Japan's Stealth Freaks


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.