• Edogawa Ward in Tokyo plans to use metaverse tech to help social recluses, also known as „hikikomori,“ begin to integrate with society again.
• The ward will organize a series of hybrid (virtual and in-person) meetings this year with the objective of reuniting people with social reclusion problems and helping them in their reintegration process.
• This condition is estimated to affect more than 1 million Japanese, with experts considering the number to be higher, closer to the 2 million mark.
Edogawa Ward Leveraging Metaverse for Hikikomori Reintegration Processes
Edogawa Ward in Tokyo announced that it will offer a series of metaverse meetings as part of the reintegration process for social recluses in the area. The meetings will be held in hybrid form, with remote users being able to shield their identities using avatars if desired. About this initiative, a ward officer explained: We want to offer a place where they would think ‚I want to be there with the others.‘
The social exclusion (or hikikomori) problem in Japan is a condition that affects some individuals, who seclude themselves from society and decline to have any interaction with others. This condition is estimated to affect more than 1 million Japanese, with experts considering the number to be higher, closer to 2 million mark. This condition can cause problems in the families of these individuals, who must provide for them causing economic strain.
Metaverse Initiative Aim
The inclusion of metaverse-based techniques aim at dealing with this phenomenon could ostensibly help some of these individuals interact virtually with their peers. According to a 2021 survey, 9096 residents were hikikomori in Edogawa thus making this initiative all more relevant and necessary. On the reach of this action and its significance Edogawa Ward Mayor Takeshi Saito stated: We don’t think everything will be solved just because we offer a metaverse. It’ll probably be helpful for some people.“
Hybrid Meetings Capacity
The meetings will have six events organized by non-profit Kazoku Hikikomori Japan where up 80 participants can attend; 50 on metaverse platform and 30 at designated venue . These events are scheduled for 2023 giving hope that even those who are unable leave their rooms or interact socially due Covid 19 pandemic can take steps towards integration into society through these virtual/hybrid meetings .
Toda City School Absenteeism Initiative
Another initiative similar targeting school absenteeism was launched at Toda City which has seen promising results by offering support services such as mental health counseling , job training programs etc focusing on youth’s issues .