otaku

Since the late 1970s, the Japanese word otaku has gradually spread to become known the world over. The term generally refers to a person so obsessed with their hobby—usually anime, manga, or video games—that it adversely affects their health and/or social skills, though it carries different connotations in different parts of the world.

Among those outside of Japan who are well-versed in otaku culture, there are many who proudly admit to being otaku themselves; like a cooler spin on the Japanese otaku, shipped abroad.

On the other hand, the word caries a more sad, perverse tone here in Japan,  something that lends itself to the image of a “creepy geeky guy”, with “guy” being the key word. While there are no comparative figures on gender ratios, you could probably say overseas otaku women are much more forthcoming about their self-imposed label than their Japanese counterparts.

But the female Japanese otaku does exist. There are Japanese women who forsake sleep and, with bloodshot eyes, play erotic PC games deep into the night, oblivious to their own deteriorating health.  In fact, there might even be more women otaku than men—maybe they’re just better at hiding it.

Numbers aside, what are some of the behavioral differences between Japanese otaku of different sexes? Is there any discrepancy between how deeply a male and female can obsess over anime, manga, or video games?

Wakako Takou over at Excite! Japan spoke with an otaku merchandise industry representative to tackle these questions.

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Tax the Handsome: One Homely Guy’s Solution to the Declining Birth Rate

As part of the end of year windup, Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper has created a Facebook page where readers can discuss solutions to various issues facing Japan. The current topic of debate is the declining birthrate.

Takuro Morinaga, an economic analyst, weighed in with this controversial proposal: “If we levied a ‘handsome tax‘ on good-looking guys, that would serve to correct a little bit of the unfairness in dating, making it easier for homely guys to find a partner and the number of marriages would increase.”

I bet the ladies at the local tax office are all for it… Read More

Moscow’s First Maid Cafe is Russian-Made, Japan-Approved

Maid cafes have become a quintessential symbol of Japanese otaku culture and many foreigners who visit Japan make a trip to one an essential stop on their travel itinerary.

In recent years, some enterprising foreigners have even opened maid cafes back home, though some argue that they don’t translate well into other cultures and that foreign girls look awkward trotting about in stylized French maid costumes. In some cases, it is (see the video at the end of this article).

However, doubters need only look to Moscow’s first ever maid cafe, Otaky, which boasts a staff of young Russian maids so cute that even Japan acknowledges they’re doing it right.

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We Visit Otaku Cooking School, Kitchen a la Mode, Find it Isn’t Just for Nerds

One of the most common stereotypes of nerds, or otaku as they’re known in Japan, is that they cannot cook and subsist on a diet of instant noodles and soft drinks.

Kitchen a la Mode is a new cooking school in Akihabara that hopes to get otaku off their chairs and into the kitchen by providing simple, hands-on cooking lessons with cute girls.

You may remember reading about Kitchen a la Mode on our site last month. Curious as to how the school has been doing since opening, RocketNews24 sent its handsomest American correspondent (me) to Kitchen a la Mode to experience moé cooking firsthand. Check out his (my) report below!

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Japan’s Most “Painful” Athletic Meet and Car Festival Brings Hoards of Otaku to Washinomiya

Thanks to popular anime, Lucky Star (Raki☆Suta), all of Japan has become familiar with the city of Washinomiya in Saitama prefecture.  The Washinomiya Shrine in particular has become famous among fans because of its appearance in the opening credits of the anime.  As a result, every year since 2007, Washinomiya Shrine has been invaded by hoards of otaku looking to ring in the new year; 2012 being a particularly busy year with 470,000 Lucky Star fans visiting the shrine.  Cities associated with popular anime often see an influx of visitors looking to take pictures and recreate scenes from their favorite anime, especially those that have been featured in magazines highlighting popular anime and manga locales, like Washinomiya Shrine.

Recently, a different kind of otaku gathering took place in Washinomiya.  Named “Crush Fest in Washinomiya 2012,” this event is arguably the most “painful” otaku athletic meet in all of Japan.  At the same time, a “painful” car festival took place, bringing in anime otaku from far and wide.

