Interviewed and written by Vosot Ikeida
...Continued from "Guido Round 1"
In the Round 1, Guido, the 22-year-old hikikomori in France, told me a wonderful love story that he experienced with being a hikikomori. This time, I am going to ask him more about his real hikikomori life.
Attracted to Japan
Vosot: You said you went to the Japan Expo 2016 with your girlfriend for the best day of your entire life so far.
Are you an otaku, loving anime so much?
Guido: Yes I am! I love anime and I love Japan.
Vosot: What part of Japan do you love?
Guido: Culture, food, landscape, and history. Especially I like the Japanese history after the Rosso-Japanese War until the World War II. I find it incredible that the technology got advanced so rapidly in your country after the Meiji restoration in 1868. It is hard to believe Japan was still in the feudal age in the middle of the 19th century.
Vosot: Would you like to come and visit Japan some day?
Guido: Oh yes, I would love to go to your country one day. Unlike many other French who love Japan, Tokyo is not the place for me to want to visit. In fact, I am much more attracted to the countryside. One Japanese village has caught my attention for a long time: Shirakawa-go. It is so pretty, especially in the snow. Hot springs like Kusatsu make me dream as well. Also Hokkaido is my favorite region because of its great nature. I think Sapporo is a very beautiful city.
Vosot: What anime would you like?
I like the Japanese literature as well. Notably Ryu Murakami, Yukio Mishima or still Dazaï Osamu. I love “Ningen Shikkaku”.
Vosot: Do you play online games so much?
Guido: Yes, I do, but quite less than watching anime. I love watching soccer games so I often play FIFA on PS4. Sometimes, I play FPS games. But I prefer solo games. I love J-RPG. My favourites games are the whole Dark Souls series. I also love Disgaea series. Final fantasy, Dragon Quest, Mother–Earthbound..
Vosot : What time do you usually go to sleep, and what time to wake up?
Guido: That is the hardest question to answer! I have no rhythm. Today, I can go to bed at 1PM and wake up at 10PM. Tomorrow it can be 3PM to the bed and 1AM to wake up. It's very erratic. But I prefer being awake during the night and sleeping in the daytime, generally.
Relationship with Parents
Vosot: What do your parents say about the fact that you are a hikikomori?
Guido: I live with my mother. My parents are divorced. I was 3 years old at the last time I saw my father. He was violent and injurious. I do not miss him.
Vosot: Tell me more about your mother.
Guido: My mother is a very understanding person. I owe it to my mother that I read the literature widely today, because she read a lot of books for me when I was a child. As a result, I learned how to read a little earlier, 5 years old, than the normal age in France, which is 6.
She accepts me and the fact that I am a hikikomori. My relatives too.
Vosot: It is very interesting to hear that, because in Japan, generally the relationships between the tojisha of hikikomori and the parents, family, relatives are bad. Please tell me more about it.
Guido: She sometimes hopes that I will get more active again. She would like me to find a girlfriend with whom I can flourish. She would like to be grandma someday. Unfortunately for her, I do not want children.
Vosot: I feel quite understanding. I am a hikikomori, and I have chosen a life without having a child. I am convinced that those two facts are related in the deep side of me.
Guido: In any case, she is kind and has no prejudice to face with my situation. She had problems when she was young, too. When I received some remonstrations after being excluded from my high school, she suggested me a little to seek something to do, but she was not insistent. The cohabitation with my mother is going really well. I think I am really lucky.
The Financial Plan
Vosot: How do you manage your life financially?
Guido: At moment, I live by my mother’s income. But in the future, I am expecting to receive the social welfare money. In France, from the age of 25, we can receive public financial assistance called "RSA". You can get it whether you have the ability to work or not, but in return, you have to make the promise to look for a job. But it is very easy to pretend to look for. Many French people receive this allowance and have not done anything for years. I hope to do the same. The amount is very modest, about € 510, but it is sufficient to survive because it is accompanied by housing assistance, free public transport, the right to go to associations that offer food to the poorest and so on. I am a minimalist in lifestyle. It is enough for me as long as I can have a computer and a bed. I do not need a big fortune.
Social Supports for Hikikomoris in France
Vosot: Why did you become a hikikomori?
Guido: In brief, because of school and society.
I am a very introverted boy. It takes me long time to feel comfortable when I am with other people. The real world seems to me too superficial, too hypocritical, and too uninteresting. When I look at the people around me, I cannot help finding a lot of them dumb. I never get any stimulation from the society. I feel what they are talking about is too trivial and boring. I think their life is pointless.
By those reasons, I was not in touch with other people deeply. They thought I was "weird" and "unconventional" because I was not interested in their superficial talks. They bullied me verbally.
At the beginning of 2012, when I was 17 years old, I stop going to school. Since then, I live as a hikikomori. During the last three years, I almost never go out. Shortly after I reclused myself, I still have some “friends” to see. Also, I took the training (la formation) to get reintegrated to the society for two months in 2015. But it didn’t help me.
Vosot: That kind of training is called “Shuro Shien 就労支援 / Support for Getting Employed” in Japan.
Who or what is running the training?
Guido: The training was provided by several organizations. The training for over 25 years old is provided by "Pôle Emploi" which is the public organization that supports the unemployed. For 16-25, it is run by "Mission Locale", an organization supporting young people who are no longer in school or who do not work, by making them do internships in companies. It also aims to reintegrate these young people into the future society.
Vosot: What is the content of the training like?
Guido: It was the training of "reintegration" for the young people to the society for two and a half months.
In my case, I took the training in my hometown, Saint Floret, 13 kilometers away from where I live now. My mother drove me there every morning. If you work at the internship, it is paid. I could receive about 450 € a month, which enabled me to buy a new computer that I really needed.
The training takes people who are older than 16 years old, but when I was in there, the youngest participant was 19 years old, and the oldest was 56 years old. The goal was to set up the project for each profession, and to find a way in which one pursues one's life. At first we were taught how to write cover letters and resumes. Then, various stakeholders visited us and presented their work for us. We sometimes traveled to nearby cities to visit their places of work, just to see "with our own eyes".
All these are done in order to give us ideas on what we would like to do in life. To finish the training period, we had to do internships at a work place that we had chosen. I did an internship in a bookstore for my part. Then our trainers made the assessment on us and validated our achievement in the training program. If they were convinced, they would help us to continue the path you chose. If not, they would offer you the choice of an extension of the training or a stop. In my case, I had expressed my preference to restart my literary and it was accepted. In fact, I had no intention to restart my literary in earnest. It was enough for me as long as I get paid the little money from the training. This training had exhausted me and I reclused myself again after these two and half months.
Vosot: I wonder how the training course is managed financially. You say you got paid about 450 euros. Did you or your mother pay some amount to them when you applied for the training?
Guido: No, it was totally free to apply for it. Because the “Pôle emploi"; which is the entity that manages the training is a national agency, all the costs to train us is paid from tax income. The tasks by Pôle emploi is addressed for the unemployed, teenagers, futoko (not going to school) students, NEET ... anyway, the people without means to earn money, so it should be free to participate.
...continued to "Guido Round 3"