PhD Dissertation “Social Withdrawal in Japan” (Tajan 2014)

Title : « Social Withdrawal in Japan. An Investigation on Hikikomori and School Non-Attendance (futōkō) »

Nicolas TAJAN PhD defense expected February 2014


The purpose of this PhD Dissertation is to provide a review of social withdrawal in Japan (hikikomori and futōkō). Hikikomori is the phenomenon of social withdrawal that effects hundreds of thousands individuals, in which the individual shuts his/herself in their room generally at their family’s home for several months and even years without social relationships. During the period of compulsory education, students’ social withdrawal is rather coined by the term futōkō (school non-attendance).

First, I consider hikikomori as a social issue and sum up previous research in Anthropology, Psychiatry and Psychology. Then, I describe my investigation in NPOs, hikikomori individuals’ accounts I collected, and draw my perspective on the intersection of Clinical Psychology and Mental Health Anthropology. Second, I investigate the support available to futōkō since many hikikomori experienced school non-attendance, using research interviews with clinical practitioners in Kyōto prefecture. Finally, I examine social withdrawal phenomenon in relation to Japanese identity discourse, towards a new approach of Doi Takeo’s, Kawai Hayao’s, and Jacques Lacan’s writings.

My results reveal that hikikomori mostly receive support from caregivers working in NPOs, among which psychiatrists and psychologists are absent. However, while clinical psychologists actually support junior high school students who are classified as futōkō, the support available to high school dropouts remains low. As a whole, this dissertation shows that at the beginning of the 21st century, we are just witnessing the birth of psychological clinics in Japan, especially in the field of child and adolescent mental care.

Key Words : Adolescent and Young Adult, Social Withdrawal, Hikikomori, School Non-Attendance, futōkō, Japan, Identity, Cultural Concepts of Distress, NPO, Japanese Clinical Psychology, Japanese Psychiatry, Psychoanalysis

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s