We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE


Adolescence without End

Saito Tamaki

Publication Year: 2013

This is the first English translation of a controversial Japanese best seller that made the public aware of the social problem of hikikomori, or “withdrawal”—a phenomenon estimated by the author to involve as many as one million Japanese adolescents and young adults who have withdrawn from society, retreating to their rooms for months or years and severing almost all ties to the outside world. Saitō Tamaki’s work of popular psychology provoked a national debate about the causes and extent of the condition.

Since Hikikomori was published in Japan in 1998, the problem of social withdrawal has increasingly been recognized as an international one, and this translation promises to bring much-needed attention to the issue in the English-speaking world. According to the New York Times, “As a hikikomori ages, the odds that he’ll re-enter the world decline. Indeed, some experts predict that most hikikomori who are withdrawn for a year or more may never fully recover. That means that even if they emerge from their rooms, they either won’t get a full-time job or won’t be involved in a long-term relationship. And some will never leave home. In many cases, their parents are now approaching retirement, and once they die, the fate of the shut-ins—whose social and work skills, if they ever existed, will have atrophied—is an open question.”

Drawing on his own clinical experience with hikikomori patients, Saitō creates a working definition of social withdrawal and explains its development. He argues that hikikomori sufferers manifest a specific, interconnected series of symptoms that do not fit neatly with any single, easily identifiable mental condition, such as depression.

Rejecting the tendency to moralize or pathologize, Saitō sensitively describes how families and caregivers can support individuals in withdrawal and help them take steps toward recovery. At the same time, his perspective sparked contention over the contributions of cultural characteristics—including family structure, the education system, and gender relations—to the problem of social withdrawal in Japan and abroad.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.9 MB)
p. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (94.9 KB)
pp. 2-5


pdf iconDownload PDF (72.0 KB)
pp. 6-7

read more

Translator's Introduction: How to Diagnose an Invisible Epidemic

pdf iconDownload PDF (140.1 KB)
pp. vii-xix

...When first published in 1998, this book struck a major nerve in Japan and quickly became a best seller. Although the author, Saitō Tamaki, is currently well known as a major cultural critic and one of the foremost Japanese experts on the psychological problems of youth, at the time he published this book he was still relatively unknown. Saitō ...

read more

Preface to the English Edition

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.7 KB)
pp. 3-8

...Fourteen years have gone by since this book was first published. Since then, there have been several gradual changes in Japan that have to do with hikikomori. Below I summarize some of the most important of those changes that have transpired during these fourteen years ...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.4 KB)
pp. 9-14

...Sure enough. Those are the sorts of “reasonable opinions” you might expect to hear upstanding citizens say. But what if there were tens of thousands of adolescents across the country who fit the descriptions I gave above? What if most of those young people were still unable to escape from their shut-in, withdrawn state even after being subjected to “reasonable opinions” over and over again? This is not just a hypothetical question ...

Part I. What Is Happening?

read more

Chapter 1: What Is Social Withdrawal?

pdf iconDownload PDF (161.2 KB)
pp. 17-29

...In November 1996 a tragic incident took place: a middle school student took a bat and beat to death his father, who was an office worker in Tokyo. The father, whose life had been largely dedicated to work, could no longer stand his son’s fits of violence in the household and had confronted him. The result was this tragedy. According to an...

read more

Chapter 2: The Symptoms and Development of Social Withdrawal

pdf iconDownload PDF (199.8 KB)
pp. 30-53

...I hope that in the last chapter, I was able to provide a rough picture of what social withdrawal looks like. In this chapter I intend to give readers get a clearer understanding by presenting the results of a survey conducted in 1989. Before launching into the results, however, I will first describe the survey itself...

read more

Chapter 3: Psychological Ailments Accompanying Withdrawal

pdf iconDownload PDF (171.9 KB)
pp. 54-68

...As I explained earlier in this book, “social withdrawal” is not the name of a disease. Currently we do not have a single pathology that can appropriately describe the condition. There are people who believe that we should not use the terms withdrawal or hikikomori to describe a single ailment. In its own way, that argument makes ...

read more

Chapter 4: Is Social Withdrawal a Disease?

pdf iconDownload PDF (136.6 KB)
pp. 69-76

...Is “social withdrawal” an illness? It is necessary to be clear on this point, and I try to answer this question more thoroughly in this chapter. If it is an illness, then it is necessary to discuss how to counter it, increases to the point that specialists can no longer ignore the situation? I think that we should do our best to place social withdrawal ...

read more

Chapter 5: Hikikomori Systems

pdf iconDownload PDF (244.0 KB)
pp. 77-90

...In this chapter, I would like to think about why social withdrawal happens and what its mechanisms are. Why do people “withdraw”? The reasons certainly are not simple. I myself am not sure I can answer the question adequately; however, I do think that it is worthwhile to try to move forward by inquiring into the issue and coming ...

