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YumeTwins Kawaii Culture BlogWhat is an Otaku? Find Out About Japanese Otaku & The Kawaii Sub-Otaku Group! 

What is an Otaku? Find Out About Japanese Otaku & The Kawaii Sub-Otaku Group! 

By Bianca Bache
April 20, 2023

If you are a Japanese culture, anime, manga, or gaming fan, you might have heard “Otaku” before. Otaku(おたく)is a Japanese term that describes a person with a solid and passionate interest in a particular topic.

This Japanese term has become an essential aspect of pop culture and has gained a significant following worldwide. But what is an otaku, and what different types are there? Keep reading to find out more! 

An otaku is passionate about a particular topic, often related to Japanese pop culture. The term initially had a negative connotation. Still, it has since been reappropriated by fans and is now a term of endearment.

Idol group performing on Asakusa Street.
Japan has a variety of pop cultural fandoms that span many different types of interests, including vocaloids and idol fandoms. Image via Shutterstock

There are several different types of otaku, each with its unique interests and subcultures. Some of the most popular types include figurine otaku, which collects figurines of anime and gaming characters.

Maid otaku, who enjoy maid culture and frequent maid cafes, and Vocaloid otaku, who are fans of the virtual pop stars created using the Vocaloid software. Additionally, there is the Kawaii otaku, who love anime and manga’s cute and lovable aspects.

Different sub-categories:

Figurine otaku / Figure-ota:

Figurine otaku, or Figure-ota, are a sub-group passionate about collecting figurines. The figurines are usually of their favorite anime or gaming characters.

These collectors take great pride in their collections and often spend significant money on rare and high-quality figures. Many figurine otaku keeps their collections in protective display cases to keep them in pristine condition. While others keep their figures in their original packaging. 

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Man standing in front of a figurine store in Japan
You can find many stores dedicated to figurines and gashapon across Japan. Image via Shutterstock

Another type of Figure-ota prefers to collect small figures from gashapon, a vending machine that dispenses Japanese collectible capsules. Figurine otaku often attends conventions and events dedicated to anime and gaming.

These major events often showcase their collections and trade or purchase new figures. Despite the high cost of collecting, the group finds great joy in building their collections and sharing their passion with others in the otaku community.

Maid otaku / Meido-ota or Meidosuki:

Maid otaku, or Meido-ota or Meidosuki, are interested in maids and maid cafes. The group of maid fans often frequent maid cafes. These are establishments where the waitstaff is dressed in maid costumes and treats customers with utmost care. These cafes serve a variety of themed food and drinks. Some even offer maid-themed activities such as drawing or playing games with the customers. 

Japanese girls dressed as a maids promoting "Maid cafe" in Tokyo Japan
Maid Cafes aren’t just for meido-ota but a popular must-visit activity for tourists. Image via Shutterstock

This group is also interested in maid-themed anime and manga. Which often feature characters who work as maids or wear maid costumes. Many maid enthusiasts also cosplay as maids and attend events where they can showcase their outfits and participate in maid-themed activities.

While some may see the maid culture as controversial. Maid otaku find it a fun and entertaining aspect of the culture and a way to escape from reality.

Vocaloid otaku:

Vocaloid otaku are fans of virtual pop stars created using the Vocaloid software. The Vocaloid software allows users to create and manipulate the vocals of a virtual singer and produce original songs using these vocals. The most famous Vocaloid character is Hatsune Miku, a cultural phenomenon in Japan and worldwide.

Hatsune Miku figurine
Hatsune Miku is one of the most well-known Vocaloid across the globe. Image via Shutterstock

Fans of vocaloids enjoy the music and the overall aesthetic of the Vocaloid characters, which are often depicted as anime-style characters with colorful hair and unique costumes. Many Vocaloid fans create their original music using the Vocaloid software and share their creations on online platforms such as YouTube and Nico Nico Douga.

Vocaloid otaku often attend concerts featuring Vocaloid performances, where holographic projections of the virtual singers are used to create an immersive live show.

The popularity of Vocaloid has also led to the creation of various spin-off media, including manga, anime, and video games. Vocaloid otaku find great joy in the creativity and unique sound of Vocaloid music and appreciate the community formed around the Vocaloid culture.

The kawaii otaku:

The Kawaii otaku is a sub-group characterized by their love for all things cute and adorable. Kawaii enthusiasts embody this aesthetic in all aspects of their lives. They are particularly interested in anime and manga series featuring cute and cuddly characters, such as Sanrio characters like Hello Kitty and San-X characters like Rilakkuma and Pusheen. 

Cute japanese young girls (with 'decora' and 'oshare' style) being interviewed in tv at Takeshita street in Harajuku
Kawaii fans enjoy not only a cute fashion aesthetic but also live the lifestyle of kawaii by collecting merchandise that is also bold and colorful! Image via Shutterstock

Kawaii otaku are also known for their fashion sense. They often incorporate pastel colors, frills, and oversized accessories like bows and hair clips. They often use kawaii stickers, stationery, and other Kawaii items daily. Kawaii otaku are also avid collectors of kawaii merchandise, such as plushies, stickers, and keychains. 

But the love of cuteness doesn’t stop there! Typically they attend kawaii-themed events too. Events such as conventions and meetups, where they can share their love for all things cute with like-minded individuals. The kawaii otaku embodies a playful and lighthearted aspect of the culture. Their passion for all things cute brings joy to those around them! 

The future:

The future of otaku is looking bright as the popularity of anime and manga continues to grow domestically and internationally with the rise of streaming platforms, such as Crunchyroll and Funimation. It has become easier than ever for fans to access their favorite anime and manga series worldwide.

A group of young cosplayer friends dressed as popular Japanese anime characters
Cosplay has increased in popularity both within and outside of Japan. Image via Shutterstock

In addition, the otaku culture has expanded beyond its traditional fan base, with more mainstream acceptance of anime and manga as legitimate forms of entertainment. 

Popularity of the sub-cultures on the rise!

The increasing popularity of cosplay, which involves dressing up as characters from anime, manga, or video games, has also helped to bring the culture into the mainstream. As technology advances, this uniquely Japanese fandom will likely continue to evolve. 

Virtual and augmented reality technologies may allow fans to immerse themselves further into their favorite anime and manga worlds. With the continued growth of otaku culture, it is clear that it will remain a vibrant and essential aspect of Japanese and global popular culture for years to come!

Anime convention center in Japan.
Events are a great way for like-minded enthusiasts to unite and show their love for their fandoms. Image via Shutterstock

Otaku culture has become a significant aspect of Japanese popular culture, and its influence has spread worldwide. From figurine-ota to maid fans, Vocaloid enthusiasts and kawaii lovers are sub-groups within the larger community.

With the rise of anime and manga streaming platforms and the growing acceptance of the culture in mainstream society, it’s clear that the future of otaku is bright. 

For those who aspire to be an otaku, it’s all about embracing your interests and connecting with others who share your passion! So, whether you’re a die-hard fan or just getting started, there has never been a better time to be part of the community.

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Bianca Bache

Tokyo based writer that's enthusiastic about all things kawaii and cute!

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