The Fonte newspaper for people who have stopped going to school or withdrawn from society printed its 400th issue this month.
It was a special moment for Shiko Ishii, 32, the newspaper's chief editor. He still remembers Fonte's first issue in 1998 - it featured an interview with him as a 16-year-old who had stopped going to school.
"I had doubts about the point of studying just to pass exams, so I stopped going during my second year at middle school," he said.
At the time, Ishii felt bad for his parents because he could not go to school like other children. He often thought about dying. "Nobody around me felt the way I was feeling," Ishii recalled. "That was the toughest part."
After being interviewed in 1998, Ishii's outlook changed. "I thought perhaps my own experience might be able to help somebody else," he said.
Ishii began helping with the editing of Fonte, the only newspaper in Japan that focuses solely on social recluses and the issues facing children who drop out of school. In 2006, he became the newspaper's second chief editor. Published by a nonprofit organisation and with editing assistance from about 60 people who have stopped going to school or withdrawn from society, Fonte is printed twice each month as an eight-page tabloid form newspaper. It is delivered to 1,800 subscribers, and the Dec. 15 edition was the 400th.
The newspaper features interviews with people going through or personally affected by these issues, as well as advice for readers. The editorial policy of candidly expressing people's honest thoughts has struck a chord with readers, and more than 1,000 have accepted requests to be interviewed for the newspaper. "It cheered me up." "Now I understand what my child is going through." The newspaper receives a steady stream of such reactions from its readers.
While printing issue 400 was a major achievement, Ishii still feels he has more work to do.
"The experience of staying home from school or withdrawing from society can be used and be helpful later in life. I want to keep publishing this newspaper until such people are no longer considered dropouts from society," he said.