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'Akihabara', also known as 'Akihabara Electric Town' or 'Akiba', for sure,
is a district of Tokyo located about five minutes away from Tokyo Station. Over the
past 140 years Akihabara has developed into a nexus of electronic, computer, anime, games
and otaku culture, but if you were to travel back about 100 years in Akihabara's history,
you're more likely to find fruits and vegetables than anything else as Akihabara was, for several decades, a produce market.
Following a devastating fire in 1869, the 30,000 square meters of what would later become
Akihabara was cleared in an effort to prevent future fires from reaching the inner part of the city.
At that time, it was actually pretty common for Edo, or modern day Tokyo,
to completely be leveled by fire about once every 20-25 years.
Following the fire, the 'Chinka-sha' shrine was constructed on the cleared site and was wholeheartedly
embraced by the local citizens, who got it completely wrong! Many residents of Downtown Tokyo
completely misunderstood the shrine and thought it enshrined the most popular fire-controlling deity
at the time, Akiba or Akiha. They even went a step further and decided to call the land around
the shrine 'Akiba ga Hara' or 'Square of Akiba'. I'm sure you can see where this is going.
It wasn't until post-World War II however, that Akihabara began to take the form it resembles
today. Centered around the first school of electrical manufacturing, now the Tokyo Denki
University, black market vacuum tubes and radio related electronic shops began to sprout up.
This continued until computers and console gaming started to enter mainstream culture
with devices like the 'famikon' driving the sales of videogames. The subsequent Windows
PC boom in 1994 cemented Akihabara's reputation as a technological mecca as vendors began
carrying computer related products.
But don't think the evolution ends there! With computer sales slowing somewhat in the
past decade, Akihabara has shifted it's focus toward 'otaku' subculture and the transition
has been seamless.
If you were to translated the modern usage of the word 'otaku' into English, you'd probably
end up with 'geek' or 'nerd'. That being said, this word applies to anyone who is a fan of
a particular theme, hobby, topic or form of entertainment. While there are connotations
of social awkwardness and a somewhat obsessive nature, the word has started to be reclaimed
by the 'otaku' population as a positive descriptor.
The word 'otaku' as it's used in Japanese subculture comes from the Japanese word of
the same pronunciation that is the honorific term for a person's house but is used metaphorically
as a second-person pronoun meaning 'you'. Although there is a bit of dispute regarding
the origin of the word, most attribute it Akio Nakamori's series titled 'An Investigation
of Otaku' printed in the lolicon magazing Manga Burikko in 1983.
The terms was used to describe fans who inappropriately used the word 'otaku' well past
the point in their relationship in which they would have been OK to use a more casual word.
The word continued to gain popularity but was catapulted into the mainstream with the
murder trial of Tsutomu Miyazaki who was branded 'The Otaku Murderer' after being convicted
in a series of gruesome deaths. While this notorious murderer cast the title in a negative
light, as enthusiasts around the world have begun to embrace the word, 'otaku' has become
somewhat more positively received in recent years.
Whether you're into anime, manga, video games, computers, trains, characters, maid cafes,
music idols, cooking, insects, pop stars, etc... it's probably safe to call yourself
an 'otaku'. Wear your badge of 'otakuness' with pride!
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Akihabara and Otaku Culture

3631 Folder Collection
阿多賓 published on November 4, 2013    Adam translated    Blair reviewed
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