Yoshiko wouldn’t reveal her son's name, because of fears that her neighbors in a suburb of Tokyo might find out. Three years ago, a classmate taunted her seventeen-year-old son with anonymous hate letters and abusive graffiti about him in the schoolyard. After that, he went into the family's kitchen, shut the door, and refused to leave and he hasn't left the room since then or allowed anyone in. The family eventually decided to build a new kitchen and Yoshiko takes meals to her son's door three times a day. There is a toilet next to the kitchen, but the boy has bathed only twice each year (adapted from a story by Phil Rees, BBC News, Sunday, October 20, 2002).
In this chapter, we will discuss the problem of Japanese adolescents and young adults called hikikomori, in which the teenager remains isolated in one room at home with limited contact with the outside world, perhaps via the internet, and with little or no communication with family members. They may make late-night shopping expeditions, leaving the home after parents are sleeping and avoiding any face-to-face contact with others, or they may not leave at all. The condition can last for many months or even years. There are believed to be over one million cases of hikikomori currently in Japan, which results in huge economic and social losses. In some cases, if parents seek to end the situation or force the child out, there can be violent attacks against the parents.