Culture Japan London Rant

Otaku Culture

I’ve noticed on recent trips outside London that being a “Londoner” tends to make you a bit of a snob towards the rest of the UK. A few weeks ago I visited a mid-sized town approximately 1.5 hours north of London. Upon arrival at the tiny railway station there could be seen a group of around 10 middle-aged men all looking rather dishevelled and bored. OK, I thought, they must be waiting for the next train out of this middle-of-nowhere hole. Two hours later when I returned to take the train back to London I was surprised to see that they were still there – upon closer inspection I noticed they were all carrying small notepads and some had cameras – this could only mean one thing: Trainspotters, otherwise known as Anoraks (persons with unimaginative/dull hobbies). What brings people to spend their free time watching trains and record useless trivia about them I will never know but unfortunately this sort of activity only reinforces the idea that there isn’t much life outside the capital (even though this isn’t really true… with a few exceptions)!

In Japan they have a word for similar sorts of behaviour: Otaku – a term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly in anime and manga, but can also refer to any fan of, or specialisation in any particular theme, topic, or hobby. The author William Gibson defined Otaku as “pathological-techno-fetishist-with-social-deficit” which is an interesting take on the way people collect data as opposed to objects in the information age. There are of course different extremes to which this can be taken and I guess we all are collectors to an extent…

I’m off to Amsterdam tomorrow but will be back later next week and will hopefully have a bit more time over the festive season to post more frequently 🙂

Author

Originally from the UK, David is designer and wanderer currently based in Tokyo. Prior to this, he lived in China and still returns frequently to continue exploring this vast and varied land. He started Randomwire in 2003 to chronicle his travels and occasional musings. Feel free to drop him a line.

3 Comments Add New Comment

  1. Shirley says:

    Have a great time in Amsterdam David! I am sure you will 😉 Hmm, can't wait to see your fascinating photos…
    See ya soon 🙂

  2. Tom says:

    If you've gone North to the East Anglia area then it is more dull than other areas, however this does NOT apply to all of the country, and I'm sure you can find a plethora of trainspotters in London. All you've done in this post is to highlight your own snobbery. Whilst London may be a large centre for the arts, business etc, I think you'll find large swathes of the population are snobbish towards London, content in their ability to visit it for a day at their leisure, but eternally grateful that they spend the majority of their lives either in a pleasant town, pretty village, or one of the Isle's delightful coastal areas. Is it any wonder that Londoners are oft heard plotting their escape from the grimy city,to some out-of-town idyll?
    Anyway, hope you're having a good time in Amsterdam!

  3. David says:

    I wasn't saying the rest of the UK is dull, just pointing out the perception there is sometimes!

    Anyway, thanks Shirley Tom – its nice here but very very cold 🙂

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