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Tokyo's Geek Ghetto 488

anaesthetica writes "The Washington Post is running a story on Tokyo's "Geek Ghetto" which has arisen in the city's electronics retail district, "Electric Town." From the article: "We have been discriminated against for being different, but now we have come together and turned this neighborhood into a place of our own.... In Akihabara, we don't need to be ashamed of who we are and what we like.... We can feel comfortable because here, we outnumber everyone else." There are concerns, however, that the total immersion in escapist culture may be causing social problems, including a growing number of shut-ins." I've gone to Tokyo 3x and visited Akihabara all three times. Highly recommended for anime fans and techies.
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Tokyo's Geek Ghetto

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  • Geek persecution (Score:3, Interesting)

    by IO ERROR ( 128968 ) * < minus cat> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:32PM (#12748933) Homepage Journal
    The persecuted [] generally manage to find each other. When they do, it's amazing what they can do. Even more so when they are otaku [], which they appear to be calling themselves now. And if you've never felt persecuted at least once [] in your life, you are no geek.
    • by Carthag ( 643047 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:43PM (#12749096) Homepage
      I don't get it. Are you saying persecution is a plus? Or that being a geek is bad? Or something else entirely?

      I've never been persecuted. I might be a geek, but I am also so many other things. Labels are stupid.
      • I'm saying that people tend to make the best of a bad situation. Geeks, generally, have the power to make their own situations a little better than one might otherwise expect, though.
      • Don't persecute him for labeling things.

        It makes it easier for him to process and communicate ideas.
      • I suppose it's a natural trend in (somewhat) free societies that the outcasts tend to group and with their peers. (In a non-free society, being that different would be persecuted and banned).

        This is astoundingly similar to self-formed gay "ghettos". When you feel uncomfortable with how the general public sees your tastes and/or customs, you'll gravitate towards your equals and create a micro-culture. I think the SW Episode III lines are the geek equivalent to the Gay Parade ;-)
    • I wish you hadn't of said that phrase...

      "....Now the time has come for geek persecution to end...."

      Ahh Revenge of the Nerds. Can a quote be anymore pathetic? =)
    • by CFTM ( 513264 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:54PM (#12749248)
      Seeing as I am a recovering geek/computer nerd shut-in, I can empathize with some of the potential problems brought up by the article. It's taken me five years to become confident once again in social situations because of the amount of time I wasted sitting in front of a computer screen playing games. This is no one's fault but my own and it wasn't until I took responibility for my life that things started to change but I do honestly wish my parents had kicked me out of the house in high school and forced me to go out and be social; it would have made college life a lot easier. I don't think societies should encourage this sort of behavior because it is ultimately destructive; these people indulge in their hobbies without developing entirely as human beings. This is NOT a good thing in my mind...oh well just my two cents :)
    • I mean really wanting women to dress up in anime costumes? Give me a break. This is not remotely healthy.
      Persecuted? Not really I was a white middle class kid that was good at science and computers. I work now as a programmer so if I do not fit your definition of a geek that is fine with me. I prefer the term techie :)
      • True enough, not all geeks are techies and not all techies are geeks. It is possible to be a geek without being a computer geek.

        Most techies are good with computers and science and go out to make a pile of cash. Those are not geeks.
      • by stuartkahler ( 569400 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:03PM (#12750226)
        I mean really wanting women to dress up in anime costumes? Give me a break. This is not remotely healthy.
        Here in the USA, we have restaurants where women are paid to dress up in tiny orange shorts, white tank tops, sneakers and pantyhose. A while back there were clubs with women in satin bustiers, hose, high heels and rabbit ears that catered to the wealthiest businessmen. The servers in many casinos wear skin-tastic outfits that aren't remotely grounded in typical dress standards.

