Epidemic of loneliness in Japan.
Japan is a well-populated country with over 127 million people, yet people still find themselves lonely within the hectic Japanese post-modern lifestyle. There are endless hardships birthed from the loneliness of Tokyo, submerging into the struggles from their daily lives. Salarymen losing their jobs, thrusting them to the edge of reason and despair, with no one to talk to. University and high-school students, pursuing their feelings of love, without the faintest idea of the hidden dangers that come with it, behind the veils of a mask society. Every individual must walk the tightrope layed-out before them in this beautiful, face-paced, ambitious but desolate urban jungle called Japan.
“It’s not political deadlock or economic meltdown, but loneliness. Within a couple of decades, single person households will be the dominant demographic in Japan, and there have been a litany of cases in recent times of dozens of people dying alone. Increasing incidences of divorce, a plummeting birth rate and a lengthening average life span are making life an extremely solitary experience for millions. But some see this lonely demographic as an untapped business opportunity…” (North Asia correspondent, Mark Willacy– Tokyo).
The idea of being lonely causes businessmen, clerks, students, divorced men/women to reach out and interact with other people. But loneliness is also brought on by isolation. Among these extremely-isolated people are modern hermits called- Hikikomori (s).
“Hikikomori is a Japanese phenomenon in which a young person, usually male, withdraws entirely from society, isolating and often confining themselves to their home. The concept has been depicted in anime several times, most notably in Welcome to the NHK” (Anime Network).
They basically withdraw from society, like a turtle into its shell. It is estimated that there are as many as 1 million in Japan, representing 20 % of all male adolescents or 1% of the total population. Like any other behavioral disorders, their condition has not been discussed openly. They also usually don’t want anyone to know, and if the parents try to get help, the kids often threaten to assault them or even commit suicide. Some hikikomoris live in isolation for years.
For 12 years in a row, the number of people who committed suicide in Japan has topped 30,000. According to the government, suicide and depression cost its economy almost 2.7tn yen ($32bn; £21bn) in 2009. Suicide is now the leading cause of death among men aged 20-44 and women aged 15-34. Suicide is predominately the result of a combination of factors like- healthcare provision, social attitudes, cultural influences and economic distress. Furthermore, Japanese still view suicide as an honorable death, unlike the Judeo-christian worldview which considers it a sin. The government took aim at the country’s high suicide rate, approving measures meant to reduce the number of deaths by 20 % by 2016.
“Decreasing suicides would be one way to build a society with a minimum level of unhappiness,” says Naoto Kan (Prime Minister of Japan).
But is unhappiness primarily a result of being weary of pain, or is it pleasure? As Blaise Pascal once said: “There is a god shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” Loneliness in Japan is a result of deeper spiritual hunger that cannot be diagnosed or fulfilled by politicians. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5: 3). Only God can fill the spiritual void in human hearts.
“Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God” -(Psalm 42: 5).
The Gospel of Jesus Christ is Japan’s only hope, for it is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1: 16). This lonely demographic is not “an untapped business opportunity” for psychologists & psychiatrists to make money from clients. It is an undeserving opportunity for spreading the Gospel of the grace of Jesus Christ. Only grace can change Japan!
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