Forget cars and consumer goods, Japan's latest great export is lazy young bums (3)

1 Name: Captain Obvious 1993-09-4541 22:35 [no]

Japan has become known around the world for its sturdy exports ... cars, electronics, gadgets and even its raunchy manga.

But now, according to Spa! (1/31), the Land of the Rising Sun is sending out what it calls sotokomori -- lazy, young bums who travel overseas and congregate only with other like-minded Japanese who draw on the almost national trait of being hikikomori, or withdrawing from the world.

Sotokomori are almost exclusively in their 20s or 30s, making quick cash through high-paying jobs, then head off to live in cheap haunts overseas. But instead of broadening their horizons and learning more about other lands, these Japanese only hang out with their fellow countrymen, almost always at Japanese-owned businesses and spend their time talking about their homeland.

"In Japan, you can pick up a quick 1 million yen working part-time and then using that money to fund a long-term stay in a country like Thailand, Cambodia, India or Nepal, where the prices are cheap," travel writer Yuji Shimokawa, who coined the sotokomori tag and has followed the trend for a while, tells Spa! "These people who go overseas and then become hikikomori are the sotokomori tribe. They have no interest in traveling, or the towns or country that they're living in. There're loads of these people who don't even leave the rooms they're staying in for days at a time."

Sotokomori numbers, particularly the 20- and 30-somethings are skyrocketing.

"Sotokomori have virtually turned Bangkok into their own 'hallowed ground.' They can stay in cheap joints, eat at streetside stalls and generally lead a fairly decent lifestyle for 300 Baht (around 900 yen) a day," Shimokawa says. "All they do, though, is hang out with other Japanese in front of convenience stores or laze around in fast food joints, Internet cafes or manga libraries."

One of the main reasons blamed for the development of the sotokomori are the so-called "Japanese lodgings" that are basically backpackers' hotels which have popped up throughout the Khao San district of Bangkok.

"There are about 10 Japanese backpacker places in Khao San, with women making up around 30 percent of the customers. As customers, sotokomori are fantastic -- they normally pay their room charges and, because they're introverted, don't cause too many problems with other guests," Eiichiro Arahata, operator of a "Japanese lodging" in Khao San, tells Spa!

There seems to be specific types who become susceptible to the lures of becoming sotokomori.

"Most of the women do temp work, or had been in some sort of specialized profession. The guys are more likely to be the types who've suddenly quit their jobs and fled to get away from everything. A common trait is that once you've become sotokomori, it's hard to get out of the habit," travel writer Shimokawa says. "They sit around drinking beer, talking about their friends who've gone back to Japan and found work and bad-mouthing all the people they used to work with back in Japan."

An official from the Japanese Embassy in Thailand points out that 80 percent of trouble involving Japanese in the Land of Smiles emanates from the Khao San district, making the backpacker district a risk. But Shimokawa argues that the very nature of the sotokomori sees them unlikely to fall prey to the unscrupulous.

"Sotokomori have almost nothing to do with the people from the country where they're staying. They only associate with other Japanese," Shimokawa tells Spa! "And because they only have shallow relationships with the people they do come into contact with, the likelihood of them getting caught up in some kind of trouble is fairly low. (By Ryann Connell)

2 Name: Anonymous Coward 1993-09-4541 22:38 [no]

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3 Name: Captain Obvious 1993-09-4541 22:47 [no]


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