Written by Lu Te-Hsing ＆ Vosot Ikeida
Lu Te-Hsing：Originated from Taiwan, he is currently a post-graduation student at Southern California Institute of Architecture, dedicating to filmmaking in Los Angeles. Working span many fields, including publications, films, space design, event planning and art exhibitions.
Lu Te-Hsing Homepage：https://lutehsing.com/
Vosot Ikeida ：Originated from Japan. Hikikomori. His memoir as a hikikomori for over 30 years can be read in another series "The Odyssey of a Hikikomori".
…Continued from Round 1
Hikikomori in the Society
Lu Te-Hsing : I’d like to talk about the equalization of people. For example, Black, female and Asian used to be discriminated in the Western society. But, after years of protests and refining the law, now we are living in a society where we are starting to be treated equally. The discrimination still exists but we can't deny the public is paying more attention on it. Some movies are talking about the proud of being the minority, which marks a milestone of equalization.
For example, “Black Panther”, the huge budget movie, was the first black hero movie. In America, people constantly talk about this movie because black kids finally have an idol to look up to. And also in “Wonder Woman”, a female figure is eventually hitting a big budget film, and little girls have a female figure to look up to.
Now I am taking these processes for the equalization to think of the hikikomori issue. Hikikomori is comparably a new stigma in the world. So what I am trying to ask is, will there be a day when hikikomori will feel at ease in being a hikikomori, because they are being treated equally without discrimination, just like black, female, or Asian can feel not discriminated anymore?
I wonder what your image of the ideal world for hikikomoris is like. Is it the society where you can feel at ease?
Where you can say “I am proud of being a hikikomori”?
Vosot Ikeida: I won’t say that I am proud of being a hikikomori. But it would be nice to live in a society where we can feel at ease, and not get discriminated by being a hikikomori. Then, “being a hikikomori” wouldn’t be a social problem anymore. That is the image of my ideal world for hikikomoris. I am not sure if such equalization can be realized as it was realized in the cases of other social minorities that you mentioned, but at least we can head for the direction. That is why we, some hikikomoris in Japan, are doing our "tojisha"（当事者 / 當事人） activities.
The reason I won’t say “I am proud of being a hikikomori” is because it was not that I became a hikikomori with my conviction. I didn’t want or I didn’t aim to be the one. I had become the one with some reasons and processes, which I never intended. In that sense, being a hikikomori may be similar to be a black, female, or Asian.
If there is something I can be proud of, it won’t be “being a hikikomori”, but it will be me, myself who found the way to survive by becoming a hikikomori. It was quite an invention without intention. It is something like finding an unknown underground tunnel while trying to get the way to escape from a dead-end of the road. The tunnel was so narrow that I got scratches and grazes all over my body while passing through, but now I find myself having escape from the hopeless dead-end. I didn’t choose it, but I have done a great job after all.
For example, when I was a teenager, I never imagined I would be like this in my 50s, like the present myself. In those days there was no Japanese term like a hikikomori, I wouldn’t imagine I would be like a hikikomori when I was a teenager, you know?
But now, I have to accept my situation or my reality somehow. Shortly after I become a hikikomori, when I was 23 years old, I had no idea what happened to me. Not at all. That’s why I was hopeless and I thought committing suicide. But many years have passed and I get a lot of information from many people, my idea started to be changed that it was inevitable. It was natural.
I have potential reasons even before I become a hikikomori. I had many many potential reasons that would drive me in the direction of becoming a hikikomori. So thinking about those things, by now I have accepted the fact that I am a hikikomori. If I am negative to this reality, I have to deny myself, which I don’t like. If I don’t support myself, who else does?
I didn’t have a mother-figure which accepted and supported me warmly. So, at least I have to approve and support myself to live on. So, even if I did not want to become a hikikomori at the beginning, now I approve myself being a hikikomori, that’s why I speak out as a hikikomori.
I have no intention to justify myself, but I just want to support, protect, and account for my being myself. I need to advocate myself of why I am living like this nowadays as a hikikomori which is not necessarily honorable. In that phase, I would say I am a hikikomori. And I would explain anything about my present situation.
Utopia for Hikikomoris
Lu : What do you think will be an ideal way or ideal society that a hikikomori would like to live in? Let’s say it’s a utopia for hikikomori.
