdered on
May 1, 2000. On May 3, a boy in Saga prefecture hijacked a bus with a knife.
He held a six-year-old girl hostage, killed one woman, and wounded five
others. There have been more crimes, including knivings in people's homes,
baseball bat bludgeonings and matricide, budgeonings with hammers, and, just
two weeks ago, a 15-year-old boy on Kyushu crept into a house during the
night and attacked a family. All six family members were attacked, and three
Incidents such as these have been reported in many newspapers and online
news sites, but I take the examples above from two articles on the subject.
Tim Larimer, a correspondent for Time wrote "Natural-Born Killers?" Yuji
Oniki, who writes for Pulp, a magazine devoted to manga and Japanese popular
culture, covered the events in his column, "Nocturnal Emissions: Strange
Crimes of Japan." Larimer and Oniki differ in their takes on the matter, but
both cite some of the same reasons for the homicides.
Larimer covers the situation from a decidedly Western point of view,
comparing the crimes with the recent wave of US school shootings. He claims
that Japan's crime rates are the highest they've been in 32 years, and that
violent crime among juveniles has increased 15% in the first six months of
2000. His article has a ring to it that sounds like, "See, America, we
aren't so bad!" He attributes the problem to hikikomori, teenagers who
withdraw from school, friends, and family. Larimer doesn't go so far as to
suggest that American teen shooters such as Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris,
the infamous Columbine students, were hikikomori, but the implication is
there. When it comes down to it, according to Larimer's line of thought,
there are just some kids who go bad. Larimer interviews hikikomori, Japanese
teens seeking to remedy their reclusive problem, and their psychiatrists to
bolster his view.
Oniki, on the other hand, insists that the recent rash of teen crime is not
so unusual, and he denies claims that youth crime in Japan is escalating. He
does admit, however, that these crimes are uniquely disturbing, and that has
captured the attention of the media and public. Oniki sees these crimes, and
the growing number of hikikomori, as evidence of serious flaws in the
Japanese educational system. While in the past studying for school entrance
exams was called "exam hell," now parents see it as just a part of growing
up. Many parents have gone through the same stress when they were children,
unlike the older generations. There is not as much sympathy in homes for
teenagers studying for exams. In addition, more weight has been placed on
kids to get into good junior high schools and high schools than ever before.
The last decade of economic repression has also added to the stress and
importance of entrance exams. Often the stress renders teenagers incapable
of dealing with the outside world, and they are reduced to becoming
Oniki advocates a change in the Japanese school system. He notes that in
Japan parents and teachers are trying to take a strict approach to
hikikomori. One family is even facing charges for killing their teenage son
because they believed he was plotting a crime similar to those described
earlier. This seems similar to the way we've cracked down on students in our
own schools. Students who seem on the fringe of the group, or who wear
certain styles of clothing are marked as possible "bad seeds." Oniki writes
that these actions will not remedy the problem, and to really end the
shocking crimes Japan must rethink their educational system.
I tend to agree with Oniki, partly because I read an article last year about
three student deaths at Japanese schools. One school had a problem with
tardy students, so they began slamming the gates shut when the morning bell
rang. Teachers were required to stand outside, ushering students in. A girl
was reportedly caught in the heavy, iron gate and killed instantly. In
another incident, two mentally disabled students were caught smoking on
school grounds. A teacher locked them in a work shed for almost two days,
giving them only a cup of tea each. When the shed was opened, both had died
from heat exhaustion. I read these stories in an online news site last
spring, and will have to try to find them again. At any rate, it seems the
Japanese school system is due for change. It has produced success, but at
Larimer, Tim. "Natural Born Killers?" Time 28 Aug. 2000; 37.
Oniki, Yuji. "Nocturnal Transmissions: Strange Crimes of Japan." Pulp Sept.
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