Around two years ago I popped into Nikon Salon in Shinjuku and discovered a fascinating exhibition by Keiko Nagatomi (永冨恵子) on the people known as "hikikomori". Hikikomori are often young and male, who turn their back on society and become reclusive. They may spend many years indoors, never venturing out.
In Japan, Hikikomori are sometimes criticised, and made figures of fun. Keiko Nagatomi tries to redress the balance, with her photographs, and the words of the subjects, sometimes humorous, sometimes angry, always poignant.
We managed to publish a small book, thanks to Keiko and thanks to the organisation "New Start" that runs a facility to help sufferers return to society. The book is called:
永冨恵子 「ニュースタートの若者たち: 引きこもりから社会へ」
Keiko NAGATOMI "A New Start For Hikikomori” - Returning to Society
As she worked with hikikomori she gained their trust over many months and paintakingly able to take their photographs and invited them to write some brief words about their experiences.
For more insights into the exhibition and Keiko's work with hikikomori sufferers and "New Start" please also see her interview with The Daily Mainichi" News:
The official numbers certainly significantly understate the problem, as they only count people who have not set foot outside of the house at all in the past six months. Yet even the official statistics show that 700,000 young people in Japan suffer as hikikomori. There have always been people who preferred to stay at home, reclusive or agoraphobic, but the scale appears to have grown to significant proportions in Japan, perhaps signalling a problem peculiar to, and increasingly recognised in, affluent societies.