Thursday, March 22, 2012

Two Questions, Interesting Answers.

In February I attended my first New York City Anime Group meet-up. A good number of fans come together from all walks of life to converse on whatever subject is brought up. One of the event’s highlights was meeting someone named Hiroko from Nagano Prefecture, Japan. She was the only person there from Japan so I knew if I had any questions about the culture that this would be a great opportunity. I asked two main questions:

1. I asked about how foreigners are treated in Japan, and how often she sees tourists.

2. I asked how the Japanese perception of anime fandom in Japan differs from that of America, bringing up conventions and the term "otaku.”

The tourist answer was interesting because I opened the question in regards to how it's known that some Japanese simply turn the other way while some are extremely helpful and open. It turns out that this is true to some degree, as mentioned in response by a South Korean girl who was also there. The Korean girl has visited Japan a few times herself and mentioned that it can be difficult asking questions. It seems she implied she herself fit in because she is Asian, but if she spoke any English some people would "run away". I believe this implies that, as in any social setting, some people are helpful and some are not. Hiroko stated that not many Japanese people speak English too well, and so this is clearly troubling to the language gap.

In response to my rather in-depth question about the Japanese perception of anime fandom in both Japan and America, the response I received was very interesting and revealing to some sort. I wanted to state how the American fandom can be very loud and over the top, but instead I mentioned conventions and cosplay. Hiroko stated the obvious about how there are always conventions happening in Japan as well. But then the answer somehow shifted to that of otaku in Japan. I know I was the one who brought up the term and how it was used differently in America, but the response was different from what I expected. From what I understand, in Hiroko's opinion, Akihabara has become so famous that real, die-hard otaku tend to avoid the area because of tourism and how the atmosphere has shifted to more popularity. She mentioned how they now go to quieter settings, but she wasn't too sure about where they go to check out new merchandise and such. Admittedly she had never been to Akihabara herself, and this is only what she has heard. This is a very interesting concept to take hold of and I wonder if the novelty of Akihabara has actually changed over time.

Again, we must remember that there was indeed a language barrier between Hiroko and I, and that it was sometimes rather difficult to fully understand her responses. But this is the best understanding from what I could gather in her answers and I hope I have been able to share some sort of knowledge with you!

-Jared Cyhowski

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