This is a follow up to my bog about hygge.

This, you may remember, is the current vogue for staying in to survive the winter cheerfully, donning thick socks and lighting lots of candles. I was a bit withering about it.

Now the other side of things. I give you hikikomori. As so many intriguing behaviours are, this is a phenomenon found in Japan, and it means never going out. Ever. According to market researchers Nielsen, there are some 500,000 young people (15 to 39 years old) who have stayed at home for six months or more without going to school or to work, or even going out to socialise.

It gets better, or worse, depending on how you look at it. There are twice as many 35 to 39 year old hermits as there were only six years ago. The recluse population in general is really taking it seriously. A whopping 29% have not gone out for three to five years. Those staying in for at least seven years rock in at 35%. That is interesting isn’t it? To the point of being gobsmacking.

This is a subject close to my heart, because there are days when my mental state is such I really really don’t want to set foot outside my front door. I have to force myself, so I get the idea of living a life of splendid isolation. But I do have some questions for the researchers.

Now Nielsen generally know the way around market research. They’ve been doing it for yonks. The first thing I might ask is if all the young turks are staying in, who the hell are the people playing pachinko in such vast numbers? This pinball variant is virtually a national pastime in the Land of Nippon. The pachinko parlours are rammed to the doors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s worth $378bn to the economy.


Then we have the thumpingly tricky one. Given the retiring nature of the target of the research, how did they find them? If your research demographic lives in a twilit world of video games, manga comics, and anime, they are by definition going to be fairly hard to track down. They probably can’t be bothered to answer the phone, even if they have one, and you can’t interview them on the street corner or at the mall, because they aren’t there.

There’s the obligatory quote from an ‘expert,’ Tamaki Saito, a psychologist. ‘They want to go out in the world, they want to make friends or lovers, but they can’t.’ How does he know that? They don’t speak to anybody.

An unconnected topic, but not big enough to warrant a full scale blog. In the UK 40+% of people claim to be following ‘clean diet’ principles. I find that implausible. Whoever came up with that spurious figure has clearly never lived round where I do.