Solitude — how bleak. Solitude — how beautiful. Point of view is all.

The modern view is mostly — not totally — bleak. Two images dominate: hikikomori (acute social withdrawal) and kodokushi (dying alone). They merge. Hikikomori claimed mass attention a generation ago. It was a young people’s issue. Time passes; age takes its toll. “8050” tells the story: children in their 50s helplessly dependent on parents in their 80s. It’s not sustainable. The parents die. What becomes of the children? They face the bleakest of prospects — solitary drift to solitary death.

The Cabinet Office in 2019 estimated the nationwide hikikomori population at 1.15 million — more than half, 613,000, aged 40-64. Some have been withdrawn for 30 years, typically self-isolated in their childhood bedrooms, sometimes never seeing even their parents. The bubble economy of the 1980s burst in the ’90s. Companies froze hiring. It was a dreadful time to emerge into the adult world. Many young people never did emerge.