While hikikomori (social withdrawal) is usually seen as mostly affecting men, the current way of thinking fails to take into account the many women who are effectively — and involuntarily — cut off from society, campaigners and experts say.

Kyoko Hayashi, who is leading efforts to help such women, said she wanted the government's definition of hikikomori, which applies to someone who avoids contact with others, to be more inclusive and reflect the reality facing women.

"There are actually many women struggling, but because of their identified roles as housewives, or those doing household chores, one cannot see that they are actually socially withdrawn and need help," she said.