Monday, October 10, 2016

引きこもり (hikikomori)

Someone taught me this word about ten years ago.  She was a charming young woman about to graduate from a music college--she was funny, and fun.  After we'd known each other for a few weeks, though, she explained to me over dinner that she had this other side, this hikikomori side to her, which made her want to sleep all day and surf the internet from the evening to early morning, and repeat the pattern the next day, never having to leave the house.  She was living with her parents. 

Hiku means to withdraw, and komoru ( 籠る、こもる) means to seclude oneself.  She wanted to know how to say hikikomori in English.  The words that immediately came to mind were recluse/reclusive and hermit.  When I asked a colleague at school what he thought, he said that yamagomori would be a better literal translation for the kind of hermit that we might see in, for instance, How the Grinch Stole ChristmasYama (山) is the word for mountain, after all.  I suppose in English that we could equally say that J.D. Salinger was well-known for being a recluse, and metaphorically we might also say that he was a bit of a hermit during his final decades.  But apparently in Japanese hikikomori would be the more conventional word for people who choose to hole themselves up at home.

So I just came across this CNN article about the 541,000 people in the country who are deemed by the Japanese cabinet to be hikikomori.  They came up with a clear and articulate definition, i.e. "those who haven't left their homes or interacted with others for at least six months."

You can read it at:
I like the two videos.  It's been a while since I got excited about a CNN video, to tell the truth.  

The other video (below), artfully made, is also embedded within the CNN article:

*correction--In the initial post, I wrote that komori is the word for cloud.  I apologize for this mistake.  Kumori (曇り) is the word for cloud.  Sorry, everyone!

And this is Dr. Seuss's infamous hermit--

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