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.
Edogawa Ward to Leverage the Metaverse in Hikikomori Reintegration Processes
Edogawa Ward, located 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 social recluses having the opportunity of attending in person or online, allowing a safe haven for meeting and talking about their common problems.
There will be six of these events in 2023, organized by the Kazoku Hikikomori Japan nonprofit, with a capacity for up to 80 participants, 50 in the metaverse platform, and 30 in the designated venue. The meetings will be held in a metaverse space designed by Kazoku Hikikomori, 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 Hikikomori Issue
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 the 2 million mark.
This condition can cause problems in the families of these individuals, who must provide for them, causing economic strain. The inclusion of metaverse-based techniques in dealing with this phenomenon could ostensibly help some of these individuals to at least interact virtually with their peers.
According to a 2021 survey, 9,096 residents were hikikomori in Edogawa. 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. We’re targeting those who can’t leave their rooms and haven’t been interacting with other people. We want to help them take a step forward.
Another initiative of this kind, targeting school absenteeism in Toda City, was announced in October, also using metaverse tech to allow students to roam virtual campuses while preparing to attend regular classes eventually.
What do you think about the use of metaverse tech to aid in solving the social reclusion problem? Tell us in the comments section below.
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