The Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare defines hikikomori as people who refuse to leave their house and, thus, isolate themselves from society in their homes for a period exceeding six months. (wikipedia)
The Hikikomori Nations:
Text from the seclusion edict of 1636:
“No Japanese ship (…), nor any native of Japan, shall presume to go out of the country; whoever acts contrary to this, shall die, and the ship with the crew and goods aboard shall be sequestered until further orders. All persons who return from abroad shall be put to death. Whoever discovers a Christian priest shall have a reward of 400 to 500 sheets of silver and for every Christian in proportion. All Namban (Portuguese and Spanish) who propagate the doctrine of the Catholics, or bear this scandalous name, shall be imprisoned in the Onra, or common jail of the town. The whole race of the Portuguese with their mothers, nurses and whatever belongs to them, shall be banished to Macao. Whoever presumes to bring a letter from abroad, or to return after he hath been banished, shall die with his family; also whoever presumes to intercede for him, shall be put to death. No nobleman nor any soldier shall be suffered to purchase anything from the foreigner.”
Obviously Japan was the original Hikikomori country. “Sakoku” or “closed country” is the term used to describe Japan’s foreign policy between 1633, when the Tokugawa shogunate decided to kick out almost all of the foreigners and outlaw Christianity, and 1853, when Commodore Perry arrived.
Oh, look, I found the relevant Polandball comic:
The Sakoku period is very interesting. The Shogun basically decided to severely reduce contacts with due to concerns that the Portuguese and Spanish were destabilizing the country by importing guns and converting the peasants to Christianity. The revolt of 40,000 Catholic peasants in the Shimbara Rebellion was the final straw–the shogun had 37,000 people beheaded, Christianity was banned, and the Portuguese were driven out of the country. (The now largely empty Shimbara region was re-populated by migrants from other parts of Japan.)
Shimbara was the last major Japanese conflict until the 1860s, after the US re-introduced guns.
During the Sakoku period, Japan carried on trade with the Chinese, Koreans, Ainu, and Dutch (who were more willing than the Spaniards and Portuguese to leave their religion at the door.) I believe that internal movement within Japan was also greatly restricted, with essentially passports required to travel from place to place.
According to Wikipedia, “The [Edo] period was characterized by economic growth, strict social order, isolationist foreign policies, a stable population*, popular enjoyment of arts and culture, recycling of materials, and sustainable forest management. It was a sustainable and self-sufficient society which was based on the principles of complete utilization of finite resources.”
*The population doubled during the early part of the Edo period, then leveled out.
It was illegal to leave Japan until the Meiji Restoration (1868).
North Korea is obviously the most extremely isolated country on earth today, except for North Sentinel island, which is technically part of India but no one can go there because the natives will kill you if you try. At least North Korea occasionally lets in basketball stars or students or something, though personally, I’d rather take my chances with the Sentinelese.
Ahahaha I think I am going to spend the rest of my post writing time reading Polandball comics.
Okay, I lied, I will write a real post.
So North Korea is a lot like Edo Japan, only without the peace and stability and the most people eating, though to be fair, there were famines in Edo Japan, too, it was just considered normal back then.
I don’t think I really need to go into detail about North Korea to justify its inclusion in this list.
According to this article I was just reading in Harvard Mag, Myanmar has fewer cell phones than North Korea. Myanmar has spent most of the post-WWII period as a military dictatorship cleaved by civil war and cut off from the rest of the world. Socialism has gifted Myanmar with one of the world’s widest income gaps and one of the lowest Human Develop Index levels–making it one of the world’s worst non-African countries. (And one of the most corrupt, ranking 171 out of 176 in the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index.
Despite recent reforms, the country is still largely off-limits to outsiders:
Since 1992, the government has encouraged tourism in the country; however, fewer than 270,000 tourists entered the country in 2006 according to the Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board. …
much of the country is off-limits to tourists, and interactions between foreigners and the people of Myanmar, particularly in the border regions, are subject to police scrutiny. They are not to discuss politics with foreigners, under penalty of imprisonment and, in 2001, the Myanmar Tourism Promotion Board issued an order for local officials to protect tourists and limit “unnecessary contact” between foreigners and ordinary Burmese people. …
According to the website Lonely Planet, getting into Myanmar is problematic: “No bus or train service connects Myanmar with another country, nor can you travel by car or motorcycle across the border – you must walk across.”, and states that, “It is not possible for foreigners to go to/from Myanmar by sea or river.” There are a small number of border crossings that allow the passage of private vehicles, such as the border between Ruili (China) to Mu-se, …
In regards to communications infrastructure, Myanmar is the last ranked Asian country in the World Economic Forum’s Network Readiness Index (NRI) – an indicator for determining the development level of a country’s information and communication technologies. With 148 countries reported on, Myanmar ranked number 146 overall in the 2014 NRI ranking. No data is currently available for previous years.
Isolationist Butan couldn’t stand in starker contrast to Myanmar. Sure, it’s almost impossible to immigrate to Bhutan, (unless you are Indian,) but if you do manage to get in, they probably won’t kill you!
A tiny country at the top of the Himalayas, Bhutan has dispensed with this “GDP” concept and instead claims to be trying to maximize “Gross National Happiness.” Bhutan has so far resisted the siren call of “modernization,” opting instead to try to retain its traditional culture. The government only allowed TV into the country in 1999 (“In his speech, the King said that television was a critical step to the modernisation of Bhutan as well as a major contributor to the country’s gross national happiness … but warned that the “misuse” of television could erode traditional Bhutanese values.)
Last time I checked, it cost $250 a day to visit Bhutan, and it is the only country I know of that has completely banned smoking.
Nepal has historically been isolated,due to being on top of the Himalayas, but it has a lot of tourists these days. I don’t know how open the country is otherwise.
Tibet: See Nepal
North Sentinel Island, part of the Andaman Island chain, is technically owned by India, but anyone who tries to set foot on it gets poked full of holes by the natives, so no one goes there.
Okay, I now China has historically been way more open to trade and contact with other countries than everyone else on this list. But I got to thinking: why didn’t China discover Australia?
I mean, it’s not that far away, and there isn’t that much open ocean to cross–it’s mostly island hopping. Sure, PNG seems a bit inhospitable and full of cannibals, but Australia, from what I hear, is a pretty nice place. So why were the Dutch and the Brits the first folks to actually record Australia on their maps? The Chinese seem to have had a pretty decent navy. (I have a vague memory of having read about China having sent its navy out on an expedition that reached Africa, came back and never went out again.)
China also has a great big wall on its northern border (but if you had the Mongols on your northern border, you’d have a great big wall, too.)
What about Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia? Do any of them qualify?