Young Japanese are surprisingly content

Feb 15, 2018

KOJI TANAKA enjoys his work for a tech company in Tokyo. In his free time he goes for a workout or to receive a form of massage known as shiatsu that relieves his aching muscles with gentle finger pressure. He likes to eat out with his friends. “I guess I’d like to have a family at some point, but I am not ambitious about my career,” he says. “I am happy with my current life.”

Japan’s youth is perking up. Surveys suggest that the country’s young people are less happy than their peers in other developed countries. Suicide remains the leading cause of death for those aged 15 to 39. But compared with their elders in Japan when they were young, a higher proportion of 15- to 29-year-olds describe themselves as content. That is good news for a country where the word “youth” tends, with good reason, to conjure up images of gloomy misfits: hikikomori—people who shun society—and otaku—nerds.

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