Theatre project aims to ease isolation of Japan’s social recluses


Disillusioned by work and drained of life, Seiji Yoshida withdrew from the world for seven years, however now he is collaborating in a play concerning the experiences of Japan’s “hikikomori”, or social recluses.

The 42-year-old spent most of his 30s shut inside his dwelling.

“I used to be going by means of the motions of life, however mendacity to myself. Apart from work, I had nothing. I’d simply had sufficient,” he mentioned at a workshop for the worldwide manufacturing.

Yoshida was amongst greater than 1,000,000 Japanese aged 15 to 64 who lead extremely reclusive lives, withdrawing from all social contact for a minimum of six months, in accordance to a 2020 authorities estimate.

Through an experimental theatre project, two French artists are hoping to supply hikikomori – or “shut-ins” as they’re typically referred to in English – an opportunity to specific themselves and regain self-confidence.

Their play Hiku – to be proven subsequent 12 months in France, Belgium and elsewhere in Europe – aims to give hikikomori a platform for self-expression, whereas respecting their need for isolation.

It options robots managed by members at dwelling in Japan and voice recordings of conversations held by means of bed room doorways.

It additionally contains footage from small however noisy avenue demonstrations staged by hikikomori who’re taking steps in the direction of leaving their confinement – however who really feel oppressed by Japan’s demanding work tradition.

“We don’t need to be pressured to work! Stop oppressing us!” members chanted at one demonstration filmed within the metropolis of Takatsuki in western Japan.

Yoshida, who took half within the protest, added he was “very proud” to be half of the theatre manufacturing.

Robot ‘avatars’

The producers are working in Takatsuki with a neighborhood organisation, New Start Kansai, which supplies assist and firm for hikikomori to assist them progressively readjust to life in society.

“It’s a social drawback … however society has made (hikikomori) imagine that the issue comes from them,” mentioned Atsutoshi Takahashi, a mediator on the affiliation.

Nicolas Tajan, a psychoanalyst and affiliate professor at Kyoto University, mentioned hikikomori typically confronted difficulties in childhood.

In Japan, “childhood and adolescent psychological difficulties are usually not addressed and never handled,” he mentioned.

Co-director Anne-Sophie Turion (right) chatting with the avatar robots of Seiji Yoshida (entre) and Matsuda (left), controlled remotely from their respective homes in Japan, for an experimental theatre project on Japan's socially isolated hikikomori, or shut-ins, at the Montperrin psychiatric hospital in Aix en Provence, southern France. Photo: AFP Co-director Anne-Sophie Turion (proper) chatting with the avatar robots of Seiji Yoshida (entre) and Matsuda (left), managed remotely from their respective properties in Japan, for an experimental theatre project on Japan’s socially remoted hikikomori, or shut-ins, on the Montperrin psychiatric hospital in Aix en Provence, southern France. Photo: AFP

“That means in maturity it might probably crystallise into a kind of social withdrawal”.

As adults, they face extra issues as they “are appeared down on as a result of they do not work,” he added, noting that “work is admittedly an important half of Japanese identification.”

Around a dozen recovering hikikomori are collaborating within the project.

Some will management robots from 10,000km away in the course of the play, portray messages on the ground and speaking to spectators by means of microphones.

The robots are “a form of avatar” to discover “being current and absent on the identical time, a recurring theme for hikikomori,” mentioned co-director Eric Minh Cuong Castaing, a visible artist and dancer.

He hopes the manufacturing will assist audiences mirror on their very own lives, arguing that whereas hikikomori are typically considered weak, their actions characterize a form of resistance to being “a soldier in a go well with and tie”.


When the French artists started researching the project in Japan, they took time to construct connections with the remoted individuals launched to them by New Start Kansai.

“It was a giant problem for some of them to allow us to into their properties and converse to us,” mentioned co-director Anne-Sophie Turion, who will carry out within the play as a narrator.

She mentioned being strangers from one other nation might have made issues simpler, “as a result of the same old prejudices weren’t there”.

“We discovered individuals who we felt nearer to than we ever may have imagined.”

Recovery will be tough for hikikomori, who worry as soon as they’ve withdrawn from society, they will not be allowed again in, psychoanalyst Tajan mentioned.

“This reinforces their avoidant behaviour.”

But artwork may also help reclusive people “reconnect with creativity” and envisage “one other world” past psychiatric therapy or re-entering employment, he mentioned. – AFP

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