I'm not a people person. I know. I've only said that like a few (hundred) times before. I avoid people and I'm terrible at conversations. If someone starts up a conversation with me from completely out of the blue and I'm not prepared, it’s usually ends up being a disaster of epic proportions.
Still, as bad as I am with the whole social interaction thing, I'm way below the level of calling myself a hikikomori. That’s a Japanese word. (You didn't think I forgot about the folks over in Japan, did you?) Hikikomori are basically shut-ins who either won't or can't participate in social settings and, as a result, often spend all of their time locked up inside their own homes avoiding as many people as they can. They can't work, date or even have friends. Their parents are usually their only means of support and human contact.
Is it weird I actually don’t find most of this all that bad?
Anyway, there are a growing number of people suffering from this condition in Japan and cultural pressures and other stresses are usually the triggers for someone to slip into hikikomori lifestyle.
One example of just how severe a hikikomori's fear of social interaction can be is a recent story I read here about an unemployed, 34-year-old, male hikikomori who shared an apartment in Tokyo with his 68-year-old father, Mr. Nakao. Their living together was on account of Nakao's poor health.
Then, on December 1, the son woke up to find that his father had died. Naturally, the authorities had to be notified but the young man's fear of having to make contact with the outside world was so severe that he actually hesitated a little before contacting the police.
For TWELVE days!
It doesn't end there.
Another thing you may or may not know about Japan is that housing in urban areas, such as Tokyo, is scarce and tightly packed. A very common living arrangement for people in these areas to stay in one-room apartments that act as kitchen, bedroom, living room and dining room. Only the bathroom is walled off. This was the living arrangement Nakao and his son shared. So, for twelve days, the young man stayed locked in his one-room apartment, with his father’s corpse lying on the Japanese-style beds (probably one of those floor-mat deals that's spread out in the middle of the room), while he ate, slept, watched TV, etc.
He eventually did sum up the courage to call the police and, explained that his condition was the reason he took so long to do so. While the police are looking into the cause of Nakao's death, they’re also considering charging the son for “abandonment of a body”.
On second thought, as socially awkward as I am, I think I’ll stick with awkward situations in public.