101 EAST

 

 

JAPAN – THE AGE OF SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL

 

POST-PRODUCTION SCRIPT

 

 

DURATION:  26’ 00”

 

 

 

AL JAZEERA ENGLISH

 

                                             

 

 

 

 

 

POST PRODUCTION SCRIPT PREPARED BY:

 

MEDIASCRIPT EXPRESS

 

WWW.MEDIASCRIPT.COM

 

101 EAST

JAPAN – THE AGE OF SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL

                                                                       

 

TIMECODE

DIALOGUE

10:00:00

GFX:

[AL JAZEERA LOGO]

10:00:08

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  The world is going into lockdown, and social distancing is becoming the norm.  But a million Japanese have been shunning society for years.  For them as time goes on surviving at home alone is becoming harder.  101 East explores why so many young and old in Japan are socially withdrawn.

10:00:36

GFX:

101

EAST

10:00:42

GFX:

JAPAN:  THE AGE OF SOCIAL WITHDRAWAL

A FILM BY DREW AMBROSE AND AUN QI KOH

10:00:55

 

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  On Tokyo’s suburban outskirts I’m meeting fifty-four year old Kenji Yamase.

KENJI YAMASE:  Hi.

DREW AMBROSE:  Hi.

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  He doesn’t go out much.  Kenji is a hikikomori, the Japanese word for socially withdrawn people who spend their lives avoiding the outside world.

10:01:15

DREW AMBROSE:  So this is your room?

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

This is my room.

I’ve lived here since I was born…

for more than 50 years.

Some days I lie on the bed, just sleeping…

or use the computer.

And sometimes I read books or write.

DREW AMBROSE: All your work which your write …

KENJI YAMASE:   Yeah.

DREW AMBROSE:  … Okay.

10:01:36

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  The Government estimates there are more than one million hikikomori across Japan.  Most are over forty.  Kenji has lived like this for half his life.  He says he doesn’t fit in with Japanese society.

10:01:54

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

It’s a sense or feeling that you shouldn’t be here.

And even if you are here…

you feel like you can’t be yourself.

It’s a feeling that I’m not living the life

that I’m supposed to lead.

You feel like you’re being forced to play a role.

10:02:16

DREW AMBROSE:  By being socially withdrawn do you feel that you’re missing out at all?

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES: 

If I said I had no regrets, that would be a lie.

But since I stopped thinking about that,

I feel better.

10:02:29

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Kenji has ADHD or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, a condition that was left undiagnosed until five years ago.  He believes it played a role in his self-imposed isolation, and left with him scars from his childhood.

10:02:47

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I was bullied during elementary school very badly,

even by a teacher.

That’s why I can’t trust society.

The school counsellor told me

it was my fault that I got bullied.

10:03:04

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  The number of hikikomori has soared since the 1990’s when Japan’s economy plunged into recession.  At the time Kenji dropped out of a university law degree and struggled to hold down a job.

10:03:19

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Long ago, when you graduated from school

you could always find a job.

And your workplace would become your centre.

It gave you status.

And then you got married.

That was the typical path.

But once you stray from that path

you can’t go back.

So at that time, I thought I was useless

And I couldn’t help but blame myself.

I became depressed and resigned.

And I’ve kept repeating that cycle.

10:03:55

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Kenji lives with his eighty-eight year old mother Kazuko, who largely keeps to herself.  They’re typical of what Japan calls the 80/50 problem, where hikikomori aged over fifty live with parents in their eighties.

10:04:14

KENJI YASAME:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

A long time ago, she used to pester me about getting a job.

But when I was 30, she said,

“My generation and your generation are different now.

So I won’t say anything anymore.”

Then I felt at ease.

I don’t think she understands me,

but she accepts me.

She protects me,

and I feel her love.

I am grateful to her.

10:04:44

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Like Kenji a third of adult hikikomori depend on their parents for financial survival, and that makes their future uncertain.

10:04:55

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Year by year, I can feel that she’s deteriorating.

Even her posture is getting more stooped.

But I can’t help her, I don’t know what to do.

10:05:12

DREW AMBROSE:  Do you ever worry about what life would be like without her?

KENJI YAMASE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

It’s true that I’ll be sad when she’s gone…

but because of my developmental disorder…

I’m very bad at organising documentation

and dealing with the authorities.

So I feel bad for my mum,

but I worry more about the arrangements.

