Saturday, August 12

Hikikomori/Otaku: Japans Latest Out-Group

Creating Social outcasts to construct a national self-identity

Ron Adams


Hikikomori and otaku are today’s most prominent social problems.

Hikikomori refers to the recent state of middle and high school students who drop out of school, and withdraw completely from society. Otaku are the deeply obsessed fans of a particular subject who commit their free time (and sometimes lives) to the complete memorization of their obsession.

In both cases these groups are extreme exaggerations of common Japanese social tendencies. The media in Japan is currently attacking these groups as harbingers of social chaos, and portrays them as a new group of outcasts who will destroy society (at least kill many people). This portrayal is not only accepted by the media, but by the society as well. History has shown the Japanese social tendency to create outcast groups, isolate them, and then blame current social problems on that group. These groups are then used as examples of “the other”, a group that is in opposition to the main Japanese society. This “other” is used to create a national and cultural identity by comparing it in opposition to the norm.

What defines a person as Japanese? If you asked a Japanese person today that same question, they would have an easy time answering that question with a quick “A Japanese person is a person from Japan.” This is a good answer, but what about people of foreign heritage born in Japan, such as Koreans, or children born from American migrant workers. If you want to be Japanese, you must look, speak, act, and most importantly be by-blood,

“In short, while it is possible-though not particularly easy-for a foreigner to acquire Japanese citizenship,it is not possible for an immigrant or the children of immigrants to “become Japanese” the way such people can “become American.” The way you get to be Japanese is the same way you get to be Zulu or Shona in Africa: you have to be born into the tribe. For that is what the people of Japan-or at least more than 97 percent of them-really are: members of a single great tribe united not just by common citizenship or common language but by common bloodlines, common racial memory and common tribal codes, so of which stretch back into prehistory.” (Christopher, Robert C., 51)

Japanese society distinguishes itself from other cultures based on in-groups and out-groups. The groups that are not Japanese, not local, and different are considered the out-groups. Local groups, family groups, and traditional groups are considered Japanese. To define oneself as Japanese you must simply define yourself as a member of the in-group, and others as members of the out-group. This phenomenon has created an unconscious system of creating out-groups with each generation in order to achieve national self-identity.

This very good read available in this link. A sobering read on subculture of anime fandom.

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