People in Japan who have experienced being a “hikikomori”, or social recluse, are sharing their experiences by publishing a newspaper titled Hikikomori Shimbun, writing articles and editing the pages themselves.

The newspaper carries articles by hikikomori describing their own experiences, such as how they overcame their longtime withdrawal from the world.

The editorial team has so far heard from parents whose children are holed up in their homes, with one saying, “I started to learn about my son’s feelings”.

The number of readers is gradually increasing, the editorial team says.

The newspaper is issued every two months, with the first issue published in November and the second issue in mid-January. Some content can be read online.

The editorial team chose to publish the newspaper in printed form because that way parents can buy it and place the newspaper where it can catch their children’s eye.

Naohiro Kimura, a 32-year-old man from Tokyo, serves as the chief editor.

Kimura was a shut-in for nearly 10 years after failing a university exam, and his relationship with his parents deteriorated. He had the idea of issuing the newspaper last spring.

“I felt the need for support in keeping with the feelings of people who have withdrawn from society. To do so, we need to convey the voices of hikikomori more,” Kimura says.

Kimura holds editorial meetings several times a month at his home with fellow members who share his ideas. There are five or six core members who cover stories and write articles, and a total of about 40 people are involved in the production of the newspaper overall, including those who contribute articles by e-mail because they cannot leave their homes.

The first issue had sold about 700 copies as of mid-January.

It contains an interview with Tamaki Saito, a professor at the University of Tsukuba and a psychiatrist who is knowledgeable about the issue of hikikomori.

It also introduces essays written by hikikomori.

One said in their essay, “Rather than job assistance, I want to ask for empathy for not being able to take action”. Another contributor wrote, “I’ve lost confidence to pursue love”.

The second issue features the experiences of female hikikomori, carrying an interview with Masaki Ikegami, a journalist who authored a book about women becoming shut-ins. Information about events to support families of hikikomori are also introduced in the issue.

A copy of the first issue of the Hikikomori Shimbun.

A copy of the first issue of the Hikikomori Shimbun.

The newspaper is a rare publication in which hikikomori convey their messages and other information on their own, Ikegami says. “I believe the real voices of people who have experienced social withdrawal will resonate with people facing the same problem.”

According to Cabinet Offices estimates released last year, about 540,000 people aged from 15 to 39 are believed to be in a state of social withdrawal across Japan.

The eight-page tabloid newspaper is sold at events to support hikikomori, and also sent by mail to people who want to buy it. The price is ¥500 (RM19) for general readers and ¥100 (RM4) for hikikomori. For inquiries, send an e-mail to info@hikikomori-news.com. – The Yomiuri Shimbun/Asia News Network