What is the definition and meaning of otaku? Originally, the term otaku referred to a person’s house or family. In the 1980s, it began to be used by anime and manga addicts when talking about the owners of science fiction books.
You cannot stay in Tokyo without at some point coming across the otaku shops and the peculiar gachapon vending machines right on the street – spitting out tiny colourful objects, otaku. So what is actually inside these enticing plastic boxes? What is otaku culture, what is the connection between otaku and anime, and where to shop for otaku in Tokyo?
Today, the term otaku refers to the people who are obsessed with a single interest. Collecting otaku objects is a whole subculture in Japan, often related to anime and manga or the culture of the electronics industry. The concept is closely related to geeks, nerds, or fans of specific interests within one of these subcategories.
Sheer joy, a strange obsession or a captivating hobby to draw a small quirky capsule toy item in the vending machines? It is at the same time peculiar and deeply fascinating! The million-dollar industry is apparently deeply rooted in Japanese society and has become an indispensable thing for many Japanese.
Order your Rail Pass and Pocket WiFi here: Japan Rail Pass
Near Tokyo Station, the number of gachapons lined up is really impressive and amazing. The word gachapon means vending machine and is composed of the sounds of the machine gacha and the drop pon.
Every day, thousands of these strange capsule items are sold from gachapons that are all over the city, both along the streets, at train stations, malls, and in the otaku, anime, and manga stores. You will find an otaku shop on almost every street corner in the districts of Tokyo where the anime culture particularly thrives.
Collecting tiny objects from the anime industry as well as from everywhere else is part of the otaku culture. The items can be anything from small anime figures from the Pokemon, One Piece or Dragon Ball universe to a funny miniature version of any other existing object… a fruit, a piece of furniture or an electronic gadget. It is only the producers’ lack of imagination that sets a limit.
In fact, there are many kinds of otaku geeks in Japan, each otaku type refers to a particular interest that probably overrides almost everything else for that person. The most prevalent categories are manga otaku, idol otaku, travel otaku, computer otaku, video game otaku, car otaku, and anime otaku. In addition to these, there are at least ten other subcategories of otaku that are also well known, including cosplay, train, and mobile phone classifications.
Akihabara is a good district to look for otaku stores if you want to give it a try. In Akihabara you will find everything within electronic gadgets, anime and manga related objects, trendy collectibles… and the popular gachapon vending machines. The manga subculture thrives here, and all kinds of entertainment and games within this category exist within the universes created in the anime stores, pachinko halls, and maid cafés. The anime otaku culture is reflected in almost every store, and the waitresses dress up as anime characters at the popular maid cafés.
In the shop Gachapon Kaikan hundreds of otaku vending machines are lined up side by side. Buying miniature items in gachapons is like playing slot machines – you just don’t win money – but score your favourite otaku thing – if you are lucky! The store is crowded with young people, stylish businessmen, hopeful children, and gambling addicts.
When you are done in Gachapon Kaikan, you can continue to the nearby stores: Mandarake, Animate or the Cospa Gee Store for more irresistible otaku objects within the anime industry or perhaps an otaku cosplay outfit. Dressing up as your favourite anime or manga character with his or her special wig and accessories can be the ultimate otaku dream.
Another place to see the teenage cosplay culture is in Harajuku at Takeshita Street where the Tokyo pop culture flourishes, or in Yoyogi Park, where you may be lucky enough to spot rock & roll dancing young people dressed in appropriate outfits, as well as young girls posing for a picture in their colourful skirts. Other districts in Tokyo, such as Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and Shibuya also have popular shops with an abundance of video games, manga, anime, and otaku merchandise.
Are you planning to stay 3 days in Tokyo and want to make the most of your stay? Then take a look at our guide 3-Day Tokyo Itinerary
Find useful travel gear: Travel Essentials
Accommodation / Tours: Check Hotels, Tours & Activities
What is Otaku / Anime Culture in Tokyo
Featured image of
What is Otaku – Anime Culture in Tokyo:
Travel In Culture
What is an Otaku Shop | Tokyo Stores