An article in the BBC News about hikikomori a common form of mental illness in Japan where kids lock themselves up in their room and don't come out. They say it is a unique Japanese phenomenon. I think we should look at the mental illness issue in Japan generally. As I keep writing here, suicides are among the top in the world as well. Many people have the misconception that just because Japanese sing karaoke and go drinking a lot, Japanese don't have stress. But it's the "don't worry... just try harder..." speech during these drinking sessions that drive people into mental collapse. There is a word in Japanese, gambatte, which doesn't have an equivalent English term, but means something like "work harder" but with a nuance that you will be rewarded with praise if you do. This word is an example of the "work harder" ethic which I think is a problem. Working harder doesn't necessarily lead to working smarter. In fact, many people who work hard avoid thinking or making hard decisions and end up in a mess. I call it kurushimi no bigaku or "the aesthetic of suffering" which makes everything OK if you tried hard enough. Bah!
BBC NewsSunday, 20 October, 2002, 19:50 GMT 20:50 UK Japan: The Missing Million By Phil Rees Reporting from Japan for Correspondent Teenage boys in Japan's cities are turning into modern hermits - never leaving their rooms. Pressure from schools and an inability to talk to their families are suggested causes. Phil Rees visits the country to see what the "hikikomori" condition is all about.