When he was 16, Hideto Iwai was perplexed as to why everyone around him unquestioningly jumped onto society's student-to-salaryman conveyor belt. So, he broke free, dropping out of high school and picking up casual jobs where he could find them.

"But then I had problems at work because I couldn't interact with people as cleverly as everyone else could," he recalls. That caused the Tokyo native to become a hikikomori, retreating into his room in the family home and withdrawing from society for four years before emerging in 1994 at the age of 20.

The now 44-year-old dramatist doesn't fret over those lost years, though.