        The shut-in part is certainly an unhealthy lifestyle, but there's nothing particularly odd about enjoying waitresses in 'fetish' costumes, particularly when common denominator is lots of exposed skin.
  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:34PM (#12748962)
    In the states, we geeks are confined to our parents' basements
  • Why not in the US (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Tungbo ( 183321 )
    Where is a comparable enclave in the US?
    Geek universities don't count! (Cal, MIT, etc.)
    • Where is a comparable enclave in the US?
      Silicon Valley. The male:female ratio there sucks (if you're a guy) and the girls are complaining that they can't get a decent date cos the guys are all social zeros. I still work there, but for living purposes I moved to San Francisco a long time ago.
      • and the girls are complaining that they can't get a decent date cos the guys are all social zeros.

        But they are social zeros because they can't get a date :). Actually the real reason has little to do with social skills. Good looking geeks don't have too much trouble getting dates. But then they usually have pretty good social skills too.

        Unfortunately, at least in the US, being a geek is kind of synonymous with being ugly. We are expected to be ugly. Some of us even became geeks mostly because we were ugl
        • I've dated some really hot ladies and one of the topics that always seems to come up is the "what do you do" etc and I'm quite open that I'm a geek. It's fun to see their odd reaction but it never seems to put them off. They just see it as quirky and cool. So it's not something to hide :)
        • You'd be surprised how many "ugly"-looking men are attractive enough to women who can hold their own in the dating marketplace.

          So good looks aren't everything; there are also basic social skills, not talking in a monotone, making eye contact, basic personal hygiene, and being able to hold a conversation about things outside of one's narrow field of specialisation (be it microprogramming, football, the history of punk rock or whatever). And, of course, the skills that come from repeated social interaction w
    • It's called a Star Trek convention in the U.S.
    • So, you haven't been to Seattle?
    • Re:Why not in the US (Score:3, Informative)

      by joeldg ( 518249 )
      I live in Manhattan and you can just run down to chinatown if you want that..
      There are entire malls dedicated to electronics and comics and figures..
      There is one "underground" one also that has all the latest games in Japanese as well, with individual sellers able to go in and set up a booth.
      The Japan society has huge anime and game conventions and there is a separate annual manga/anime convention in NY as well as Anime movie festival... SF is close, but not quite like it is here...
  • more details... (Score:5, Informative)

    by professorhojo ( 686761 ) * on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:34PM (#12748973)
    i present for your enjoyment, the Akihabara [] home page, plus an intriguing article entitled: Akihabara becomes geek sex paradise []. :-)))
  • by guyfromindia ( 812078 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:35PM (#12748983) Homepage
    I recently visited Tokyo, went to Akihabara.. and subsequently visited Singapore.
    I noticed that everything in Akihabara is very expensive. Buying the same stuff in Singapore is a LOT (I mean 30 - 40%) cheaper...
    But, one thing I agree.. you can get some really cool stuff in Akihabara...that you cannot find in Singapore, but for regular buys, I would avoid Akihabara.
    My 2c
  • Tokyo (Score:3, Funny)

    by bioglaze ( 767105 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:37PM (#12749018) Homepage Journal
    Tokyo has been destroyed so many times in anime that it makes me wonder if akihabara should relocate to some other city.
    • With monsters so hideous (because of their insulting irrealism) as Godzilla,Megaguirus or the power Zords appearing in TV, I wonder the same thing.
  • by morten poulsen ( 220629 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:39PM (#12749034) Homepage
    This gettho will die out in... like... one generation ;)
  • shut-ins (Score:5, Funny)

    by longdead ( 860403 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:39PM (#12749047) Homepage
    since when do shut-ins cause social problems? other than those rare occasions when they do come out and have forgotten to bathe? Now they are gonna need shut-ins support groups to help them deal with being social problems. I wonder if they would have to meet at large dressing rooms where they could each have their own small closed room.
  • akihabara (Score:5, Interesting)

    by notsoanonymouscoward ( 102492 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:44PM (#12749108) Journal
    My favorite memory of strolling through akihabara was going through a maze of electronics vendor stalls and coming across a guy selling nothing but big red buttons. If you stick to the normal shops, its pretty much many many people selling the exact same stuff. If you explore a little, you'll start finding the more offbeat tinkerer type stuff.
    • The button guy (Score:5, Interesting)

      by ag0ny ( 59629 ) <[javi] [at] []> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#12749311) Homepage
      My favorite memory of strolling through akihabara was going through a maze of electronics vendor stalls and coming across a guy selling nothing but big red buttons.

