Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Hokikomori: Reclusive Lifestyle In Fear of the Salaryman Identity

How are Japanese youth effected by the salaryman identity? One indication of this is the increased prevalence of hikikomori, a type of masculinity that emerged in the 1980s and continues into present day Japan. This broad age group ranges from 15-39 and there are almost 541,000 hikikomori today, and are defined as social recluses that have not left the house in 6 months (Jozuka 1). These hikikomori typically lock themselves their own room and have no social contact. Even contact with their family is minimal. Hideo Iwai, a person became a hikikimori as well, stated he stayed in his room for four years, playing video games and watching television to pass the time (Jozuka 2).

Rosenthal and Zimmerman believe that the hikikomori’s reclusive tendencies could be a result of the societal pressures in Japanese culture, especially the salaryman identity (87). According to them, there is a no win conflict for hikikomori. Etiological factors of hokikomori behavior can be partially due to an individual’s psychological state, but can also be due to family pressures as well, based off of cultural norms and expectations (Rosenthal and Zimmerman 87).  Japanese society has created a very linear path: to subject one’s labor to the overall economic growth of Japan. Unwillingness to put in the work goes and incapability to fulfill the salaryman identity is regarded as being a nonfunctioning member of Japanese society (Disgupta 393). Hikikomori who do not want to be salarymen or feel that they are not ready for the pressures that salarymen face may feel the only option is to shield themselves away from reality (Jozuka 3).

This pressure to be perfect a perfect salaryman and take on such a big responsibility is daunting for some. Dedication to the company lies not only in working longer hours, but also for a salaryman to work in harmony with their associates. Therefore, salaryman are expected to commit time outside of work to being with coworkers, such as going with them to bars and hostess clubs (Ryall 4). Preparing for these interactions, as well as for a future of long and hard work hours may be unbearable to some youth. In addition, salarymen are not only expected to behave a certain way at work and with coworkers, but also must maintain their masculinity through sex and marriage. David's article, "How the Body of a Salaryman is Utilized",  goes more in depth about this. These set of expectations are communicated through Japanese media and pop culture. With media setting expectations about every aspect of teenage male's futures, it is no surprise they want to hid away in their rooms to avoid it.

The increase in prevalence of Hikikomori is indication of how Japanese youth would prefer not to conform to the overtime working, male gender role that is pressured on them by Japan. They would choose to not partake in society at all if it means working for the rest of their lives. A hypothesis is on the emergence of hikikomori can even be seen as evidence in the collapse of Japanese society (Rosenthal and Zimmerman, 88). This rigid and homogenous outlook may not be fitting for everyone. Even though working more means gaining more money, just a capitalistic mindset focused on economic growth is not enough for Japanese youth like the hokikomori. The linear lifestyle laid out by Japanese is representation of a capitalism forward mindset (Kanai 1).
The hokikomori may be an example of how the male gender role is imposed by Japan’s capitalistic society. However, how is it for females? As mentioned before, hostess clubs are attended by many salarymen. In the next page, a hostesses’ role as caretakers of men is implicated as an Japanese identity as well.

Works Cited

Jozuka, Emiko. "Why won't 541,000 young Japanese leave the house?" CNN. N.p., 12 Sept. 2016. Web. 26 Apr. 2017. <http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/11/asia/japanese-millennials-hikikomori-social-recluse/>.
Kanai, Atsuko. "“Karoshi (Work to Death)” in Japan." Journal of Business Ethics(2009): 209-15. Web. 26 Apr. 2017.

Ryall, Julian. "Karoshi Crisis: Why are the Japanese Working Themselves to Death?" N.p., 22 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Apr. 2017.

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