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, especially "Last Choice / Mogaki" for now. 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 2
What is "The Ordinary People"?
Vosot 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?
Lu I think it goes back to the definition or the stereotype.
Vosot Like we always say “the ordinary people“, but we don’t know what "ordinary" is. Still, we have to say ordinary people. The ordinary people don’t understand what hikikomori is, the situation is the same in the east or the west. That’s why the French hikikomori talks about this topic quite often because people don’t understand as well.
The Grammar of Otaku Culture
Vosot I started to be a hikikomori when it was 1985, the special terms like hikikomori had not existed yet. Also in those days, there was no internet and there was no online games obviously. There were anime but I was grew up in a family which the educational pressure was so high in a strange way, so my mother forbid me to look at anime or manga. I have not read manga. It is quite a pity because, it is like I don’t have chance to learn one foreign language. To me, reading manga is like reading one foreign literature, which I don’t have the capacity about. So it’s quite a pity. I can read English literature and I can read French literature. But I can’t read manga. Because I don’t know the grammar. There was no manga in my childhood and I am not used to online games which I think it’s the same stream of the otaku culture. Just by coincidence, that I don’t do online games.
But maybe your friend and me have many common points, like we spend a lot for internet, and also a lot of time for not meeting other people. So superficially, your friend might look like he is lazy and doing nothing but playing games, while I am still writing articles and working for tojisha media.
I might looked like I am doing something, but I think basically we are the same. In fact, I am doing too many things and I always have the problem to be busy. A hikikomori is busy.
But by writing my articles, I still make no money. It doesn’t bring me money. The interesting thing is, just a few days ago, I read an article on Japan economical newspaper, which is the most famous newspaper for economical field. They wrote articles based on my sentences. Their information source was my blog. They made a lot of money by that, but my sentences don’t bring me any money. But anyways, your friend and I are doing something the same.
No Space in Mind to Do Anything Else
Lu I see. In Taiwan, while dealing with tojisha like kids that refused going to school or office, a lot of parents think the easiest way is to unplug their computer. But that is so not true because I think the reality is that they don’t have any spare room in their mind to really do anything else. My friend told me that it’s like he is wrapped up in a surface membrane. Only when he plays games that surface membrane kind of opens up. So he is like constantly being compressed and that is the reason why he keeps playing games, from his point of view.
Vosot Your saying “they don't have any spare room in their mind to really do anything else” makes me think of many other people. You are mentioning your friend, who sounds me to be a hikikomori and plays games all day because that is only the time his “membrane opens up” so that he can touch the world vividly. I am impressed with his expressing saying “membrane”. It’s so real to me, though I don't play games.
I assume that kind of situation happens to many other people, including those who are not hikikomori. I think he is talking about the psychology of addiction in a wide sense. For example, in the case of an alcoholic person, the membrane opens up only while he is drunk. The same thing could be said for a workaholic person. And yet, all of them do not like necessarily what they are doing; the addictive behaviors. But still, they do it. Why? That's because “they don't have any spare room in their mind to really do anything else.”
However, I imagine many would say back here. “A workaholic person is rather better than hikikomori because he produces something and makes money. You, hikikomoris, whether game player or not, don't produce anything nor make money.”
Hikikomori and Money
Lu: It is possible. Let me ask here, do hikikomoris want to make money?
Vosot: That’s a tricky question. That would be one of the contradictions we hikikomoris are taking hold. People likely think that hikikomoris do not want to make money, and that is why we don’t work and we stay to be hikikomori. Well, it is true that many of us would not like to join the barren economic activities. But it is also true that there are very few hikikomoris who are committing ourselves to make no money with conviction.
But if we say “I don't want to work, but I want to make money. I am such a valuable person everybody should give money to without asking me any return”, then we will end up to be just diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder.
There is a big difference for us between “wanting to make money” and “wanting to join the economic activity”. I suppose that most of us are more likely to go back and forth extremely between the two thoughts; “I need money” and “I don't need money” especially when we are younger.
Fantasy to Make a Fortune at One Night
Vosot Fortunately I mingle with the younger generation of hikikomoris. Most of them are in their 30s. I imagine they will be more ambitious than I am, to make a fortune at a single stroke. Most of them are thinking that they have wasted their time of life so far, which I don’t agree with necessarily, but anyway, so it urges them to make “an upset win” all the more.
I might be the same while I was younger. I mean, in my 20s or 30s, I might have been more vaguely and strongly dreaming of making a fortune at a night, though I was not starting any realistic approach to it. I have never bought even a lottery.
It sounds to be just awkward, but getting older, now I think that was my subconscious choice as well. Starting an approach to become rich by any means would have thrown me into a busy and uncontrollable life. And my mind knew somehow that was something too much for me. After all, I valued time than money in life. Working is sometimes just to sell your time and to buy money, I think.
In the meantime, a lot of young hikikomoris want to do online games and making money at the same time if possible. That’s why a trader for stocks or foreign exchanges is a popular job among them. Very a few of them have actually become millionaires in short periods by that.
I think the desire to make money will be based on the belief that money makes us happy. Of course, always I would need the minimum money to survive, but it is more valuable to keep the peaceful satisfactory circumstance, even if it's small. It may be a matter of age. I don't know what your friend playing games would say about it.
Feeling Guilty To Parents
Lu What I heard from my friend or some other information, this is my assumption so it might not be true, I think the reason they want to make money maybe they feel guilty to their parents. They want to be independent and get rid of that kind of guiltiness. Maybe their parents are nice and taking care of them without saying anything, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t feel guilty.
Vosot Until I became a hikikomori at 23, I might have been thinking a little bit the same. I mean I thought I owed my parents and they kindly gave me education and that’s why I can gracefully go to university and so on. Then I became a unable to move physically. That’s the starting of my hikikomori career.
Now I don’t think the same as I did. I didn’t ask my parents to do that. It was their choice that they did that to me. And there is no need that I have feel guilty to my parents. They are independent human beings and I am independent human beings, too. They did something by their choice and I live my life by my choice. So your friend maybe thinking like I do now after a few year. Who knows?
...Continued to Round 4
...To the Japanese Version of this article
...To the Chinese Version of this article