The Poison System in Japan

By Adams, Kenneth Alan | The Journal of Psychohistory, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

The Poison System in Japan


Adams, Kenneth Alan, The Journal of Psychohistory


In contemporary Japan, a horde of housebound hermits has emerged, postmodern pariahs who habituate the margins of society, "shutting] themselves away from the sun, closing their blinds, taping shut their windows, and refusing to leave the bedroom in their homes for months or years at a time."1 This reclusiveness is known as hikikomori, a flight from others which is often precipitated by bullying, ijime, and is so widespread that Kosuke Yamazaki, a psychiatrist at Tokai University, has described it as "a social disease."2 Epidemiologists have demonstrated that communicable diseases are transmitted in specific ways, such as drinking from an infected well, or sleeping in an infected bed.3 Similarly, hikikomori, the product of social dis-ease, emerges from unique and identifiable institutions, from home and school, and it is our task to comprehend the interrelatedness of those experiences.

The contention here will be that the child typically grows up in Japan in a father-absent family and establishes a codependent relationship with mother. This amae relationship is characterized by intense ambivalence generated by maternal frustration and immaturity. Unable to cope with the pressures of rearing a child alone, the mother inflicts her frustrations and needs on the child, that is, she injects her poisonous emotions into the child, and this maternal legacy, malignant and unacknowledged, lies dormant, preventing autonomy and functioning as the template for group relationships. The father's absence from the home was the unfolding of the older generation's flawed template intertwining with that of the child, as was the mother's faulty parenting. The growing child thus remains a partial person, tied to group functioning premised on, and permeated with, unresolved conflicts from the mother-child dyad.

Codependency on the group becomes especially problematic in adolescence, when bullying, as the traditional means of maintaining group homogeneity, emerges in school and becomes a significant source of stress for those who differ from others in any way. A student's encounter with bullies at school often catalyzes futoko, "school refusal syndrome," the first step to becoming a social recluse.4 Subsequently, the hikikomori barricades himself, or occasionally, herself, in the home to cope with "poison overload," the state in which the internalized residue, the poison buildup, of group life has reached a critical point. Bullying at school has pushed beyond the person's capacity to tolerate toxicity. The person defends against further pain by massive avoidance. Fearing human interaction and unable to exist autonomously, the hikikomori is flooded by poison overload - too overwhelmed to function within the group, too immature to move forward away from the group. Faced with this no-win situation, the hermit lacks the capacity5 to engage the social milieu and surmount obstacles. Instead, the hikikomori is paralyzed by growth panic6 - dread of movement beyond the stalemated status quo, and inadequate ego strength insures the continuation of codependency within the amae prison.

HIKIKOMORI AND BULLYING

Kobayashi Hirokatsu, a recluse for seven years, frightens his mother so much that "the only place she feels safe to sleep is in the car with the doors locked." Kobayashi's dreams of being "independent," yet, he wears "a face mask and rubber gloves" when he leaves his room, and says that venturing outside "feels as frightening as trying to step on a cloud."7 Kenji, another hikikomori, has "seldom left his bedroom in five years." When things are going well and he forces himself, "he can almost get to the front door of his mother's small Tokyo apartment before the fear overtakes him."8 Living with his 83-year-old mother, another middleaged recluse has "scarcely left the house in 30 years."9 Approximately 80 percent of hikikomori are males, but a female voiced a sentiment that expresses the honne, true feeling, of most recluses. "I don't want to be an adult. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Poison System in Japan
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.