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Otaku Marriage Hunting Masquerade Ball a Rousing Success! Second Date Added

Last month we reported on the announcement of the 10th Otaku Masquerade Ball: Oka’s Bizarre Marriage Hunt where otaku looking for love don masks in search of a future life partner.

It finally went down on 27 October with a total of 17 participants (9 men and 8 women) all wearing mask that cover at least the top part of the face.  According to the sponsor, Washimiya Youth Chamber of Commerce, everything went better than they imagined.  In fact it went better than regular marriage hunting parties or gokons!

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The Moé Rice Revolution: Cute and Sexy Manga is Helping Rejuvinate Rice in Japan

Despite it being the backbone of the country’s agricultural industry, rice consumption in Japan is on the decline.

While favourites like sushi and donburi continue to be enjoyed, increasingly few young Japanese sit down to a bowl of rice with their meal compared to even ten years ago, with more and more people are choosing bread and pasta instead, citing their convenience and “cooler” image.

In the past, both morning and evening meals in Japan were comprised of rice, a bowl of miso soup and fish, meat or vegetables. Lunch, too, often included rice or onigiri rice-balls. While the nation still continues to eat vast amounts of the stuff, and we’re in no danger of losing cute and creative bento packed lunches any time soon, it has been revealed that Japan now consumes more bread than it does rice, and that rice farming is in trouble.

In an effort to keep its rice industry alive, however, Japan Agriculture, along with a host of rice producers, have struck upon an idea that’s proving to be a big hit and putting a little cool back into the nations staple food.

Introducing: The Moé Rice Revolution!!!

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Find the Geek of Your Dreams at the 10th Otaku Marriage Hunting Masquerade Ball!

So you’re a middle aged person living in Japan with a mind to tie the knot but can’t seem to find that perfect match.  You went to a goukon and followed all the rules but still couldn’t land that potential spouse.

It could be because you’re a geek.  Now, that’s not as bad as it sounds. Statistics that I just pulled out of thin air suggest that up to 31% of us carry the otaku gene. Some of our best and brightest are nerds, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Weird Al Yankovic, and Wayne Gretzky.

However, for the otaku, marriage can be as hard to complete as that level in Battletoads where you have ride the hover bike. This is why the town of Washimiya has set up the Otaku Marriage Hunting Masquerade Ball.

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Men with ‘Nerdy’ Hobbies Describe Their Ideal Marriage Partner (And it’s Not Princess Zelda)

The word otaku is a tricky one to define. Over the years, it has slowly made its way into western culture– usually used to describe a person who is excessively fond of Japanese animation or comics— and is often listed in modern English dictionaries as something along the lines of “a person obsessed with computers or particular aspects of popular culture”.

In its native Japan, however, the word is used far more broadly, describing a person who is fanatical about or devotes large amounts of time to something. That “something” could be anything from videogame culture to pop idols to hardcore ear-cleaning, and once a person reaches a certain level of obsession with their hobby, it’s far from unusual for them to be labelled as “otaku” by their friends and family. But whatever the object of an otaku’s affection, wade through the stacks of comic books, unplug that goliath gaming rig, put away the Train-Spotter’s Manual and you will discover a regular guy; a regular guy who sometimes thinks about deep things. Even marriage… Read More

The Top Nine Things Japanese Women Discreetly Check Out When on a Hunt for a Husband

“I like this guy… but is he suitable for marriage?”  This is one of the most important questions Japanese women ask themselves in considering a life time mate.  Marriage can be daunting even in the best of circumstances, so it’s crucial to have some assurance you’re making a good choice when deciding on that special person that you want to spend the rest of your life with.

Otome Sugoren, a website featuring articles on love, relationships and marriage, surveyed its female readers to get these results.  The reporter who compiled the info and wrote the article is a Japanese woman herself, so you can be sure of its authenticity!  Here are the top nine things Japanese women check out when Looking for a suitable marriage partner: Read More

Is Incest Japan’s Latest Literary Craze? Popularity of “My Little Sister” Light Novels on the Rise

Japanese “light novels” are a type of short and often serialized young adult novel that are usually heavy on dialogue and light on narrative depth. The growing popularity of light novels has made them common choices for manga and anime adaptations, such as the Haruhi Suzumiya series.