10:05:44

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  An hour away in Ibaraki Prefecture, Takuya Ishikawa rarely leaves this house.  For fourteen years his only points of interaction were his mother Yukiko and his dog Hana.  They both died in the last two years.  He says it’s his dog he misses the most.

10:06:09

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

She was my one and only best friend

in the entire world.

The only friend whom I could trust.

If it hadn’t been for her…

I may have given up on my life.

10:06:33

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Takuya withdrew from society thirty-seven years ago.  Suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder he says his condition and an unloving father triggered his isolation.

10:06:46

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Since I had no physical wound…

he told me,

“You are using the illness as an excuse.”

My father worried

about the family’s reputation.

I was punched.

Because of that abuse,

I became more troubled.

10:07:04

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Now he spends most days playing Japanese chess against strangers online.

 

10:07:11

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Oh!

I lost.

Why did I lose?

10:07:20

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  None of the clocks in the house are working.  Takuya says it’s because time has lost all meaning to him.

10:07:28

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Actually, looking back, I’m shocked by

how fast 30 years have passed.

Perhaps it’s because my days

are so repetitive…

I don’t feel the passage of time.

10:07:47

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Takuya’s biggest problem is he’s running out of money.  From his mother’s inheritance he has one thousand seven hundred dollars left.  That means engaging with the outside world.  Soon he’ll have to find a job or apply for social welfare to survive.

10:08:08

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

As a person without qualifications or experience,

what is my selling point?

Work, glamorous society…

how can I even think of that?

Networks, connections and experience…

these are the things that matter in Japan.

10:08:48

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Takuya would love another canine companion.  But he says his local animal shelters only let families adopt pets.

10:08:58

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Dogs don’t betray, unlike humans.

And they are very honest.

10:09:11

DREW AMBROSE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

What is this?

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I made these flyers…

and put them in the neighbours’ mailboxes.

I did this because I love dogs so much,

and I wanted to become a pet sitter.

But there’s been no response at all,

so I don’t know what to do.

10:09:38

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Takuya tells me he wants to be filmed so there’s proof of his existence.

10:09:45

TAKUYA ISHIKAWA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I don’t know if my life is good or not,

but by leaving behind evidence…

I hope your viewers can learn from it.

In that sense, the bad things…

can be a reference to others.

And that makes me happy.

10:10:18

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  I’m heading to Iwate, a rural prefecture on Japan’s north east coast.  Parents of hikikomori tend to keep their problems behind closed doors.  But I’m meeting one mother here who doesn’t shy away from speaking out.

10:10:36

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

There will be more cases…

and I think the problem will become serious

if we don’t act fast now.

10:10:45

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER: Seiko Goto regularly blogs about being the single mother of a twenty-five year old hikikomori.  Her son Masato has not studied or gone to work for the past six years. 

10:10:59

DREW AMBROSE:  So many parents are secretive.  They don’t want to talk about this problem.  Why are you so open?

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

If a child can’t do something, it’s the parents’ fault…

that’s the mindset in Japanese culture.

So I think I must be a little bit odd,

and it makes me laugh.

I think I am different from other mothers.

I am a cheerful person…

and I think I was able to

clearly separate Masato and myself.

He is not doing anything embarrassing.

10:11:38

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  But when Masato first began to withdraw in his teenage years she struggled to help him.

10:11:46

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

He didn’t eat.

At most he ate once a day…

and he didn’t bathe.

He didn’t talk to anyone back then.

Not even with me.

The family was falling apart.

There was darkness in our house.

There was no joy, our house felt bleak.

When one person becomes socially withdrawn,

the entire family disintegrates.

10:12:22

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:   The shame hit Masato’s elder brother the hardest.

10:12:27

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Masato’s older brother told him to die.

He said he wished Masato was never born…

that he was an idiot.

But of all the things that he said,

what really devastated me the most…

was when he said,

“Do you want me to kill him?”

Honestly, I was shocked.

I’m sorry, when I remember this…

10:13:01

 

SEIKO GOTO ON RADIO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Good day everyone,

It’s been a month since my last show…

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Seiko is determined to help others by bringing the problem out into the light.  Every month she records a radio chat programme that provides advice to hikikomori and their families.

SEIKO GOTO AND YASUHIRO KIKUCHI ON RADIO:  [Japanese]

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Today’s guest is Yasuhiro Kikuchi.  He hires hikikomori to work at his busy grocery store.