Part II. How to Deal With Social Withdrawal

read more

Chapter 6: Overcoming the Desire to Reason, Preach, and Argue

pdf iconDownload PDF (192.1 KB)
pp. 93-102

...It is extremely difficult to deal with people who are in a state of withdrawal. One reason is that our society has embraced a set of values that says, “If you don’t work, you don’t deserve to eat.” As a result, we tend to take an overwhelmingly negative attitude toward social withdrawal; we deny that it is a problem with real roots and causes. In other words...

read more

Chapter 7: Important Information for the Family

pdf iconDownload PDF (133.7 KB)
pp. 103-109

...One thing that I can say for sure about dealing with social withdrawal is that by the time the patients are brought in for consultations, they are usually in a rather bad state already. Once the patient’s state has deteriorated past a certain point, it does not matter how hard the family works; it will be difficult for them to produce changes for the...

read more

Chapter 8: The General Progress of Treatment

pdf iconDownload PDF (222.4 KB)
pp. 110-126

...Earlier in the book, I wrote about the >em>hikikomori system in which the systems of individual, family, and society have lost contact with one another. Such systems involve a kind of vicious circle, and the worse it gets, the more likely it is that the withdrawn state will stabilize and become chronic. It does not just hold the individual captive. As the ...

read more

Chapter 9: In Daily Life

pdf iconDownload PDF (156.7 KB)
pp. 127-138

...Earlier in this book, I stated that approximately half of all people in withdrawal have extremely impoverished levels of conversation with their own family. I touched on this earlier, but in such cases, the first priority is to help reestablish conversation between the child and their family. In this section, I talk about concrete techniques for ...

read more

Chapter 10: The Sadness behind Violence in the Household

pdf iconDownload PDF (188.0 KB)
pp. 139-152

...A rather large percentage of cases of social withdrawal are accompanied by violent outbursts in the household, which just makes the problem of withdrawal that much more difficult to deal with. Explosions of violent behavior that come as the result of small things or ...

read more

Chapter 11: Treatment and Returning to Society

pdf iconDownload PDF (179.3 KB)
pp. 153-170

...Some patients do not improve at the rate one would hope for, even when all measures have been handled appropriately. Also, there are limits as to how much a family can do to help their child return to society when they are working alone. For that reason, it is essential that the family consults a therapeutic facility with specialists, even if that ...

read more

Chapter 12: The Social Pathology of Withdrawal

pdf iconDownload PDF (132.7 KB)
pp. 171-176

...It was about twenty years ago that student apathy appeared on the social scene. People began to use words like “the principle of three no’s” (sanmushugi) and “the disenchanted generation” (shirake sedai) to describe the increasingly apathetic attitudes of young people in Japan. One could say many things about student apathy and its...

read more

Conclusion: Steps for the Future

pdf iconDownload PDF (102.7 KB)
pp. 177-180

...No effective antidote has yet appeared for the ever-increasing problem of social withdrawal. This is a situation that almost never “cures itself”; meanwhile, even clinical cures are insufficient. Given this state of affairs, it seems clear that the number of people in withdrawal will only continue to increase from here on out. I hope that my thoughts...

Translator's Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF (128.4 KB)
pp. 181-184


pdf iconDownload PDF (101.1 KB)
pp. 185-189


pdf iconDownload PDF (100.6 KB)
pp. 190-192

read more

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (69.3 KB)
p. 193-193

...is a practicing psychiatrist and director of medical services at Sōfūkai Sasaki Hospital in Funabashi, Japan. He is the author of more than two dozen books, including Beautiful Fighting Girl, published in English by the University of Minnesota Press in 2011. Jeffrey Angles is associate professor of modern Japanese...

E-ISBN-13: 9780816688432
E-ISBN-10: 0816688435
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816654598

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013