Vosot : That’s a good question but I think "utopia" is such a strong word. But I wish, the society would become the one where being a hikikomori is no longer a problem. Even if someone is a hikikomori, “OK, he is a hikikomori, so what?” And nobody is negative about that. If such situation is realized by the society, hikikomori would be happier, even some hikikomoris will stop being a hikikomori and come out of their rooms. In nowadays, the social pressure is pushing hikikomoris more to the direction of being a hikikomori. That’s why I am saying this.
A Hikikomori's Daily Life
Lu : I see. I also want to ask you some basic questions. What is your daily routine? For example, how long do you prepare before you want to go out?
Vosot : I usually sleep 14 hours a day. I wake up around 11 in the morning, then I eat breakfast which is also lunch too, and I start my computer and look at my internet, corresponding with some people. In the early evening like 5 pm or something, I go shopping these days, it used to be later like night time, but now I go earlier in the evening. And I eat supper around 7, then I go to exercise around 8 or 9 pm. Because that is the last time zone in the public gym. The gym is closed at 9:30, the last time zone is least crowded. If I am lucky, nobody else would be there, which is very important. I don’t like to meet other people, especially in the locker room, if it is crowded, many other men changing clothes, they like to have the daily chit-chat. “Hey, how are you?” I hate that. I have nothing to talk about it. Their topics are mostly politics, sports, sex or shops, I have nothing to say. So I have to avoid that time zone. Therefore, I go around 8:30. And I come back around 10 pm, then I go to the internet again, and I go to sleep after midnight.
Lu : If you want to go out, for example, if you are going to downtown or some place like that, do you need to do anything?
Vosot : I need to prepare my mind first. For example, if I got a call from somebody, and he says “you need to come to Shinjuku now,” or something like that, then I wouldn’t know what to take with me, or I don’t know what to wear, where is my purse, where is my watch. It takes a long time incredibly. The time to adapt to the new situation is quite long in my case.
I am diagnosed to be chronic depression, and I think it is connected with my character to take long time for everything. Today I want to mention an English word to you, “Neurodiversity”. I think you can understand what it means immediately. So now the psychology and cerebrophysiology are advanced enough to talk about this kind of new concept.
I dare to say I am not that stupid, you know? But it takes time for me to adapt myself to sudden situations. I am slow at everything, that’s the best I can do. That’s my neurodiversity and what is happening in my brain and nerves.
The Variety of Hikikomoris
Lu : I think there is a big diversity in hikikomori. Like my friend, I constantly bring him up because he is a close friend. He has clinical depression, and it goes up and down. So sometimes he is able to walk into the crowd but sometimes he can’t. So under such circumstance, I can’t tell what is your habit or what is your lifestyle. Furthermore, I think this society has a standard bar that if you are not working or responding fast enough, then you are outdated or kind of left out.
Vosot : Regarded as a strange person, you mean?
Lu : Exactly. You can’t really fit into the work field. For me, I have a lot of friends like that around me. I would say like I am taking advantage of my nature and ability, but I don’t think being slow should be discriminated. I think somehow that might be the root or the reason that is bringing madness to the Asian society.
Vosot : The Asian society, you say here? Not the whole world?
Lu: I might be putting this into the conclusion too fast. I said the Asian society because this is where I come from, so I understand it more. I saw your international interviews with hikikomoris on Hikipos. This is actually the first time for me knowing that there are actually hikikomoris around the world. I knew there are, but that was the first time I really got to know by their story.
Vosot: Which story did you read? Guido?
Lu : Yes, I think so. Guido. (*1)。In the western world, I always have problem explaining what is hikikomori. They can’t really understand and some of them even think they are just game-addicted or hardcore gamers. They think they are always playing games and living under their parents house.
This is an interesting conclusion, although it is a stereotype, a lot of hikikomoris are really like that nowadays. For example, my friend who is a hikikomori, he plays games because that is the only thing he can do. While he is not sleeping, he can’t do anything except playing games.
Vosot: Even in Japan, a lot of people have not understood what hikikomori is really. And on the other hand, in the western society, western hikikomoris like Guido, they know what hikikomori is. It’s not opposition between east or west, it is just hikikomori and not hikikomori. Isn’t that so?
...Continued to Round 3.
...To the Japanese Version of this article.
...To the Chinese Version of this article.