10:13:31

YASUHIRO KIKUCHI:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

There are a few people I hired.

There’s one person in particular

whose work was excellent.

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

How did you know that this

would be a successful strategy?

YASUHIRO KIKUCHI:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I didn’t know, it was just trial and error.

10:13:50

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Masato is proud of his mother and her radio programme which breaks the stigma many hikikomori feel.

10:13:59

MASATO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Rather than a negative image, I think it helps convey

a more cheerful impression of us.

It shows that hikikomori are just ordinary people

like everyone else.

10:14:09

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  And Masato’s relationship with his mother has improved.

10:14:14

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Why don’t you have some eggs?

MASATO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I had them.

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Was it good?

MASATO GOTO: Hmm.

10:14:20

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Seiko says she is not as strict these days with her son, believing that may have been what triggered his social withdrawal.

10:14:28

SEIKO GOTO:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I was verbally abusive.

I had an ingrained idea that it was embarrassing…

to have a child who couldn’t even go to school.

I wanted him to go to school no matter what it took.

It was really only my own ego.

10:14:50

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Masato began withdrawing from society in high school.  Japan has a word for it, futoko, to describe students who refuse to attend class for more than thirty days a year.  Those who leave school often find it harder to re-join society later on, sometimes becoming hikikomori.

10:15:18

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  There are one hundred and sixty thousand futoko children across Japan, and their numbers are growing.  A rigid education system, bullying and strict parenting are commonly blamed as triggers for their withdrawal.  Japan’s conformist society values obedience and those who dare to be different a viewed with contempt.

10:15:46

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  But there are new alternatives to Japan’s strict schools.

10:15:51

UMI MAEKITA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Wow, that’s tiring.

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER: There are now four hundred non-government schools like this one set up across the nation as a safe haven for futoko.  Umi Maekita runs Nemonet Free School and says 80% of children who attend these centres eventually return to the mainstream education system.

10:16:13

DREW AMBROSE:  I see a lot of kids playing video games.  How does that help the socially withdrawn?

UMI MAEKITA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

The most important thing is to play.

This is the most basic.

They need to play together, eat together,

laugh and have a conversation.

From there they can find what they want to do,

and have a better future.

10:16:36

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Umi understands futoko kids better than most.  He was one himself.  Now he uses his experience to help children who feel lost at school.

10:16:48

UMI MAEKITA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

 You have something you feel anxious about?

STUDENT:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Yes, I was feeling anxious.

But now I don’t feel that.

UMI MAEKITA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Wow, that’s amazing that in just one year

you don’t feel that anymore.

10:16:59

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Umi thinks early intervention can prevent a lifetime of isolation.

10:17:05

UMI MAEKITA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

The children come to free schools because they’ve

been emotionally wounded.

They don’t trust anyone…adults.

The most distrust is for teachers.

When the kids come to school here,

I don’t act like a teacher.

I’m just a staff member in the free school.

They begin to realise that there are

different types of relationships.

And slowly, they begin to brighten back up.

So I believe this is the first step towards

returning to themselves.

10:17:46

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Okinawa Island in southern Japan is known for its laid back nature. 

For one boy it’s the perfect place to escape the pressures of school and society.

10:17:59

DREW AMBROSE:  This should be interesting.

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  Hi!

DREW AMBROSE: Yutaka!

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  Hi!

DREW AMBROSE:  Hi.  How are you…

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Yutaka Nakamura is known as Yutabon on his YouTube channel.  He’s also a futoko who is home schooled.  The eleven year old spends most days in this apartment with his sisters.

10:18:19

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Do you want to watch me shoot a

YouTube video?

Let’s go!

10:18:26

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I read books

I record videos.

I have friends over at my house.

I play outside.

I got to Tokyo for discussions.

All of this is learning for me.

So you can study at home and outside.

I am free!

Awesome!

DREW AMBROSE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I’m great.

DREW AMBROSE:  He’s a big diva than me.

10:18:59

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  His parents clearly encourage Yutaka to be vivacious.

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Can you do push-ups?

Please?

Then punch.

Why aren’t you playing?

That’s mine, give it back…

10:19:17

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Antics aside, Yutaka uses his YouTube channel to address issues like bullying and the rising number of student suicides.  His videos have clocked up millions of views.