      Most likely that's one of the small electronic shops under the station. That's one of the most Blade Runner-esque spots I've ever seen. Many shops there are a 1x1 meter square with a hole on the midle barely wide enough for the guy to stand on it, with all kind of components surrounding the guy.

      Shameless plug:

      Akihabara photos on my site [].
      More Akihabara photos [].
      And more [].

      And yes, I'm living in Tokyo.
    • Re:akihabara (Score:3, Informative)

      by DragonC ( 169447 )
      Which is exactly the reason I wrote my book [].

      If you go to the normal places you will pay over the odds. Mainly because they're priced that way to catch out the people who don't know whats going on. There are tricks to buying stuff in Akiba. Such as in many places you can haggle down the price. And you can get it even lower depending on who you ask to reduce the price (Usually the oldest guy there).

      Akiba is an excellant place to get cutting edge tech gear. But if you only stick to the common main street sto
  • by WebHostingGuy ( 825421 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:45PM (#12749119) Homepage Journal
    I don't want to leave my house.

    ...including a growing number of shut-ins

  • by alan_dershowitz ( 586542 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:46PM (#12749133)
    I visited Tokyo and Akihabara in 1993. I have to say that it was one of the coolest places I have ever seen. Shops oozing with electronics and games. I went for two reasons: Laserdiscs and Super Famicom games. Games were often marked down to 15-40% of retail a few months after release. I was used to a trickle of Anime in the USA on Laserdisc, but in Akihabara, there were stores that only carried anime on laserdisc, isles full. It was pretty amazing.

    I have a friend in Japan right now, but he won't go there because he says it's too nerdy. I don't know if it got worse in 12 years, or I got better.
  • Anime != geek!!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EnronHaliburton2004 ( 815366 ) * on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:48PM (#12749166) Homepage Journal
    So since when did Anime and comics become synonymous with the word 'geek'? Aren't we a little more diverse then the article states?

    I play with Linux, computers and build things, but I have never really liked Anime, and I got over my comics phase when I was a teenager. In my spare time I sometimes play with the computers, but I also enjoy GETTING AWAY from the computer and play my son, go bicyling, play in the garden, etc.
    • by QMO ( 836285 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:59PM (#12749337) Homepage Journal
      We have an intruder on /.
      Fake geek sighted.

      He exercises, reproduces, touches non-processed plant material, shows signs of growing up.
      He even LEAVES HIS COMPUTER ALONE! (Poor thing. Probably crashes in lonliness.)

      Quick, somone hijack the space laser and fill his house with popcorn before he infects us.
      • Best... True Genius reference.. EVER.

        As an aside, it's scary to think I'm a part of a community in which it's assumed there have been OTHER True Genius references in the past.
    • Ah yes, a balanced person...don't come across many of you here on slashdot...begone evilnik before you corrupt us all!
    • Re:Anime != geek!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

      by pertinax18 ( 569045 )
      I totally agree, I am a geek but do not enjoy anime either, and find the otaku/manga culture really unhealthy and somewhat disturbing. Escapism in today's world is definitely necessary but letting your entire life be consumed by a fantasy is not good.

      Phrases like: "He giggled with glee when his servers addressed him in the squeaky little character voices they use to delight their fantasy-loving clientele." and "Morning Daughter, a music group marketed to kids has become so popular among otaku that men so
    • While I agree they arent synonymous and they shouldnt be, I'll tell you why I watch anime.

      The majority of shows I see on television are crap. There are a few exceptions, but by and large the shows are all the same. Crime, mystery, sitcoms. One show, recently cancelled that accually fit outside the mold was Dead like Me [], which I enjoyed quite a bit.

