Yuta is one of Japan’s many futoko, defined by Japan’s education ministry as children who don’t go to school for more than 30 days, for reasons unrelated to health or finances.
The term has been variously translated as absenteeism, truancy, school phobia or school refusal.
Attitudes to futoko have changed over the decades. Until 1992 school refusal – then called tokokyoshi, meaning resistance – was considered a type of mental illness. But in 1997 the terminology changed to the more neutral futoko, meaning non-attendance.
On 17 October, the government announced that absenteeism among elementary and junior high school students had hit a record high, with 164,528 children absent for 30 days or more during 2018, up from 144,031 in 2017.