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Column: Otaku

From the MAINICHI NEWS, October 12, 2006:  (Posted by dumbo of NYC, NY - October 12, 2006 12:00)
'Rich' otaku geeks right for the robbing
Watch out, otaku! Somebody may be hunting you, according to Shukan Post (10/20).

Once widely shunned for being weird, the otaku have come to occupy a place in respectable Japan, possibly because there are now so many self-professed nerds that they posses significant consumer power.

But it's that same assumed wealth that sees the geek brigade in trouble, with a growing number targeted by muggers in what the Metropolitan Police Department is calling "otaku hunting."

In late September, a group of teens arrested for mugging said they selected their target because he was headed for the central Tokyo otaku haven of Akihabara and appeared loaded with money.

"We figured that otaku are pretty weak and always carry around lots of cash," Shukan Post quotes one of the arrested muggers telling the police.

In fact, this year Akihabara has already witnessed 25 reported cases of "otaku hunting" and cops fear there could be more. The stereotypical image of the otaku is somebody who devotes as much time and money as possible to their obsession of choice, buying magazines, toys and whatever other paraphernalia tickles their fancy. And the geeks are also normally seen as weak, mild-mannered types not likely to put up a fight if accosted.

But, is the image of the rich otaku ripe for robbing the right one? Shukan Post hit the streets of Akihabara, interviewing a selection of self-professed otaku to find out how fat their wallets were and whether they truly were ripe for the picking. The most cash carried by any of the 10 otaku the magazine contacted was 47,000 yen, while the least weighed in with 3,000 yen, while the average amount on hand was 21,900 yen - not bad, but not a huge sum, either.

Shukan Post, however, says that scratching the surface reveals that the otaku are generally surprisingly parsimonious in contrast to their reputation for being big spenders.

"My pal, Tetsu-chan, knows all about trains, so we got him to work out the cheapest route we could take to get to Akihabara. He taught us a way that saves us 10 yen on every trip," a 30-something builder and veteran cosplayer tells Shukan Post. "You may think that 10 yen is not much, but that 10 yen soon multiplies to 100 yen and then 1,000 yen, which is enough to get a ticket to one of the shows they put on (in Akihabara). We're all penny pinchers!"

Tickets for Akihabara shows featuring performers adored by the otaku cost around 2,000 yen apiece, but the district also has plenty of street shows put on for free and dojinshi, the manga drawn by fans, cost around 1,000 yen each, making a trip to the nerd Nirvana a relatively inexpensive one. And the otaku tendency to be a tightwad means many hobbies can also be pursued on the cheap.

"I thought a woman with all these sparkling decorations stuck on her face looked really cute, so I bought some of them myself," a cross-dressing cosplayer in his 40s tells Shukan Post. "But I bought my decorations at the 100 yen discount store." (By Ryann Connell)

October 12, 2006
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