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Why Half a Million Young Japanese Can't Face School or Work

  • Pressure, bullying seen leading to ‘hikikomori’ phenomenon
  • Government wants to get drop-outs back into the workforce

Nagisa Hirai was an active child who loved playing soccer with the boys. But that early happiness dissipated on her first day at elementary school when she became frightened after being unable to find her classroom.

Over time, she became a "hikikomori," a Japanese term used to describe the more than half a million young people in the country who stay at home and shun interaction with people outside their family. She would suffer anxiety attacks over anything unfamiliar -- even forgetting stuff for school could cause her to panic. She became increasingly uncomfortable going to school, pushing her strict parents to force her to attend.