Sunday, June 01, 2008

Otaku- a new (to me) Japanese concept

One of my most cherished rituals is reading the Los Angeles Times on Sunday morning. No rush to get to work, or even to household chores.

Is it sad for me to admit that I get most of my cultural awareness from reading the newspaper? (shrug) It is what it is.

I'm reading the glossy section called "Los Angeles Times Magazine" (sounds redundant, doesn't it?). This is loosely called "The Travel Issue." It's more like "what I remember most about my vacation to Paris/Tokyo/Big Sur/Hawaii." Written from the view of a travelling writer, not the travel agent. I skimmed through it the first time, and decided that it was worth a second, slower read.

The article on Tokyo is what captured my imagination. The title is "Tokyo with a Twist" by Bruce Wallace, and if I get the chance, I'll go look for the online version.

The first few sentences:

"The Japanese have perfected the art of obsession. Japan, after all, is the place that gave us otaku, that wonderfully elastic word that refers to people obsessed to distraction with the details of a single thing."

The article goes on to talk about manga and anime, and the author tours some gritty Tokyo bars themed on their owners' otaku. (usually a video game from the 70s, but movie themes are also common.)

By now, I'm sure you've guessed that my own personal otaku is fiber. I hear snickers from my co-workers when I demo search engines with the keyword "cotton." I bought a larger tote bin for all the cotton I've hand-ginned and carded into punis. (my technique is vastly improved, and the punis draft very well now, thank you for asking!)

Here's another quote from the article:

"The retro fascination is just part of the otaku culture, but it shows the degree to which purists take personal obsession to the deepest levels: ever more specialization, never reaching fulfillment, never collecting that last collectible. "Completing the quest would be problematic for an otaku," Lewis says. "That would suggest that it was time to do something more serious with your life." "

hmmm. Suppose that would explain why I don't like to actually *finish* a project?


At 7:20 AM , Blogger Betty said...

I remember a few fads/obsessions I witnessed in Japan when I lived there in the 60's, so I think this article is right on.
Do you know I actually stopped all knitting and spinning for a few months because I kept hearing how obsessed I was and I wanted to test if I really was.
Guess what I discovered? I was/wasn't.

At 10:48 AM , Blogger Ruth said...

(giggle) Betty, do you mean that you discovered you *were* obsessed with fiber?

At 11:20 AM , Blogger Betty said...

Just think of the famous scene in the movie, Chinatown when Jack Nicholson asks Faye Dunaway who her daughter was. THAT is what I mean/feel.

At 8:22 AM , Blogger fiberfanatic said...

Hm, it seems to me that an obsession with fiber is healthy! :) After all, we can NEVER master it all. So it is a quest that keeps us learning. At least, that is my story and I'm sticking to it!


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