by Ewa Nowogorski
I think every country has its own ideas of what is cool and what is considered geeky or nerdy. In Japan, there is a word for geeks, called “otaku”. This word has become popular in Japanese pop culture oversees, so even you might have heard the word before. The idea of what is considered geeky in Japan and what is considered geeky in America varies quite a bit, and that topic will be discussed here.
Firstly, in Japan, otakus are considered as such if they idolize and fetishize over anime and even go as far as buying anime goods and using them in public. Otaku-like things may be as extreme as collecting tons of posters and 3D models and pimping out your room with anime things, or it may be as tame as even just having a key chain of your favorite anime character. Even something as small and simple as that is seen as childish in Japanese society.
Don’t confuse watching anime and reading manga with collecting anime paraphernalia. Many people watch anime and it’s acceptable to talk about the latest episodes with your friends, but showing too much passion and buying merchandise is where the line gets crossed.
On the other hand, anime is considered cool by certain groups in society, and collecting merchandise is seen as more of a passionate hobby than geeky. People might be considered geeks if they are overly smart and into math, although this idea is becoming more outdated, as it’s now an important thing to be smart in American society. Nowadays, having Disney or Sanrio goods is considered geeky. Collecting dolls, toys, movies, posters, clothes, and other goods with Hello Kitty, Snoopy, or any of the Disney princesses is considered childish and geeky in America. Everyone grew up with this characters and hold a soft place for them in their hearts, but in adulthood they draw the line and cease to obsess over these characters. So if you wear a Disney T-shirt in public, beware.
Disney and Sanrio characters are not considered geeky in Japan, and people of all ages love collecting Disney goods especially. I have seen full-grown adults have key chains and pencils with Disney themes, and I have thought it to be very childish, but the average Japanese person does not feel the same.
You can almost say that what is considered geeky vs. cool in Japan is the opposite of what is considered geeky vs. cool in America.