Hikikomori (social withdrawal) is one of the major social problems faced in modern Japanese society. It appeared in the latter half of the 1980s and has become a serious social problem since the 2000s. In March 2019, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare categorised over 610,000 adults as Hikikomori, with around 20% of them having remained secluded at home, avoiding any kind of social interaction for over 20 years. The rise in their average age is also seen as problematic. The phenomenon of Hikikomori is also found in Asia and Europe.
In this seminar, Atsushi Watanabe, a contemporary artist who has suffered from Hikikomori in the past, will share his experience and recovery story, as well as explain how he is currently using his art to raise awareness of this social issue. Dr Tadaaki Furuhashi from Nagoya University will analyse the various factors leading to Hikikomori in Japan and compare how this condition has been observed and addressed in other countries. Finally, Professor Hamish McLeod of the University of Glasgow will discuss similar issues, such as loneliness and social isolation, from the perspective of the UK and examine the interventions that the government has made to tackle them.
Image credits: I’m here project (2019); ©︎I’m here project / ©︎Atsushi Watanabe; Installation view “Gaze” (Site-A Gallery Beneath the Railways); Photo: Keisuke Inoue
About the contributors
Dr Tadaaki Furuhashi
Dr Tadaaki Furuhashi is an Associate Professor and a psychiatrist at the Student Services Center, Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports/Graduate School of Medicine at Nagoya University. He has previously worked at the Aichiken Saiseikai Hospital and Matsukage Hospital. He has been lecturing since 2011 about Hikikomori in France and has visited the houses of Hikikomori there in order to talk with them directly. He is leading a study on hikikomori in collaboration with international researchers and has authored numerous books, including the co-authored What are you looking on Hikikomori (Seidosya, Tokyo, 2014) and Hikikomori, ces adolescents en retrait (Armand Colin, Paris, 2014).
Atsushi Watanabe is a contemporary artist. Since he graduated from Tokyo University of Arts, he has been exploring ideas of taboo in society. He has created projects based on the problem of “Hikikomori”, which he has also experienced. The projects explore the themes of society, culture, psychology and welfare, and look at the differences between insider and outsider, the possibility and impossibility of sympathy, and social inclusion. The projects also look at how art can help solve social issues, both physically and morally. Atsushi has held a solo exhibition “My wounds / Your wounds” (Roppongi Hills A/D Gallery, Tokyo, 2017) and his “I’m here project”, which is a collection of pictures of rooms people are living in, was exhibited in February 2019.
Professor Hamish McLeod
Professor Hamish McLeod is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Glasgow and Honorary Consultant Clinical Psychologist with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. His research work and clinical practice are focused on improving the understanding and treatment of complex conditions such as psychosis, head injury, and dementia. Along with UK and international colleagues he has conducted several randomised controlled trials examining how psychological therapies can support recovery from severe and enduring mental health problems. He is committed to conducting collaborative global mental health research that promotes the bi-directional flow of ideas and treatment techniques that can help people to recover from illness and realise their potential. His research work spans various countries and cultural contexts and he is currently leading projects in Jamaica and Palestine. One strand of his research is been focused on improving the assessment and treatment of extreme states of social and emotional withdrawal, including “Hikikomori”