      Anime provides an open medium. When you are drawing your characters and environment, you are completely unlimited in what you can do. It makes for more int
  • by ShyGuy91284 ( 701108 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:56PM (#12749279)
    I got to a * Institute of Technology, and it sounds about like this, other then the fact that we lack stores. Anime obsessed people, game obsessed people, social misfits, a good number of shut ins.... Yeah.... Sounds familiar.
    • Yeah and the culture has really changed over the past 10 years. Even though I went to an *IT school, there were your usual fraternities and sororities and you could count on numerous parties Friday and Saturday night in the "quad" or at the local dive bar. Upon a recent visit, I stopped by on a Friday night and there was just the ominous glow of CRTs/LCDs coming from most of the dorm windows. I went down to the bar and the one of the old-timers who never left town told me that more and more of the "kids"
  • by 0111 1110 ( 518466 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:58PM (#12749322)
    Japanese culture is much less anti-intellectual and anti-geek than North American/UK/Australian culture. So it is not just akihabara that is geek friendly. And girls might at least glance in your general direction even if you are invisible elsewhere. Not that they like geeks or anything. But I think they have a somewhat higher geek tolerance level. A great reason to learn Japanese!

    However, if you are non-Asian you will still be regarded as a bit of a monkey on display at the zoo. People may avoid sitting next to you on trains unless it is totally packed and you may be followed around while in some small shops with suspicious owners, as if waiting for you to pocket a few items and then make a run for it. So there is a bit of racism over there, but they are generally a nice group of folks.
    • Yes but Japan is naturally racist against all but there own. I've discussed this a few times with alot of Japanese people and most say it's because Koreans (usually Koreans, they hate them the most) come to the country, rent a place then pretty much trash it and abuse laws which put them at the advantage.

      They don't want to help the community (AKA all of Japan) out and are quite rude. Which obviously to them could mean alot of things, but general anti social behaviour I assume.

      I'm not saying all the Japane
      • Whoa, I could swear thats like it's here too. And probably, if you go downtown to _any_ european country you'll find someone giving you that answer.

        It's not only rasistic, its stupid and ignorant. Thats no excuse for not accepting foreigners.
    • However, if you are non-Asian you will still be regarded as a bit of a monkey on display at the zoo. People may avoid sitting next to you on trains unless it is totally packed and you may be followed around while in some small shops with suspicious owners, as if waiting for you to pocket a few items and then make a run for it. So there is a bit of racism over there, but they are generally a nice group of folks.

      First, there's racism everywhere. Anyway, I just wanted to give a counterexample. I've per

    • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:08PM (#12750283) Journal
      However, if you are non-Asian you will still be regarded as a bit of a monkey on display at the zoo.
      Not in my experience, I spent two weeks there in 2001, mostly in Tokyo, a few days in Osaka and stayed with a friend (non-Japanese) living in Tsukuba and working at Kek Labs. (I got to go to Kek Labs too, call me an uber geek but that was a kick too.) I never noticed anyone staring at us at all. It's quite rude to stare and Japanese are quite good at at least keeping up the appearance of not being rude. They might give you little sideways looks out of curiosity but unless they're little kids they won't just stare at you. :)

      You don't have to leave to the US to get that whole monkey in the zoo effect though. I was visiting a friend in Nashville, TN and we went to the mall. Now I'm white, he was from Taiwan and we went another friend of his who was African-America (very dark-skinned as well). People stared at _ME_ the whole time. I'd never seen anything like it. Apparently they couldn't believe a white guy was hanging out with non-whites. My friends both said they were used to it and just ignored it, but it was an eye-opener to me. Racism is alive and well in the US.

      People may avoid sitting next to you on trains unless it is totally packed
      See now that's one of your Gaijin Powers (tm)! Even during rush hour there'll be more space around you than anyone who isn't foreign. :) It's actually kinda funny, but it's not unexpected, people are instinctively afraid of the unknown and foreigners are certainly unknown to many of them. At the same time though they're more than willing to try and help you if you need help, even if they don't speak English. I managed to get my ticket on the Shinkansen back from Osaka and the guy helping me didn't speak any English. I knew just a few words of Japanese (hello, thank you, excuse me basically) but we didn't have any trouble.

