Written by Viet Anh MAI
Edited Vosot Ikeida
Images by Viet Anh MAI, Pixabay
I was born and raised in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam. I had never been out of Hanoi for more than one month before I met my 18th birthday.
I went to France and started to study at National School of Architecture of Versailles for my undergraduate degree. Then in 2019, I was selected and sent from France to study in Japan. I lived in Kyoto for one year to study at Kyoto Institute of Technology.
It was then that I became a semi-hikikomori.
It had never happened while I was in Vietnam.
I'm not a typical introvert, but I often seek personal space and time. Whenever I have something in mind, I want not to be disturbed.
But my time in Vietnam was not the same, because people there are more "chaotic" than in Japan. The Japanese social standard and behavior had an impact on me, somehow.
Everything was so organized in Kyoto, - probably in Japan in general - and it was the opposite from the chaotic atmosphere in my home country. Now I think that was the
outside factor that led me to become a semi-hikikomori.
In my opinion, "chaos" allows us to do more things because it has less strict social standards.
In Japan, living standards were very high. I had to respect those social rules in every way. That fact contributed to making me feel isolated.
But I cannot say only negative things about Japanese society. In fact, I love Japan. I really respect their seriousness of work. I respect the fact that Japanese people respect other people and their social environment.
It must have taken a thousand years for them to have such a stable and organized society. Since I was raised in a different country with a different culture, I felt just overwhelmed once I arrived in Japan.
Both in Japanese and Vietnamese societies - or more generally, in the society of Eastern Asia, a man has to do a big thing to succeed in life. The pressure for men is so heavy. I think that is the reason why hikikomori are usually young men.
When I came to Japan, I could directly witness that pressure in many scenes. Because of it, people have to make a lot of effort and to focus on making their career.
For example, at the working scene of my major of architecture, people work almost all day. They start very early and leave the office at night.
So I wondered how they could keep their social life. I imagined it would be the starting point of a hikikomori journey.
I stick to the term “semi-hikikomori" to describe the situation that occurred to me while I was in Kyoto, because the definition by the Japanese government has a minimum period of 6 months for the term "hikikomori", but it continued only 1 month in my case.
However, during that month, I spent all the time staying in my room, except going out for the minimum needs such as buying food.
I had no interest in seeing other people. But I take it positively. I developed some skills to avoid unnecessary meetings with others.
After that month, I managed to get out of the situation and came back to my social life mostly.
But I will not forget all the feelings and memories that I came through. It is not something I am really proud of, but as Vosot Ikeida said, if I was a hikikomori, maybe that was what fitted me the most at that time.
I don't feel the same way today, but I just think that I am enjoying being alone and doing my things.
After Japan, I came back to France, and now I am studying for a master's degree at National School of Architecture of Versailles, France.
And I created a short film about hikikomori for my master’s thesis.
I could not talk about hikikomori in total only from my short experience, so I referred to Hikipos a lot to create this film. If you are a good reader of Hikipos, you will be able to realize immediately which part is based on which article.
I always think that everyone should really think about this topic: Hikikomori.
I say “topic”, because I do not like to use the word "problem" here.
.....To the Japanese version of this article
.....To the French version of this article