From The Diet 3 Daily –
Oct 31, 20007, Naha, Okinawa, Japan. Walking through the streets of Naha, in addition to the usual Lion Statues, stir fried mixes of different ingredients including goya (bitter melon), and hordes of American soldiers and tourists, a new attraction has grabbed a lot of attention from tourists.
Heavy set men with thick, black rimmed glasses carrying bags printed with the latest bishojo characters (cute and often sexually suggestive drawn characters), backpacks full of pins and insignias of anime characters such as Amuro Ray from Gundam, Spike from Cowboy Bebop, and C.C.C from Code the really Ge-ass the future Gen., and wearing shirts that says “Rie-sama moe moe moe” can be seening walking through the streets. They allow tourists to stop and take pictures for a fee.
When asked about their work, most of them said that they work for the anime or the manga industry. However, when asked about actual animation or manga they have worked on, none of them offered any names or specific titles.
We tracked down a more outspoken member from the group who agreed to talk to us under the assumed name, “Sato-san”.
(Note: the transcript is translated from Japanese)
The Diet 3: “So do you love anime, Sato-san?”
Sato-san (looking horrified): “Love it? Please don’t joke about that! I actually dislike it very much! It’s a national disgrace that we’re putting forth for the world to see. It’s horrible.”
TD3: “But you’re been walking in the streets of Naha and dressing up as Otaku?”
SS: “That’s because there are no Otaku here and it’s a rarity, so we can be benefited from that.”
TD3: “Could you explain?”
SS (looking slightly embarrassed): “Well, we make a profit by dressing up, or what they call ‘cosplaying’ as Otaku and go to places where tourists want to see the new image of Japan – but you know, often these places don’t have any Otaku, so we go there pretending we’re one of them.”
TD3: “Why the hell would anyone want to do that?”
SS (still embarrassed but chuckling a little): “It’s for good money. It’s hard to find jobs these days, you know? So we got together and came up with this idea, cosplaying as Otaku, and people would pay us to take photos with us, or ask us to talk to them about Otaku stuff, have interviews like what we’re doing now, and we get paid for all that.”
TD3: “Can you actually make money doing that?”
SS (shifting a little in his chair): “Well, we obviously have other jobs. I’m a bucket maker in a nearby town. My friend Tanaka, who you saw wearing that C.C.C. shirt, is a shoe salesman, and others have other jobs…Well, no government or office workers would do it because if they’re found out they could lose their more respectable jobs.”
TD3: “OK, but do you actually make money?”
SS (smiling): “Well, it actually doesn’t take a lot to fake an Otaku, and most of our stuff are borrowed from our younger cousins and brothers anyway. As for making money, well, tourists these days love to see strange and exotic human animals in other countries or even in just other cities, and with the recent Otaku phenomenon, where people go to Akiba and watch the people there as if they’re freaks from a circus, it’s actually profitable.”
TD3: “Can you give us an exact figure?”
SS (looking uncomfortable): “Not an exact figure, but I can tell you that on good days we can make something close to 8000 yen per hour.”
TD3: “How many hours and many days of a week do you do this?”
SS: “For me, on average about 4 to 5 hours each day and about 3 to 4 days a week. We do a lot more of this during vacation seasons and a lot less of it during other times.”
TD3: “Do you watch any anime at all?”
SS: “Yeah I do. However, I really dislike watching them except for study purposes. All of it just seem so childish and simplistic.”
Our reporter chatted more with this fellow. Our conclusion is that these are indeed professional Otaku for hire. Some of them are actually employed by local governments to boost tourism. After all, for some places much less interesting and exotic than Naha, wooden sandals and buckets aren’t exactly the exotic souvenirs that everyone fights over. When you don’t have a hot spring promising relaxing times and really special services offered by local ladies, perhaps acting and dressing up as weirdos is the way to go.
Jeremy Booth and Michael Huang have also contributed to this story