      I think part of the problem is they expect Americans to be rude (sadly we have this reputation just about world-wide). If you're polite and friendly they won't have any problems with you. I don't know why you'd be rude and hateful to someone when you're in a foreign country but apparently a lot of people are.

      Oh yes, it's funny that in only two weeks I got used to doing the little bow while thanking people. It felt strange to not have people do that when I got back to the US for a while. :)

    • On your second point, I have to disagree. I've spent quite a bit of time in Japan - I'm white, and I have a fro, to boot. If anything, I get more attention, more people talking to me on the train, have more fun in clubs, because I'm non-asian. You wouldn't believe how many Japanese women are interested in talking to you because you *don't talk down to them*.
  • by ultimabaka ( 864222 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @01:59PM (#12749343)
    As something of a geek (I guess not as much of one as I used to be, but still somewhat of one), I wonder about a few things after reading the article:

    (a) "We can feel comfortable because here, we outnumber everyone else"

    As someone who has been a member of both predominantly geek- and non-geek social groups at one point, I've always wondered greatly why geeks, who always complain about being tortured and abused by non-geeks, turn around and do it amongst their own geek groups? "We outnumber everyone else" is hardly the way geeks should be fighting back against the non-geeks they claim abuse them so much, and if ya ask me, I'd tell you they were acting just like the non-geeks to one another. Just goes to show you that social structures work the same, geek or not.

    (b) "Here, the waitresses' uniforms are inspired by the French maid-meets-Pokemon outfits of adult manga. At other cafes, waitresses greet patrons at the door with a curtsy and the words "Welcome home, master.""

    So most of the 10% females left in this area have resorted to saying "welcome home master"? I feel kinda awkward saying this, but any self-respecting (woman-loving?) geek should be trying to get the hell OUT of there as soon as possible, not try to rush into this place.

    (c) "Nerd subgroups include not only people obsessed with cartoons and computer games, but also pop idols such as Morning Daughter, a music group marketed to kids that has become so popular among otaku that men sometimes attend its concerts wearing kimonos covered in glossy pictures of young band members.

    That, along with the child pornography aspect of some adult manga, has led to allegations that some nerds are pedophiles."

    This has been a very long-standing problem in Japanese culture in general (five minutes of Google should net you more than enough information), so trying to stick this behavior to just the nerds specifically discussed here is misguided, to say the least.
    • by Maestro4k ( 707634 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:33PM (#12750574) Journal
      So most of the 10% females left in this area have resorted to saying "welcome home master"?
      Umm, no, not even close. Did you RTFA or skim it? That's just what the waitresses at one cafe say. You know, Waitresses, those women who get _paid_ to serve food and drinks at cafes and resteraunts? It might be a bit degrading but hardly unique. Hooters waitresses get degraded more than that here in the US.

      And do note, they're employed there, they don't have to work there. They may not live anywhere near Akhibara (this wouldn't be at all unusual, lots of people commute to work in Japan, some have multi-hour trips). They took the job knowing what it entailed. You never know, they might actually like the job and what they do. That'd hardly be degrading.

      I feel kinda awkward saying this, but any self-respecting (woman-loving?) geek should be trying to get the hell OUT of there as soon as possible, not try to rush into this place.
      Actually there are shops that cater to female otaku too, just fewer of them since there's fewer female otaku. And your above point just proves that you wouldn't work at that particular cafe mentioned, not that there's anything wrong with it per-se.

      You've also assumed that all the otaku like that kind of thing, but that's not correct either. Not every cafe is like that, they cater to different tastes. Someone else pointed out an article on Japan Today [] that's more accurate and less biased. One of the cafes it talks about the waitresses all wear long full skirts and elegant maid-style uniforms. That's not very degrading.

      You should also note that wearing a uniform for work is a common practice in Japan. In fact at most places the employees change at work. Fancy/cute uniforms are quite common for females in many job areas. And we can't forget the extremely common school uniforms females have to wear from middle school up. Some elementary schools have uniforms too but it's less common.

