Japan hosts world’s first ‘Otaku’ (Anime geeks) summit

 Expo visitors dressed as their favourite anime characters pose for photographers yesterday. Photo: AFP

Japan opened what organisers are billing as the world’s first “Otaku” summit yesterday, drawing visitors from around the globe as the country looks to boost the international fan base for Japanese comic books and anime.

So-called Otaku – usually translated as “geeks” – from at least 18 countries and territories, many dressed as their favourite anime characters, were converging on the Otaku Expo at a convention centre near Tokyo for the two-day event.

The expo is part of a special comic book fair held every five years, which attracts about half a million visitors. However, this year’s event marked the first time that groups from outside Japan were invited. About four dozen overseas Otaku groups were expected to attend.

Briton Katie Carter, 23, was dressed as Usagi Tsukino, a character from the popular Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon – a television series based on the Sailor Moon manga created by Naoko Takeuchi.

“This is amazing. There are so many people of different cultures coming together,” she said.

The culture of Otaku has grown into a major industry in Japan. The term is commonly used in the country to refer to people obsessed with Japan’s unique take on comics and animation.

While it once carried a negative connotation, many Otaku are now proudly displaying their love for two-dimensional heroes – while the number of foreign fans is also soaring.

“The number of foreign visitors has been increasing over recent years,” said Kahoru Yasuda, co-chief of the organiser, Comic Market Committee.

Otaku culture is spreading worldwide “like a big snowball picking up a pace”, Carter said.

Another expo visitor, Valentino Notari, 28, said of the Otaku culture outside Japan: “In my country, Italy, currently it’s a very big thing.

“It used to be much smaller. We used to be sort of outcasts when we started back then about 10 years ago, and now it’s becoming massive,” Notari said.

“It’s quite fun and nowadays everybody accepts it.”