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Japan: Ministry study on biological roots of withdrawal and rage

Starting next year, a team of researchers recruited by the Japanese Ministry of Education will commit themselves to studying the connection between brain structure and sociability. Their aim will be the analysis of structures of the brain that control mechanisms such as sleep rhythm and stress tolerance, in order to prevent — and eventually cure — those disorders which affect social relations.

According to an article [ja] published by Mainichi Shinbun on August 19th, the government is promoting this research, which will cost over 1.7 billion yen, in response to the problematic increase in hikikomori [引きこもり] (i.e. individuals who isolate from the family and the rest of the world shutting themselves in their room for months or years) and “enraged youngsters” [kireru wakamono/キレる若者].

Among bloggers who commented on the article by journalist Taku Nishikawa [西川拓], many (e.g. Shigeru Kurokawa [黒川滋] in his blog Kyō mo aruku [きょうも歩く] [ja]) expressed a feeling of disappointment about the Japanese government's resolution, which seems paradoxical. Kurokawa comments that while claiming to solve sociological and cultural issues using brain science, it is left up to the Ministry of Education and not to the Ministry of Health and Welfare to find the chemical formulas that will provide answers about the phenomena of hikikomori and “enraged youngsters”.

Another blogger, Kaze no hōsen [風のほーせん], says:


Research of the kind mentioned in the article is probably necessary, but if not from the Ministry of Health and Welfare, at least from the Ministry of Education, one would expect a study from an educational or sociological point of view. I wish that the Ministry of Education would seek out the causes of “hikikomori” and of “rage” in the state of human relations in our society, or in the state of education, starting from school education.



The attitude of seeking the causes of rage in schools in factors that are inborn in children seems to me very much like an abdication of responsibilities by the Ministry of Education, the major manager of education. Is the Ministry of Education perhaps thinking of trying to solve problems such as bullying and violence in schools with drug therapy?

Other Japanese bloggers expressed that the claim in the Mainichi article, stressing that the Ministry research was aimed at analyzing relations between brain mechanism and “rage”, was tendentious. In particular, there was this quotation of a post left by an anonymous commenter to a 2ch thread:

3910: 大学院で脳科学を研究していますが

3910: I am a postgraduate student of brain science.
Concerning the research about “the adaptability and the formation of the brain according to the social environment”, if this sentence is read out of context, it would seem that the Ministry of Education absolutely wanted to relate the research to “rage”.
However, it would seem that Mainichi manipulated the sources in picking up that specific sentence from the papers of the Mext [Ministry of Education].
Whether proper results will be achieved or not, I think that there is nothing wrong with the research itself, nor is there anything wrong with the fact that a budget has been allocated to it.
The problem here is that a crooked newspaper is acting so high-handedly.
And what's more, the problem is that a journalist from Mainichi Shimbun is also a member of the Brain Study Committee.

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