Mariru Harada (24) is a model, singer, tarento and a member of the idol unit Nakano Fojoshi sisters. In their place are 13,000 manga (enough to earn her the title "manga sommelier"), 1,000 limited edition anime DVDs, and 7,000 videogames, including dating simulator games of the sort popular among lonely men.
Nakayasu, 33, is a professional collector. He buys items for his collection and sells them like a business, but also works a part time job in a call center. He collects toys from Japanese anime and live action special effects (tokusatsu) TV shows, soundtrack CDs, printed materials and videogames. At the time of this photograph, he had been collecting for eight years, and massed a collection worth about US$20,000. He has 200 toys alone.
Keisuke Suzuki, 33, works for an Internet auction company in Japan dealing with otaku products. He also buys and sells collectibles as a side job. He personally has been collecting for six years. He started when he lived in Los Angeles and worked as a salesperson for Mandarake. There he became interested in McDonald’s toys. As a kid he was impressed by the McDonald’s playlands he saw on TV, but, as he lived in the countryside, could never visit. His collection now is mainly advertising toys. He has about 800 pieces in his collection.
Shiraki, 36, is a web designer who collects manga and figurines from the seminal Japanese anime series Mobile Suit Gundam. He started collecting manga in elementary school, but got into figures only about four years ago. He has more than 1,000 manga books of all kinds and about 300 figures. He spends about 50,000 yen a month for figurines and 50,000 a month for manga. He reads manga for about three hours everyday at home and one hour commuting on the train.
Bunmei Nakamura is a dolls collector and at the time of the photoshooting he had 13 dolls. He said he enjoyed dressing them up and they were like his friends. He worked for a company and lived in the company's dormitory in Narita.
Ōno Norihiro, born in 1965 in Aichi Prefecture, is one of Japan’s leading experts on Russian science fiction. He was part of the first wave of otaku and helped build bridges between fans in Japan and the former Soviet Union. He is now proficient in four languages. In addition to books he collects old calculators, martial arts weapons and strange musical and technological instruments.
Inui Yōko, born in Ibaraki Prefecture in 1981, is a model and idol. She began cosplaying when she moved to Tokyo in 2001. She is now a member of the idol group Nakano Fujoshi Sisters and the cross-dressing “male” idol group Fudanjuku. She makes her own costumes, about 250 to date, and has a collection of over 300 distinct outfits. Friends take pictures of her, which she then compiles into albums and sells at Comiket.
Ishizaki Yūshin, born in 1980 in Tokyo, is an otaku, and proud of it. He is so in love with transforming robots and two-dimensional women that he was almost crowned the King of Akihabara in a TV competition. An engineer by trade, he is single and lives in a closet in his parents’ room that is literally overflowing with his collection.
Nagashima “Jienotsu” Yūichirō, born July 1984, describes himself as a professional cosplayer whose hobby is kickboxing. He thinks of it as part-time work, a little something to fund his otaku lifestyle. Since his debut in April 2007, he has made a name for himself with his ring performances, which include dressing up as female characters (josō), or “cross-play.” He also is known for knocking his opponents out, and won the K-1 World Max 2010 70kg Japan Tournament. Give that the prize money was some five million yen, he has no trouble pursuing his hobbies, and has become a public otaku personality.
John Hathway, 30, is the alias of a well-known Japanese dōjinshi artist. A craftsman who built his first Tesla coil at age 13, Hathway is funding radical scientific endeavors with the income made from his art, born of a precision computer process that takes months. He hopes to capture the spirit of Japan as he experiences it in his daily life. He focuses on urban landscapes because they are largely ignored despite prevalence and applies pink to traditional imagery to capture the discord of the “moe” aesthetic. In almost all of his images, at the center of a chaotic world comprised of media, technology and consumption is a young girl.
Takano Toshiyuki, 24, is a senior undergraduate student majoring in information technology. He is interested in machine learning, and spends a great deal of time playing bishōjo games, where players simulate relationships with beautiful girls.
Yanai Jun, 35, was born and raised in Nagano Prefecture and moved to Tokyo at age 18 to attend a technical college for game producers. He currently works for an IT company and conducts interviews for a free paper in Akihabara. He is an enthusiastic collector of anime, games and figurines.
Nidaira Yasuhiko, 42, is an electrician from Ibaraki Prefecture. He lives with his family, and on free days likes to take the two-hour drive with his mother and younger sister to Akihabara – in a blue box van decorated in tribute of his favorite character, Ayanami Rei from Neon Genesis Evangelion. The outside has dozens of images of her, the interior is filled with character merchandise and there is a life-sized Rei doll in the passenger seat. Nidaira says he is happiest among his hot-rodding otaku friends. He avoids eye contact and is soft spoken; he does not speak unless spoken to and answers with the minimum required information.
Uchimura Amika, known as Lita to friends, is a 28-year-old housewife and graphic designer in Osaka. She used to be the lead vocalist in a band, and has the tattoos to prove it. Now her room is filled up with manga, books on Japanese monsters and hundreds of character figurines. Most are just for display, but some make their way into the hands of Uchimura’s six-year-old daughter.
Aki, 20, is a seiyū (voice actor/actress) enthusiast and “fujoshi,” or a “rotten girl” who reads manga about male-male romance. While studying to be a nurse, she also works part time in a cosplay café in Akihabara. She lives with her parents and older brother in Chiba Prefecture outside Tokyo.
Danny Choo, born in London in 1972, is one of the most famous and beloved international otaku personalities. He builds websites for a living, including his successful portal site DannyChoo.com, and combines his love of Tokyo, photography and character goods to open a window onto the world of Japanese otaku. In 2009, he solicited contributions from users of his website to compile a photo book about international otaku rooms. This was the first of the Otacool series, which combines “otaku” and “cool” and hopes to change lingering negative perceptions of the culture.
“Quintessa” is a 24-year-old Japanese man from Osaka. He loves trains, and moved to the Tokyo metropolitan area to work for Japan Railways after earning a degree in system engineering. He lives alone in a company-provided apartment, which is sparsely furnished. Among the few items he chose to bring with him are model trains, a set of conductor uniforms, robot toys and a box of belts worn by various super heroes in the Masked Rider TV show. In public Quintessa is extremely soft-spoken and gentle, but in private he likes to wear his belts and strike transformation poses.
Watanabe Ryōsuke, 36, collects underground paraphernalia. He has items from the KKK, Japanese biker gangs and religious cults, Charles Manson, political extremists, yakuza and so on. He enjoys entering these different worlds and getting out with the goods for his collection. His collection is enough to fill a storehouse in Mitaka, two vacant apartments in Koenji, a space in Higashi-Yamato-shi and much of his own living space. He heads a circle of collectors called “The Mozart Tea Club.”
Fujiwara Natsuki 23, born in Hokkaidō, the most northern island in the Japanese archipelago, moved to Tokyo and became a “talent,” or model / media personality. She lives alone and avoids talking about her family or past. She is also a cosplayer who makes her own costumes and has collected some 100 outfits.