One of the more popular light novel series in recent years is My Little Sister Can’t Be This Cute, which tells the story of a normal high school student who finds out his prodigious younger sister is actually a closet otaku, obsessed with anime and incest-themed adult computer games…

It’s probably less unwholesome than it sounds (at least by Japanese standards), and the point is that the series has become so popular that it has spawned an anime and manga series as well as several video games.

It has also seemed to usher in a new craze of light novels about the relationship between normal older brothers and their not-so-normal little sisters.

That’s totally wholesome…right…?

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Why do Foreigners Like Japanese Manga so Much? We Head to Comiket to Find Out!

While manga is ubiquitous in Japan — just ride the subway in any major city and you’ll see people from all walks of life flipping through a comic book — many Japanese people are surprised to hear how popular manga has become overseas. After all, aren’t Westerners only interested in macho superheroes or short comic strips?

Perhaps that was the case in America before, but in recent years many major bookstores have begun to reserve more space near the front of the store for Japanese comics and in some European countries like France and Germany manga occupies a large portion of overall comic sales.

But why?

Earlier this month, we sent one of our Japanese reporters to Comic Market (or “Comiket“), the world’s largest self-published comic book fair and otaku mecca, to interview real live foreigners and ask them why they like Japanese manga so much.

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Hatsune Miku 7-Eleven Parody Video Will Give You Nightmares

If you weren’t in the know (and by the know we mean Japan), Japanese convenience store chain Family Mart and Hatsune Miku are running a promotional campaign from August 14 to September 10 to celebrate the Vocaloid’s 5th birthday.

To spread word of the campaign, Family Mart created a 15-second television commercial featuring Miku singing the store’s signature jingle and posted it to YouTube on August 17, though a ripped version had been posted to Japanese video sharing site Nico Nico Douga a few days earlier.

One group of enterprising viewers saw the video and immediately got the idea for a parody, which he posted to Nico Nico and YouTube on August 19. The parody, titled “Miku LOVES Seven Campaign [Fiction]”. features a super deformed Hatsune Miku singing the Japanese 7-Eleven jingle and is absolutely terrifying.

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Why Do Foreigners Like Japan so Much? We Head to Comiket 82 to Find Out!

Many foreigners view Japan as some marvelous dreamland of technology and culture; a place where crazy is the norm and embracing fantasy in everyday life is acceptable.

But to Japanese people, Japan is just that place you were born. Everyone and everything is routine, and it’s often difficult to see why the rest of the world get’s so worked up about “Japanese culture.”

Earlier this month, we sent one of our Japanese reporters to Comic Market (or “Comiket“), the world’s largest self-published comic book fair and otaku mecca, to interview real live foreigners and ask them what it is they really think about this country.

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Your Favorite Nintendo Games As You’ve Never Seen Them Before, As Traditional Japanese Prints

Ukiyo-e Heroes are a group of artists who work in the medium of tradional Japanese woodblock printing (ukiyo-e), a style most strongly associated with Japanese culture.  This group has turned their facebook page into a virtual gallery displaying their favorite muse: video games.

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A Couple of Train Stations Create Their Own Cutie Gods in an Effort to Boost Tourism

Sadly with Japan’s many recent economic woes, visitation to the remote stations of Kofuku and Aikoku has been low.  So in an effort to drum up some visitors, the local communities did what anyone would do in this situation.  They made some gods.

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Thirsty? Pepsi and Gundam Join Forces to Deliver New Drink That Will Not Only Quench Your Thirst but Entertain Your Eyes!

We’ve previously reported to you on Gundam-themed products that you can wear (without looking geeky), or eat in the form of green tofu. And now, there’s going to be a Gundam product that you can drink! Fans of the popular Japanese anime will be delighted to hear that a new soda featuring Gundam images will be coming out in early August, and judging from the picture that has been released, the cans look awesome! Read More

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