For seven years, Shoku Uibori leaves his house only at night, and if it is absolutely necessary. He meets hate on people, avoiding conversations. Previously, he worked as a Director of a company, but they went bankrupt. Today, the 43-Year-old is a Hikikomori.
On this phenomenon, which is widely used in Japan for several years, means as much as “lock up”. It refers to both the syndrome and the individuals themselves.
You break off contact with the outside world over a longer period of time, not more work and barricade themselves in their rooms. You seem listless and without energy. A majority of them are young adults, mostly male.
Mietsschwestern to help Hikikomori
As the Vietnam lived of photographer Maika Elan for half a year in Japan, she heard for the first Time of the term: “a Lot of people there, someone in the family or a friend had, some were for a long time, even a Hikikomori. Almost everyone has had, directly or indirectly, have any experience with it.” So Elan decided in a series of photos with the topic.
The photographer met Oguri Ayako, who works for the nonprofit organization “New Start”, whose goal is to bring Hikikomori’s isolation. At the request of the parents, staff – so-called Mietsschwestern or brothers – on a regular basis with the Affected in contact. Initially by letter, then by phone, until you are left in the apartment.
People should learn to leave the house, and simple activities will interact with other Hikikomori, or in Jobs incorporated. Up, it often would last years, says Elan.
She was allowed to accompany Ayako in their work and portrayed a total of eight men in her home. It took weeks to get Elan to build trust to the people was: “in the Beginning, they were of course very reluctant. Many of them were surprised when I wanted to photograph them. But they are Japanese and will always try to be friendly.”
In the year 2016, a survey by the Japanese Central government has calculated that the Affected on 540,000 people aged 15 to 39 years. But it could easily be twice as many. People over 40 were not taken into account, in addition, many prefer to remain Hidden.
Families would try to hide it, if a family member is suffering from it – for fear of being stigmatized, says the photographer: “The majority of parents believe that it is a failure of their children’s education.”
The reasons for the behavior of the Hikikomori are, according to Elan in number: to a great pressure of expectation from the family or the society, lack of role models, bullying, economic problems, or traumatic experiences trigger.
“I initially thought you were lazy, but they are all very smart, empathic and friendly people,” says the photographer. The longer the Hikikomori are, however, separated from society, the more you would feel as a failure: “they lose their self-confidence, and the prospect of leaving your home, is always terrifying.” Therefore, auxiliary programs like “New Start” is very important.
The photographer is planning to continue with the project, wants to focus more on the helper: the Rental-sisters and -brothers.