  • by jmcwork ( 564008 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:00PM (#12749356)
    I hear that Lambda Lambda Lambda is looking at houses in the area.
  • by Sonicboom ( 141577 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:00PM (#12749357) Journal
    As an IT professional - this is the LAST place I want to go on vacation.

    A nice beach - cold beer - girls - bikinis!

    The purpose of a vacation is to ESCAPE - the last thing I want to see is technology and be surrounded by GEEKS.

    (no offense guys)
    • As an IT professional - this is the LAST place girls in bikinis want you to go.

      The purpose of a vacation is to ESCAPE - the last thing they want to see is technology and be surrounded by GEEKS.
  • Persecuted? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by mogrify ( 828588 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:02PM (#12749373) Homepage
    I've never felt persecuted for being a geek... on the contrary, I'm usually surprised when people are awed at what they consider completely inaccessible, but what I consider fairly basic. I've been called a "Web God" for nothing more than nicely formatting an HTML table with CSS. Being a geek sucks when you're 12, but not when you're an adult.

    I'm a big fan of the dark underbellies of society, but I'd go there because I want to lookit all the pretty lights, not because I don't feel welcome anywhere else...

    Embrace your geekdom!
    • I'm a big fan of the dark underbellies of society

      I thought it said "a fan of big dark hairy underbellies". I have visions of construction workers in hard hats wearing too short tank tops with their beer bellies hanging out and and their pants too low in the back showing a lot of hairy ass crack.

  • by topgeek ( 864279 ) <> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:05PM (#12749420) Homepage
    I'm always cautious whenever I go into a neighbourhood with an Electronic Boutique, Best Buy, or other computer stores. There's usually two or three geeks hanging out in the alley. You know the ones: pale-skinned nerds with Vendorwear t-shirts from 1999, utility belts with PDAs, pagers, and cell phones. I always try to avoid these alleys, for fear that I will be beset with geeky talk about overclocking, case modifications, or World Of Warcraft debates.
    • I know the parent is supposed to be funny, but its true! i've made passing comments to people at stores like this, or the computer book section of Barnes and Noble. Just things like "that's a good game" or "hey, i'm looking for a good SQL book too", and the floodgates are open! Its like some geeks are so starved for face-to-face geek interaction that they'll start droning on in excrutiating detail about whatever you said, as soon as they realize you might be "one of them". I've had to end so many conversati
    • by 5n3ak3rp1mp ( 305814 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:45PM (#12750703) Homepage
      I was on a flight recently where I was unfortunately in the middle seat. There was a nice-looking gal to my right who I managed to strike up a conversation with. I have enough charisma where this is not unusual, BUT... All was well until the guy to my left whipped out a laptop and started playing some game. I asked him about it and next thing I knew, we were discussing World of Warcraft (I currently have a lvl53 character in that game).

      The woman to my right never spoke to me again for the rest of the flight.

      So I didn't get laid, but I did get tips on completing my last 2 quests in Zul'Farrak, in particular, that one where about 100 NPC's storm the stairs and you have to defend the high ground. Fun stuff for a party with people who don't bail early...

      It is for this reason that I feel I have to maintain "secret likes", which often includes anything IT or game-related, to the point where I find it difficult to even describe my job as it's pretty geeky and I'd rather just say I'm a "consultant". Unfortunately, to my horror I recently discovered that if I google my full name (which is uncommon), it becomes far too obvious what my really geeky likes are, despite my efforts to remove all traces of my full name from Internet sites. See, the gals I date are usually cute and best described as "geek-compatible", not "geeky"...
  • Akibake (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kendoka ( 473386 )
    I was just there with my wife a little over a week ago and it was pretty much geek central. =) Our friends there told us there's a new word floating around the area for the Otaku-types that frequent the place, perhaps a little more derogatory: akibake
  • At my site, we posted a two-part article on living in Akihabara. It's apparently not as bad as many make it out to be:

    Part One []
    Part Two []
  • by Cros13 ( 206651 ) * <> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:13PM (#12749547) Homepage

    1-way ticket to tokyo( - $700
    new laptop - $2500

    Finding home at last.. - Priceless
  • by hellfire ( 86129 ) <> on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:14PM (#12749556) Homepage
    In the US we call this the classic popular vs. geek syndrome. It's very similar, the only problem in Japan is that by this an other articles I've read it's worse. In the US, we at least pay lip service to the idea of individuality. We also have tons of people who are terribly protective of our right (perceived or otherwise) to own our own copies of music and TV and do what we want to our own bodies.

