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"What is Your Job?" - A Fundamental issue of Social Life of Hikikomori

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Written by Vosot Ikeida

 

 

Can Leave Room, Can’t Enter Society

Here is a problem, related fundamentally and drastically to the real lives of hikikomori, that I have been calling "WYJ": What's-Your-Job problem.

 

Hikikomori is diverse. Some hikikomoris cannot leave the room throughout the day, but others can do so but cannot enter the society of "ordinary people".

 

Personally, I am going back and forth various stages of hikikomori. On some days, I can not even get out of my futon even to go to the toilet by the purely physical condition, but on other days I easily go out to join the events for hikikomoris and hold the microphone in hand to speak out something in public.

 

Let me put aside "the purely physical condition" for now, because it is going to be a medical discussion.  The question I'd like to get highlighted is as below;

 

Why can we not get out of our hikikomori room?
Why can we not leave home?
Why can we not mingle with the ordinary people in the society?

 

The possible answer sounding from the heart of darkness is this:

"Because I am afraid to be asked 'What's Your Job?  What are you doing for life?"

 

There must be a lot of hikikomoris who just stay being hikikomori just to avoid the satanic question predicted: “What’s Your Job?”.

As a matter of the fact, I personally a living with slight fear to meet the moment to be asked by the chatty ladies in my neighborhood, “What’s Your Job? What are you doing for life?”

 

All the Hikikomoris are Not Working?

Then, all those “hikikomoris” who are not working are really not working?  Surprisingly, that is not necessarily so.

A lot of hikikomoris are doing a lot of tasks without receiving any money for it, as “non-economical work”.

In Japan, it is usually called “tojisha(*) activities”.  As far as I see it as a hikikomori, the tasks of tojisha activity are more valuable work than some “works” in the mundane society that are highly paid.

    • tojisha (当事者): Japanese term whose abstract meaning makes translation difficult and complex. Generally, it signifies a person who identifies oneself as belonging to a given group or condition, or simply, a person who has a certain character or attribute by oneself. Therefore, it almost always requires the presence of a complement of specification that determines the "category" of belonging (e.g, "tojisha of hikikomori"). Usually opposed to "the third party", "observer" etc.

 

However, what we do are not the type of “going to office by crowded train in the rush-hour, flattering to the disgusting boss, and getting the bloody salary from the company”. So the tasks are not recognized as a “work”. The society is severe.

 

If I explained to my neighboring chatty ladies,

“What am I doing? I am doing a tojisha activity. I am writing an article about the What’s-Your-Job problem for the Hikipos, which is one of the famous tojisha media”, what would happen?

The ladies won’t understand what I say. Even worse, they may find me a weirder middle-aged man than they thought.  After all, they won’t upgrade me anyway, from “dubious, not-working man” to ”chaste, working man”.

 

Can't Mingle with Working Ordinary People

Now I have to introduce you another factor you should take into account, that will certainly confuse you more and more.

A lot of hikikomoris who are not working are, in fact, in their honest minds, wishing to live socially and peacefully together with the working ordinary people.

We want to mingle with them, we want to fall in love with them, as if there is no problem between. Even a hikikomori man finds a working career-woman beautiful and attractive. That is natural as creatures.

We want not to make "being a hikikomori" a problem itself. In other terms, it is ideal for us to live as a hikikomori in the society which has no "hikikomori problems" inside.

 

However, as I showed in the above figure, in the Japanese society, there is a thick invisible wall between “Working People” and “Not-Working People”, and the not-working hikikomoris are repelled from this wall.  It doesn't mean necessarily that the "Working People" intentionally kick us back.

I call it “The Wall of Social Intercourse”. Actually, it is made by the question “What’s Your Job?”

I find myself at the bottom of the above hierarchy, so the satanic question sounds from the other side of the wall, more precisely, from the upper side. It is being fired from the mouths of “working ordinary people”.

Trying to avoid from answering the question, I would say out of the point.

“Well, I like Japanese sake so much”

or

“I love railways”

and so on. However, this tacky trial will not succeed.  The question is so persistent that surely comes back with being paraphrased,

“So, what is your occupation, by the way?”

 

At this phase, it is so difficult to answer,

I do nothing.  I am nothing.  I am jobless!

 

Because of this difficulty, a hikikomori can seldom break through the wall and enter the society of ordinary people.

 

What is the wall made from?

The social recognition that the ordinary people share without noticing, “Not-working is a SHAME”?   The voice from one’s own super-ego that he or she took such a social recognition into one’s inside?  Many elements can be thought, but it is hard to divide them completely and to display it clrealy like the ingredients written on the label of a dressing bottle.

The What's-Your-Job problem is, for me, to get through this difficulty, to get into the middle of “working ordinary people” and to mingle with them as the equal human stance.

If the series continues, I will write about this realistic aspect of the social life of hikikomori, with taking examples from myself or my comrades of tojisha of hikikomoris.

 

 

...Continued to Round 2 (possibly)

 

...To the Japanese Version of this article