Japan's Stealth Freaks

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Businessweek has a fun article on Japan's manga-loving, culture-savvy, geek-ilicious subculture known as otaku. Some play normal by day, so Japanese companies are finding ways to indulge the "secret consumer passions" of closeted nerds:

Despite the international attention, there are plenty of closet otaku inside Japan, especially women. Entrenched society there doesn't always have a great deal of tolerance for eccentrics. Seiichi Hirokawa, a self-admitted television/videogame nut, says "people still have biased views against us, and there are a lot of kakure-otaku (or hidden otaku) who can't talk publicly."

To help out female otaku looking for some geeky conversation, Hirokawa launched the Secret Otaku Support Commission. It will line up female companions for about $100 for a two-and-a-half hour visit and a night of platonic conversation about, say, the latest in custom-made, collector male dolls (now all the rage with young Japanese women).

Hirokawa's company also published a guidebook for women that points out otaku haunts and offers advice about how to indulge secret consumer passions without drawing a lot of attention. One tip from the book about a popular bookstore in central Tokyo reads: "In the most remote part of the manga corner in the basement, there is the BL (boys' love) novel corner. However, if you go there early evening, the floor is rather crowded with customers so you need extra caution."

Whole thing here.

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  1. It will line up female companions for about $100 for a two-and-a-half hour visit . . .

    I’m with him so far. Boy, am I with him so far.

    . . . and a night of platonic conversation about, say, the latest in custom-made, collector male dolls (now all the rage with young Japanese women).

    Bailing out now.

  2. custom-made, collector male dolls (now all the rage with young Japanese women)

    I have a friend who makes a killing selling these on eBay to Japanese women.

  3. Holy crap. The thought of Kerry Howley is a closet Otaku opens up a whole new world.

  4. Warren:

    Being a Reason writer puts one out of the nerd closet and well into Nerdistan by default…

  5. This sounds like a lot of mutually exclusive groups to me – I can’t really believe that obsessive doll collectors are also into building robots. I bet “otaku” really just means “weird”.

  6. Rhywun:

    Otaku is just the Japanese equivalent of NERD. We tend to lump computer programmers, theoretical physicists, D&D players, Magic card collectors, anime obsessives, renaissance faire denizens, certain music enthusiasts, Trekkies, MENSA members, Ayn Rand fans and every other sort of brainy social reject into that category; the Japanese do the same (even though I’d wager the average Japanese is probably a “nerd” by American standards. To their credit.)

  7. 1. computer programmers,
    2. theoretical physicists,
    3. D&D players,
    4. Magic card collectors,
    5. anime obsessives,
    6. enaissance faire denizens,
    7. certain music enthusiasts,
    8. Trekkies,
    9. MENSA members,
    10. Ayn Rand fans

    Holy crap, at one time or another, six of those could be applied to me (seven if Jane Monheit falls under “certain music”). Worse yet, I’ve considered pursuing two others. And we haven’t even mentioned the home-brewing, or the Tesla coil I built in college.

  8. At least there was no mention of Yaoi in this thread.

  9. “At least there was no mention of Yaoi in this thread.” Until now, that is. Let’s metion it somemore.

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