Rent-a-Sister in Japan: Getting to Know Hikikomori

In Japan, there are approximately half a million Japanese young men that have completely withdrawn from society and decided to lock themselves up in their bedrooms for years. They are known as Hikikomori. 

What is Hikikomori?

Hikikomori is defined as a form of severe social withdrawal. This has been frequently described in Japan and is characterized by adolescents and young adults who become recluses in their parents’ homes, unable to work or go to school for months or years. The condition can affect both men and women. However, the majority are young men between the ages of 18 to 25. It is a condition that has no proper medical diagnosis. Hikikomori decide to withdraw from society for a variety of reasons. Some cases involve pressure given by society, losing a job, being bullied in school and some just want to stop going to school for unknown reasons at all.

Some people think that these Hikikomori are just plain lazy, that’s why they don’t go to work or school. Most parents are also ashamed of admitting to having a hikikomori child so families often keep it a secret and struggle to ask for help even if the situation gets worse. 

What are Rental Sisters for?

Then the idea of a rental sister was born. Rental sisters in Japan is a brainchild of New Start, an organization whose goal is to help Hikikomori coax out of isolation and back to regular life. The rental sisters don’t have proper medical training at all. They just regularly visit the Hikikomori and interact with them as much as possible. Families of Hikikomori pay around JPY100,000 or around PHP45,000 per month for a weekly, hour-long visit. 

New Start also organized a dormitory for Hikikomori. The place allows Hikikomoris to mingle with other people and slowly return to society again through volunteer work. About 80% of these Hikikomori have already successfully re-established themselves independently. 

The government of Japan still has no proper documentation of this phenomenon and they are still trying to figure out ways on how to help Hikikomori go out of their bedrooms especially since Japan has an aging society. The country needs to motivate its young generation to be part of nation-building. 

To date, New Start has helped around 3,000 Hikikomori go back to regular life. However, a vast majority still remain isolated in their homes and are already becoming a burden to their retired parents. Unfortunately, some even just die unnoticed. 

Watch this video from BBC News to know more about this alarming phenomenon happening in Japan now:



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