    However, in Japan, my perception as a Gaijin is that Japan's social structure is far far more rigid. You fly this way, or else face social rejection!

    Why do geeks in the US withdraw into themselves? Because society shuns them! Why to geeks in Japan withdraw into their houses? Because society shuns them!

    My point? Well the article misses the problem because it suffers from the US perception of geeks as weird and shunned. The problem is not the geek, it's the people who shun them. Maybe society needs to be more accepting of these peoples behaviors and appearances add not judge them on actions that do not hurt other people. Otherwise it's society itself that's to blame for people who cannot interact with the rest of society.
  • Otaku to you (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Billy the Mountain ( 225541 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:21PM (#12749642) Journal
    In Wired's premier issue they had an article on Otaku (circa 1993). [] It sounds like what was said then is still true today:
    Otaku are considered flunkies and not highly regarded by society at large, etc. I liked one quote: "Socially inept, but often brilliant"

  • Of course, in the picture that goes with the story, all the people are either wearing a light shirt and dark pants, or a black suit.

    Japan will never change. It's repressed, crazy, and highly productive. Pretending it's a geeky tourist destination is just lame PR.
  • Two questions, really. Is Tokyo's Akihabara as geeky as Singapore's Sim Lim Square? More importantly, I suppose, is it safer for my wallet? Sim Lim Square, at the corner of Bencoolen St. and Rochor Canal Rd., just next door to the Little India district, is seven floors of IT hagglers' paradise.

    Link [], Link [], Search [].

  • by MBraynard ( 653724 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @02:39PM (#12749885) Journal
    From TFA:

    Tetsu Ishihara, 34, a computer programmer whose three-room apartment in west Tokyo is filled from floor to ceiling with comic books, does not want to be associated with such charges. Ishihara maintains a growing collection of 130 life-size pillows of female anime characters -- both purchased and self-designed. His favorite is Mio-chan, a female character from a love-simulation computer game in which a high school boy builds up the courage to ask a girl for a first date.


    "There are some people who do lose their grip on reality, but that is not me -- or most of us," said Ishihara, a chubby man with glasses who this year started dating a woman steadily for the first time.

    What exactly constitutes loosing grip on reality, brother?

  • My Akihabara visit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by payndz ( 589033 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:27PM (#12750524)
    I went there in (I think) '97 when I was in Tokyo to attend Space World, and even then it was... well, Geek Central.

    Wandering around Akihabara at random, I went into what I thought was a comic shop. Which it was... but a very specialised comic shop. It was devoted to fan-produced manga based on videogame characters.

    Pornographic fan-produced manga based on videogame characters. A whole shop of it.

    Now if that's not an extremely specialised geek market, I don't know what is!

    What really struck me about the place was that even however many years ago it was, they were selling hardware that's still barely reached Western markets - and at sale prices! Saw my first ever HDTV in Akihabara, and nobody seemed interested in it but me...

  • Shut-ins. . . (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fantastic Lad ( 198284 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @03:49PM (#12750745)
    From the article. . . "Immersed in role-playing games and comic fantasy worlds, many have found real-life personal conflict difficult to cope with-- one cause, some say, for a massive increase in the social problem of hikikomori , or shut-ins. Now numbering as many as 1 million nationwide, the shut-ins -- mostly men in their twenties or thirties -- typically live in their parents' homes, rarely leaving their rooms."

    This is the part I found interesting. --Minus the sensationalist hype.

    Should we really be surprised to see this kind of behavior pattern in a society which rigorously punishes people for trying to be unique individuals, for having the gall to actually try to maintain any kind of self-love and respect?

