”I couldn’t do anything,” says hikikomori in written statement.

A common question about Japan’s shut-ins, or hikikomori as they’e called in Japanese, is how they manage to survive. If they never leave their houses, or, in the case of some extreme hikikomori, even their bedrooms, how do they obtain food, and clothing, or pay their rent if they live alone?

Usually, the answer is that their parents provide them with their fundamental life necessities, largely due to societal attitudes in Japan regarding responsibility and not causing burdens for those outside your immediate social group. Even if parents are willing to continue supporting their children into adulthood, though, many worry about what will happen to hikikomori when their parents pass away.

However, this week the Kanagawa Prefectural Police were faced with the problem of what happens to the mother of a hikikomori when she herself dies. Officers arrested a 49-year-old male hikikomori living in Yokohama’s Kanazawa Ward on charges of corpse abandonment, though the semantics are a little shaky since he’d simply left his mother’s dead body in the home they shared while continuing to live there himself as well.

Investigators estimate that the mother, who was 76 years old, passed away sometime in mid-October while in the home she shared with her son, the oldest of her children. When her daughter, who is 45, came to pay them a visit on November 4, she saw only her brother up and about, before discovering that he had placed their mother’s lifeless body in her bedroom weeks earlier after she collapsed in the kitchen and expired.

The sister then contacted the authorities, who came to the home and formally arrested the son on November 5. The police describe the son, who is unemployed, as being almost entirely incapable of conversing with other people, and he instead gave a written statement, saying “I couldn’t do anything [after my mother died], so I decided to wait until the next time my sister came.”

The mother’s body had no visible wounds, and the police are currently working off the belief that her death was due to sickness or natural causes, and not the result of homicidal intent by her son. Given his psychological condition, it’s unlikely that he will face any sort of stiff punishment, despite his failure to report his mother’s death technically being a crime.

This isn’t the first time the body of a hikikomori’s parent has gone unreported by their shut-in offspring for an extended period of time, and with his mother no longer around to take care of his day-to-day needs, the son now faces a difficult transition, and will no doubt need extensive assistance if he’s ever to become anywhere near self-sufficient. If there’s one potential point of optimism, it’s that Japanese adults who finally move past an extended period of complete financial reliance on their parents report strongly preferring their new lives, so hopefully the son will be able to find strength in the compassion his mother showed him for so many years and take even a small step towards taking care of himself.

Source: Kyodo via Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso