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VOICE No. 30

Associate Professor

Tadaaki Furuhashi

Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports Division of Health Science

My favorite phrase: Sed omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt


Q: Why did you choose this phrase?

 It is a quote from the last sentence of Ethica (volume V, proposition 42), written by the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Benedictus de Spinoza. It means "But all things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." Here, "all things excellent" refers to every rational being. Simply put, there is no person who conforms solely to reason and every person is controlled by affect or affection. In fact, the word "affection" also carries the meaning of affliction or ailment in English and in French. I think this phrase best describes my actual feelings as a psychiatrist.


Q: What kind of work do you do at Nagoya University?

 In my clinical practices, I consult with students about mental health issues at the Higashiyama campus, and as an industrial physician, I work to determine if faculty members who have had mental health issues can return to work.

In my research, I use a psychopathological approach whereby I base my study on what patients say, comparing it with prior studies, and arrive at universal conclusions. I hope that the findings from my research will benefit my clinical practices, which in turn will help students and faculty members better improve themselves.


Q: You are a psychiatrist, and your research subject is hikikomori, a patterned behavior of extreme and persistent withdrawal from society. What led you to embark on this research?

 Around my second year of high-school, through a love of reading, I encountered philosophy, thought, and literature of France, England, and Germany. I knew that in France, psychiatry—especially psychopathology—has had deep roots in thought and culture, so from early on I had already decided to go into this profession. At the time, France and Germany were at the forefront of psychopathology. More than 30 years have passed since then, and in my case, I feel like have kept doing what I wanted to do without having any doubts. As for hikikomori, I decided to pursue this subject because I have seen many cases of it in clinical settings at Nagoya University and I thought that I could demonstrate and make full use of the possibilities provided by the psychopathological approach (to consider matters based on what patients say).


Q: When do you realize that research is interesting or rewarding?

 When thinking about where issues and ongoing phenomena in patients come from, I try to look at these same matters from the perspectives of different cultures and languages because it allows me to observe aspects of it that are completely different from what I had noticed before. Instances like this are really interesting to me. Also, I feel rewarded when I find that my research has had an effect on French psychopathology, because I used to utilize French psychopathology as a resource to inform my own research methods.


Q: We understand that you have been selected in Newsweek Japan as one of 30 Japanese people who have contributed to the world for your efforts to support hikikomori people in France. How do you feel about this?

When I went to London to make a speech in 2019, I was really surprised when a BBC reporter who interviewed me said, "I heard about Dr. Furuhashi not from Japan, but from France." After that, families of hikikomori people, who heard I was staying in Strasbourg, visited me all the way from Paris, which got me thinking that I might be relatively well-known in France. Although "contribution to the world" sounds a little much, I may have modestly contributed to France.




 Dr. Furuhashi (left) with symposium organizer Prof. Patrick Martin, by the seashore near the venue of a symposium in Bastia on Corsican Island, France (January 2020)


Q: We know you’ve been busy these days, but could you tell us how you refresh yourself and spend your days off?

I think spending time away from everyday life is key to recharging myself. Unfortunately, when I'm in Japan, and even when I'm in France, I spend most of my time working, so I'm hardly getting away from everyday life—it's the exact opposite of a vacation. So now, just coming to France doesn't make me feel refreshed, although my colleagues in Japan look on me with envy just because I work in France (chuckles). Therefore, when I'm invited by my colleagues, who ordinarily spend time working with me, to visit a province of France on the weekends, I can share spending time away from the everyday with them, which really makes me feel refreshed.




 Spending a day off with colleagues in Normandy (June 2021)


Q: Please tell us about an experience that you can only talk about now.

I think that every French product is marvelously designed but not always reliable in terms of functionality (chuckles). When I go to give a lecture in France, I have to bring handouts with me because the projector at the venue is not working seven times out of ten. Also, amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including the spread of the highly infectious omicron variant (as of the end of January 2022, more than 400,000 new people tested positive every day, but I remained in France to visit hikikomori people with a local nurse and deliver lectures to specialists across France), I cannot completely rely on face masks made in France. So, when I visit with and meet hikikomori people, I wear a powerful face mask made in Germany that has been supplied by a local university hospital in France.




Dr. Furuhashi—wearing a powerful anti-COVID19 face mask made in Germany (provided by University Hospital of Strasbourg)—in a car on his way to a hikikomori person's house to visit (January 2022)


Q: What are your goals and ambitions for the future?

I'm not setting out to cure or prevent hikikomori. Rather, I want to ask questions about the society that produces this phenomenon. In reality, hikikomori are the ones who are questioning society. I think it's important to take what these people have to say about the strains and distortions permeating their societies and use my lectures to bring these ideas back to Japanese and French societies. I hope that as a result, society will change, even only a little.




 In a meeting room with members of the visiting medical care team of the Medico Psychological Center at the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine of Strasbourg University (January 2020) 



Name: Tadaaki Furuhashi

Department: Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports Division of Health Science

Title: Associate professor


Career history and hobbies:

Born in 1973. After working as an assistant professor at the Research Center of Health, Physical Fitness and Sports Division of Health Science in Nagoya University, he has been in his current position since 2015. He has also been a sector clinical observation psychiatrist at the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine of Strasbourg University in France since 2017. He is a psychiatrist and a Doctor of Medicine (Nagoya University) specializing in psychopathology and psychiatry. He regularly visits France a few times every year. He lectures about hikikomori at universities in Europe, especially in France, as well as visiting hikikomori people’s homes with local nurses.

His hobbies include collecting illustrated books and natural history books published in the 18th and 19th centuries in Europe.