10:19:30

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Children are dying.

They don’t want to go to school,

but the parents keep saying, “You must go.”

And when they go to school, they kill themselves.

10:19:40

DREW AMBROSE:  How does your YouTube programme help children are struggling at school?

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I’m telling them they don’t have to go to school

if it makes them want to die.

So I hope they watch and learn from it,

and show it to their parents…

and have the courage to tell them

“I don’t want to go to school.”

10:20:03

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Instead of attending class Yutaka loves nothing more than fishing with his father along Okinawa’s picturesque coastlines.

10:20:12

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I was exploring YouTube and saw videos

of people fishing…

and it made me want to do it too.

Fishing is fun, and it makes me feel

like I am swimming with them.

I just love it but haven’t caught anything yet!

10:20:34

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Yutaka became disillusioned with school after an incident when he was eight.

10:20:40

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I stopped doing homework because I didn’t want to.

My teacher told me to do it but I didn’t.

The next day, my teacher

made me stay after school and hit me.

When the teacher hit me,

the teacher told a lie that he did not hit me.

I thought, “What’s wrong with these people?”

10:21:03

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Here we go!

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Despite a backlash from other parents and students Yutaka’s father supports his decision to not conform to Japan’s strict society.

10:21:16

YUTAKA NAKAMURA’S FATHER:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

As a parent, I think about what I can do for Yutabon's life…

rather than making him be like everyone else.

I think it’s better to let him live his life freely

and to find his own happiness.

I believe people’s values and perceptions

will change with the times…

and I think it’s time the pressure to conform

in Japan changes too.

10:21:51

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  And until that happens Yutaka hopes that his YouTube videos will continue to help children struggling in the system to follow his lead.

10:22:01

YUTAKA NAKAMURA:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I am going to give lots of positive energy

and courage to futoko kids…

make them happy.

I want to tell kids that they can live.

That’s why I spread my messages through YouTube.

10:22:18

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  He’s not the only one trying to reach out to Japan’s outcasts.  Under a bridge in Yokohama Atsushi Watanabe is at his studio working on a new exhibition called ‘I’m Here Project’.  The artist became a hikikomori in his thirties due largely to depression and family issues.

10:22:41

ATSUSHI WATANABE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Because of conflict with my father…

I felt that my room was my only sanctuary.

During the time I was hikikomori…

I was in physical isolation…

but it felt like I experienced mental and social death.

It was the loss of my place in society.

10:23:13

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Atsushi recruited four other hikikomori to produce these yet to be completed art pieces for the exhibition.  All are symbols of their troubled past.  To address their trauma they break the artworks then put them back together.  Atsushi’s contribution to the show is a replica of the door to his room at home.

10:23:38

DREW AMBROSE:  So what is the meaning behind the door?

ATSUSHI WATANABE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

This artwork is about my story.

I experienced being hikikomori for three years.

I was living with my parents but they

didn’t even knock on my door.

I was in my room, as always,

when my anger exploded…

and I kicked down the door to the living room

where my mother was.

In a way, it was a very violent act,

it was domestic violence.

But it was a message to say,

“My door can be opened easily…

so why don’t you come and help me?”

10:24:20

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  When he smashed the door down Atsushi discovered his mother had been reading books about hikikomori to try and help him.  It was the moment that ended his isolation.

10:24:33

ATSUSHI WATANABE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

I felt the pain on my side of the door.

But on the other side of the door,

my mum also felt the pain.

10:24:44

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  His video piece “My Wounds Your Wounds” acknowledges his mother’s pain.  Together they smash a model of the family home then glue it back together.  In galleries worldwide Atsushi hopes his art will present hikikomori in a different light.

10:25:04

ATSUSHI WATANABE:  [Japanese]

SUBTITLES:

Hikikomori are seen as people who do no good.

They don’t work, they leech off their parents,

they’re bad people.

I think many people in society think this way.

They think hikikomori are awkward and weak,

and that’s why they disappear from society.

But actually that’s not true.

It could happen to me,

or it could happen to you.

10:25:38

DREW AMBROSE VOICEOVER:  Atsushi says it took a journey of small steps to break free from his isolation.  But for many others freedom from Japan’s age of social withdrawal is still a work in progress.

10:25:55

GFX:

[AL JAZEERA LOGO]

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00:26:00

[end]

 

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