“Hikikomori is a condition in which the affected individuals isolate themselves from society in their homes for a period exceeding six months. The psychiatrist Tamaki Saitō defines hikikomori as “a state that has become a problem by the late twenties, that involves cooping oneself up in one’s own home and not participating in society for six months or longer, but that does not seem to have another psychological problem as its principal source”. -Wikipedia
Why is Hikimori a moral panic?
Hikimori is a critical issue in Japan now. This phenomenon describes young people who have an escapism life in society. They are hidden in their own world and refuse to go out. Recognized as hikikomori, these people haven’t participated in society, or shown a desire to do so for at least one year. They merely split from their families and friends.
The phenomenon was alerted when the Japanese government census put the figure at 540,000 for people aged 15-39. But it could easily be double that number. (Butet Rock, 2018, Photography). Hikimori is the fear which spread among a large number of Japanese residents since the shreds of evidence that the phenomenon will affect badly to the young’s physical and mental health, the domestic economy or even the culture.
Hikikomori as a moral panic
According to Standley Cohen’s stage of moral panic in “Folk Devil and Moral panic”. I would like to explain the stages make the Hikikomori become a new moral panic not only for Japan but also the whole world’s community.
First of all, “Young” is acknowledged as one of six objects of moral panic. Hikikomori directly affects the youth. This issue emerges and creates its own group of people who adore and practice it.
Even though Hikikomori has been existing for a pretty long time. But not until this year, when the media is priming the issue. They exaggerated the problem that the Japanese young people is getting more and more anti-social nowadays. The media predict the future of the Japanese young generation. They assumed that Hikikomori is becoming a trend which plenty of people will follow and create bad impact on society. The media draw a terrifying future: the economy is stagnant, the culture is not preserved and the population is getting older. Media also play a role in symbolizing an issue. They portray the Hikikomori people as the one who is anti-social, staying home all day long watching movie or reading manga, and they are only active in the night time. The representation created by media make a backlash on social media. Young people exaltedly discuss whether they are Hikikomori or not.
Thirdly, the public is the most important factor which contributes to the moral panic. Indeed, the discussion of Hikikomori consider the disadvantages of this phenomenon and Hikikimori is a type of minimalist lifestyle.
Indeed, the Japanese government published ít initial Guideline on coping with Hikikomori cases along with the results of surveys conducted in health centre of Japan. They do have some action such as establishing limited governmental funding for Hikikomori support and creating more jobs which are regardless of educational backgrounds, communication skills and supported by smooth school-work transition and an underlying stable economy.
Why is the public panic about a moral issue?
According to Cohen’s criticisms of the moral panic theory. The panic feeling comes from feelong of being out of control. People prone to be panic about the things which out of their knowledge.
Holthus B & Manzenreitor, 2017, ‘Life course, Happiness and Well-being in Japan‘, New York
Kingston J, 2014, ‘Critical Issue in Contemporary Japan’, New York