In Japan, a million young men have shut the door on real life.
Almost one man in ten in his late teens and early twenties is refusing to leave his home – many do not leave their bedrooms for years on end.
It is a lost generation. Many millions of families are devastated. But they mostly suffer in silence, unable to understand the plight of their children. The first western psychologist to study the problem describes the condition as “an epidemic” sweeping Japan.
It is called hikikomori by the Japanese – meaning “social withdrawal”. Yet little is known about the problem and parents of sufferers prefer to hide their pain rather than seek help.
Phil Rees' film discovers the hidden pain that is scarring Japan’s youth. We meet the mother of a 17-year old boy who took over the kitchen of the family home. Her son has refused to leave the kitchen and has not spoken to outsiders for four years. Members of his own family rarely see him. He does not bath and lives surrounded by a mound of garbage, which spills from the kitchen into the hallway. The family have been forced to cook meals on a makeshift camping stove.
Another case revealed by the programme is that of a boy who has locked himself in his bedroom for four years. Throughout these years, his mother – who sleeps in the next room – has not seen her son. She only knows that he is alive because she sometimes hears the creaking of floorboards. Some can remain in their bedrooms for twenty years before the family seek outside help.
Peter Patterson wrote in the Daily Mail (21.10.02). "One of the true purposes of television - to tell us something new, extraordinary and amazing, with the added bonus that it might have implications for our lives - was more than fulfilled last night. Reporter Phil Rees, for Correspondent, had my eyes out on stalks with The Missing Million.
Filmed and Directed by Darren Conway.
Assistant Producer: Mai Nishiyama