Hikikomori: Adolescence without End, by Saito Tamaki

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Hikikomori: Adolescence without End, by Saito Tamaki

Hikikomori: Adolescence without End, by Saito Tamaki

Hikikomori: Adolescence without End, by Saito Tamaki

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Hikikomori: Adolescence without End, by Saito Tamaki

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phenomenon estimated by the author to involve as many as one million Japanese adolescents and young adults who have withdrawn from society, retreating to their rooms for months or years and severing almost all ties to the outside world.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 Indeed, some experts predict that most hikikomori who are withdrawn for a year or more may never fully recover.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.

  • Sales Rank: #587013 in Books
  • Published on: 2013-03-20
  • Original language: Japanese
  • Number of items: 1
  • Dimensions: 8.50″ h x .70″ w x 5.50″ l, .70 pounds
  • Binding: Paperback
  • 208 pages

About the Author

Saitō Tamaki 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 (Minnesota, 2011).

Most helpful customer reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful.
The Responsibility of the Parents and Educational System
By Leotol Stoy
With any translated work, there are always two parts: the original work itself (content), and the skill and methodology of the translator (translation). As such this review is also in two parts (heavily weighted towards the content) to address these separate yet critical aspects of this book.


Dr. Jeffrey Angles provides a readable translation here that I can find no reason to criticize. He appears to have left the authorial voice intact, without inadvertently inserting his own. I found no glaring evidences of awkwardly phrased sentences. As for technical terminology, I found nothing that appeared out of place or inappropriately termed. Perhaps if an English-speaking psychiatrist had interpreted the book, there would be more technical language in it, but as it is the translation works for the general reader (of which I am part), and for that reason alone I am more than happy with Dr. Angles’ translation.


Saito Tamaki (family name first, per Japanese naming convention) is a Japanese psychiatrist trained in psychoanalysis (Sigmund Freud’s branch of psychological theory). In this book he deals, per the title, with the issue of, “social withdrawal,” or in Japanese, “shakaiteki hikikomori” (shortened to “hikikomori,” which is, “withdrawal”). The book is intended for a general readership, but with an emphasis placed on reaching two main groups: parents of hikikomori, and other health professionals who could possibly be involved in treatment of hikikomori and their families.

When Saito originally wrote this book in 1998 hikikomori was not a widely recognized as an adverse mental condition, but more as an incidence of laziness or selfishness on the part of person in withdrawal. This attitude was taken by the general public, families of the hikikomori (both immediate and extended), and finally even by the hikikomori themselves. One of Saito’s aims (there are many for such a short book) is to change that mindset so people no longer look on hikikomori as adults who can (and should) help themselves, but rather as the equivalent of teenagers/children who require external assistance in order to overcome their condition of withdrawal. Since such a great deal of time has passed since the book’s original publication, I think we can state quite generally that at the very least Saito succeeded in publicizing the condition, to the point that numerous TV/manga (Japanese comics) have dealt with hikikomori characters.

The book is broken into two parts, the first entitled, “What is Happening?” and the second, “How to Deal with Social Withdrawal.” This separation would be highly effective if Saito actually followed it, but extremely important portions that fit under one title or the other are found in the opposite section, hence rendering the division unnecessary.

The book is best read not as two distinct sections, but as a continuous narrative with a specific focus in the first half, and another in the second half. For the first part of the book Saito deals with how to overcome professional distrust of hikikomori as its own distinct illness separate from others like schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc. In the second he goes into practical methods and principles for treatment of hikikomori and their parents.

As I stated prior, Saito’s discussion blends between his two primary topics, as if the book were written almost in stream of consciousness and then edited later for clarity. There are many sections which are purely anecdotal, and appear to contribute nothing except length (as an example, a brief digression on a quote from Kurt Vonnegut). Saito’s discussion places responsibility on two primary groups for a hikikomori’s condition: parents and the educational system. However, the treatment he gives to both are not afforded until well into the second half of the book. While this is in keeping with the Japanese penchant for saving bad news to the end, it detracts from the cohesiveness of the work.

Although I do not agree with the structure Saito utilized to publish his message, I do find it to be very interesting and relevant. Primarily I was interested in how his observations would inform my opinion of Michael Zielenziger’s work on hikikomori in Shutting Out the Sun. I found it interesting how vital it is that the parents of hikikomori be willing to participate in treatment, and how this supported one of Saito’s final points that the parents are part of the problem. Based on what Saito has written in the book, and reading between the lines, I believe that he is attempting to point out that a serious parenting deficiency (lack of boundaries) is the core issue without overly aggravating the target of his criticism so they are unwilling to accept his critique. Overall, for anyone with an interest in Japanese culture, this book is well worth the read for the content alone.

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful.
By Mo
The best book on this subject in my opinion. Written by the man who coined the name in the first place this book
arguably has the best overview and insight into the issue. Dr. Saito sees hundreds of sufferers daily at his clinic (which is for just
this ONE condition). I have interviewed Dr. Saito for my own research on hikikomori (I have dual nationality and brought my Japanese children up here in Japan, from birth to their twenties – along the way knowing many hikikomori sufferers). Dr. Saito has spent decades examining a painfully horrific family breaking, heart breaking ailment and has written this book in an easy to understand, simple, non- judgmental and caring style. A must read for anyone remotely connected to, or interested in hikikomori.

0 of 0 people found the following review helpful.
Five Stars
By Amazon Customer
Is good is star to now more about pronlem in Japan good to read

See all 7 customer reviews…

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