    Men are expected to stand out, to express themselves in order to gain power in this world, so of course they are going to have problems when they are forced to grow up under the confines of a no-win situation. I'm not surprised at all that so many of them give up and opt out. Relationships require self-confidence and a wide variety of dynamic social skills which are certainly not taught by punishing people for stepping out of line to experiment with their lives when they are kids.

    The retreat into fantasy of a million working-age males isn't their fault. It's the fault of a seriously messed up society.

    "The nail which stands up will be hammered down."

    Ugh. There are many types of population control and herding in effect in the world, but this particular one really steams me.


  • What the? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by StikyPad ( 445176 ) on Tuesday June 07, 2005 @08:06PM (#12753297) Homepage
    How much of a geek do you have to be to feel like a misfit in a country where 9 out of 10 people on the train are playing a game or texting on their cell phone, or reading an anime comic book? I mean come on.. Japan is a country full of geeks, at least in our perception of a geek in western society. They focus on the strangest part of other cultures when incorporating them into society.

    IE, in the US, if you have a Kanji shirt or tattoo, it's meaning is somewhat important. You probably wouldn't want to say "I sleep with my sister," for example.
    In Japan, it doesn't matter what your shirt says, as long as it's in English. The meaning is almost irrelevant (if there is any meaning).

    And food..
    In the US, pizza can have a variety of toppings, but when it comes down to it, there's bread, tomato sauce, and cheese.
    In Japan, squid-ink is a popular substitute for tomato sauce. Sometimes you can't even get tomato sauce. I'm sorry, but that's not pizza.

    But it's a society where everyone is expected to behave and live in a certain way, so there's not a lot of room for individualism, which can ironically, I suppose, lead to feelings of isolation and not belonging, since nobody knows the "real you." But that happens everywhere.

    Most people carry their own towel for washing/wiping their hands. You can find napkins, but they're generally very small, and waxed.. for reasons nobody yet understands.

    But I digress.. at any rate, I've been to Akhiabara a few times, and it's not all that spectacular. Tokyo is divided into districts, and each district generally serves a purpose. It's an interesting way of arranging a city.. clubs are in Roppongi, electronics are in Akhiabara, clothing stores are somewhere else.. There's a little mixing, but generally, that's how it is. It makes it less convenient to shop for different types of things in one trip, but more convenient to find the exact item you want. (Although, when you do come across a department store, there tends to be LOTS of space devoted to electronics.. Almost every department store I saw had mini Crusoe powered laptops, for example. What's "geek," in the US is much more mainstream there, hence the first sentence of my post).

    Honestly though, the prices aren't much better than the states for computer equipment, possibly worse if you're converting from US$. Aibo's are still 5 grand (or however much they cost nowadays), and the fastest P4 is still going to set you back close to a grand. (Although cell phones are generally significantly cheaper). You're also not going to see some advanced PC technology you've never heard of, like USB3.0, or 15000RPM 2TB SATA hard drives. What you will find is a lot of brands you may not have heard of (Albatron, for example, which I'd never heard of before visiting Japan 3 years ago). And be careful what you buy, because the stores aren't under any obligation to accept returns. When I bought a Gigabyte motherboard and couldn't get it to boot (after swapping out everything, one component at a time), I eventually took it back and I was told to run slower memory and an older video card. They wouldn't let me return it or exchange it for another. Just because they sell a ton of electronic equipment in Akhiabara, don't expect the stores to have more or equal knowledge than you do. These guys are just salespeople and first-level tech support, just like anywhere else in the world.

    It *is* easier to find exotic parts that you'd generally have to mail-order in the states, like a Zhallman fan.. although some cities (San Diego, for example) have tons of mom'n'pop computer stores with the same sort of things.

    Pretty much, if you have a Fry's near you, you're not missing anything except huge throngs of shoppers, and people who aren't sure if you know which side to walk on, so every-other head on encounter turns in to a little dance.

In the realm of scientific observation, luck is granted only to those who are prepared. - Louis Pasteur