The cover of Otaku Spaces book that was published in 2012 by Chin Music Press in the US

This book that was published in 2012 is a collaboration of myself (photos) and Patrick Galbraith (text) on one of biggest subcultures in Japan the “otaku”. Maybe not so much of a subculture any more as it’s size and popularity almost place it in to the mainstream. Many international otaku people and related events have appeared and it has successfully migrated to many other countries.  I could almost say that it is the no 1 cultural product that Japan currently exports. For those who don’t know what otaku is, see the products they love as anime, manga, computer games, figures, electronics etc.

Otaku—nerd, über-fan, obsessive collector. Since the 1980s, the term has been used to refer to fans of Japanese anime, manga, and video games. The word appeared with no translation on the cover of the premier issue of Wired magazine in 1993.

Praise for Otaku Spaces:

“Otaku Spaces sets out to explain the complicated subculture of otaku through the stories of otaku themselves…Galbraith and photographer Androniki Christodoulou allow the otaku subjects they feature to take control of their own narrative.” – Wired.com

“This is a terrain of contested meanings. And ‘you’ (the original meaning of the word otaku in Japanese) are entering it. Invite otaku into your home and heart, as they have invited you into theirs.” – The Huffington Post

“A peek into an otaku’s bedroom or living space can be a bit of a surprise for the average person…Patrick W. Galbraith digs even deeper into the way otaku choose to decorate their surroundings, and the reasons why they choose to do so in the way that they do.” – CNN “Geek Out!”

“The book is certainly a beautiful object…There’s such an intimate air to Christodoulou’s photographs that you have to imagine what the subjects are hiding…But the interviews appeal, in the end, to our commonality: A few of the subjects gently point out that if people are honest with themselves, everyone is a little bit otaku about something.” – The Stranger

Some photos from the collectors’ portraits that form the main part of the book:

More photos you can see on:  http://www.androniki.com/otaku_spaces/index.html

Excerpt from the introduction:

On the Origins of “Otaku”

“Otaku” is a polite second-person pronoun literally meaning “your home.” For older Japanese, it is most associated with certain dialects of western Japan and with well-to-do housewives. Science fiction fans in Japan used it in the late 1960s to refer to owners of rare books. This period also saw the emergence of authors such as Ôtomo Shôji, who between 1966 and 1971 wrote articles for Shonen Magazine about monsters (kaiju), mysteries, science fiction, occult, robots and computers, setting an early precedent for “otaku hobbies.” University professor and sci-fi critic Takayuki Tatsumi recalls that his first time hearing the word was in a discussion with fanzine editor Shibano Takumi in 1970. Some say that “otaku” was used by celebrated female sci-fi author Arai Motoko in an essay published in the June 1981 issue of Variety, and fans might have emulated her.

No one knows for sure why this word was used among manga and anime fans, but there are a few theories. Ôtsuka Eiji states that “otaku” was a way of saying “you” in Japanese that allowed people who were meeting for the first time (for example, at a convention) to interact from a comfortable distance. They could converse about shared interests without using names and avoid intimate second-person pronouns such as anata (used by lovers) or direct, “masculine” and harsh-sounding terms such as kimi or omae. Kotani Mari, however, argues that the term was used pejoratively to describe homebodies who stayed with their mothers and enjoyed tv and toys. Certain young men took after their mothers, perhaps because their fathers were hardly ever home, and began using the term “otaku” to refer to others as housewives commonly did.

We gather from a review of the discourse that the term “otaku” is consistently associated with the private space of the home and difficulties communicating with others in public. Sharon Kinsella explains the discourse on otaku in Japan as an outgrowth of intensifying concerns about out-of-control individualism and the failure of young people to mature into adult roles and responsibilities. Otaku thus embody fears of feminized and infantilized young men in Japan. The term also conjures up images of irresponsible and indulgent consumers. Ôtsuka Eiji points out how in the 1970s the young girl, or shojo, came to represent the “unproductive” (hiseisanteki), or consumptive pleasure suspended from (re)productive functions. For Ôtsuka, the shojo is not so much a “young girl,” but a way of being, one that spread to all sectors of Japanese society, where production had been displaced by consumption. Not just young girls, but also boys and adults became “pure consumers” shut away in “pleasure rooms.”

For many, otaku seem to be shojo. They are men attracted to or associated with shojo consumer culture and lifestyle. They were abandoned by, or they chose to abandon, the corporate world, which interprets the worth of a man in terms of his ability to keep a job and financially support his family. As Volker Grassmuck sees it, deepening ambivalence about family, school and work encouraged young Japanese to go into “hiding behind piles of toys, comics and play machines.” Lawrence Eng describes otaku as “reluctant insiders” of the middle class, those who are enveloped in the smothering embrace of the mainstream and attempt to escape it. They find a place outside the system, on the margins, by engaging in unanticipated consumption and play.

For more info see our US publisher’s Chin Music Press site: http://www.cbsdtoolkit.com/microsites/?id=548

You can buy this book from  your local bookstore or Amazon and here are a few direct links to it:



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