Edogawa Ward in Tokyo to Use Metaverse Tech to Solve ‘Hikikomori’ Problem

Tokyo’s Edogawa District is planning to use metaverse technology to help social hermits, also known as hikikomori, reintegrate into society. This year, the chapter is organizing a series of hybrid (virtual and in-person) meetings with the aim of reconnecting people with social exclusion issues and assisting them in their reintegration process.

Edogawa Ward uses the Metaverse in Hikikomori’s reintegration processes

Edogawa District in Tokyo announced that he would propose a series of metaverse encounters as part of the process of reintegrating social hermits in the area. The meetings will take place in a hybrid form, with social hermits having the option to attend in person or online, providing a safe haven to meet and discuss their common concerns.

In 2023, there will be six such events hosted by the non-profit organization Kazoku Hikikomori Japan, with a capacity of up to 80 participants, 50 on the Metaverse platform and 30 in a dedicated space. Meetings will take place in a metaverse space designed by Kazoku Hikikomori, with remote users able to hide their identity with avatars if they wish.

Regarding this initiative, the district officer explained:

We want to offer a place where they will think, “I want to be there with others.”

The Hikikomori Problem

The problem of social isolation (or hikikomori) in Japan is a condition that affects some people who isolate themselves from society and refuse any interaction with others. This condition rated more than 1 million Japanese will be affected, with experts estimating that number is higher, closer to the 2 million mark.

This condition can cause problems for the families of these people who have to provide for them, causing economic stress. Incorporating metaverse-based methods in combating this phenomenon could ostensibly help some of these people to at least interact virtually with their peers.

According to a 2021 survey, 9,096 Edogawa residents were hikikomori. About the scope of this action and its significance, Takeshi Saito, Mayor of Edogawa District, stated:

We do not think that everything will be decided just because we propose a metaverse. It will probably be helpful for some people. We are aimed at those who cannot leave their room and do not communicate with other people. We want to help them take a step forward.

Another initiative of its kind, aimed at combating school truancy in the city of Toda, was announced in October, also using metaverse technology to allow students to move around virtual campuses in preparation for eventually attending regular classes.

What do you think about the use of metaverse technology to solve the problem of social exclusion? Tell us in the comments section below.

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