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Posted January 2, 2007
Fawning sympathy for the hikikimori
The interesting parts of the book are when the author stops fawning over the hikikimori, the most extreme examples of the breakdown in the Japanese social contract. The chapters focusing on alcoholism, alienation of men from their families, consumer fad focus of the young, etc... are insightful and thought provoking. It's eminently readable for people without a background in modern Japanese history, written in a clear and accessible manner. Unfortunately, many readers might be turned off by the first 5 chapters about the hikikimori, the 'subject' of the book. 92 pages of talking about these 'sensitive', 'creative', and 'intelligent' shut-in's. They are the weak link - people who want to be rebels but lack the strength to translate their desires to action. Instead, Mr. Zielenziger portrays them as tragic heroes. That fawning sympathy detract from the book and I recommend readers to simply skip to chapter 6. The book is far more enjoyable that way.
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