You may already be aware that there is a subculture of train fanatics in Japan known as densha otaku, or train nerds. But did you know that there are loads of sub-subcultures within the densha otakus? From those obsessed with train noises to experts in train lunch boxes, we’ve got them all covered for you.
1. Tori-tetsu: enjoys taking pictures of trains
Whether happily clicking away in the carriage or perched on precarious hills to get the perfect background, you’ll find these otaku with giant cameras in hand anywhere trains go.
2. Onkyou-tetsu: focuses on sounds made by trains and recording them
These audiophiles often turn up on Japanese TV, simultaneously amazing audiences and inducing pity with their ability to listen to a short recording and immediately identify the type of train and the line its on. Also sure to know every station’s platform music.
3. Nori-tetsu: enjoys riding trains
This otaku is old school. He wants to take that train and ride it, ride it. His highest goal is kanjou, riding the complete length of all rail lines in Japan.
4. Ori-tetsu: likes to get off the train and explore around the station
I thought this was just a tourist?
5. Jushin-tetsu: intercepts train operators’ radio signals
This seems slightly less exciting than those that monitor police channels or ham radio enthusiasts, but what do I know? Maybe train conductors are closet philosophers or something.
6. Sharyou-tetsu: an expert on train cars, including design and engineering specs
This otaku isn’t just interested in the latest public transportation, but in the history and development of trains.
7. Mokei-tetsu: a model train collector
This also includes diorama-testu, who build vast dioramas for their model trains to run on.
8. Shuushuu-tetsu: a collector of train-related goods
Some of these otaku collect tickets or parts from decommissioned trains, others stick to the more common promotional items.
9. Oshi-tetsu: a stamp collector
This otaku isn’t interested in postal stamps, but rather the rubber stamps provided at some stations. Mostly this is a tourism promotion effort aimed at children.
▼ A small stand set up at a train station where children (and oshi-tetsu) can collect stamps.
10. Suji-tetsu or jikokuhyou-tetsu: focuses on train timetables and maps
These guys actually enjoy reading the phone-book-sized paper train schedules put out by the train companies.
11. Eki-tetsu: station experts
These are your go-to guys if you want to find out about a station’s construction or the reason for its name.
12. Haisen-tetsu: experts in abandoned rail lines
This branch has a lot in common with the recent trend in haikyo, or exploration of ruins and abandoned buildings, but they just focus on train-related ruins.
▼ Next stop: Creepy Town!
13. Haisen-tetsu: a wiring expert
These guys are interested in all the wiring and electronics that go into railways, such as signals.
14. Senrou-tetsu: focuses on the rails themselves
Trains-shmains, these otaku want to know more about the metal bits they run on. They are quite into photographing rails and railway ties, apparently.
15. Setsubi-tetsu: rail facilities fans
If you love train tunnels and bridges, this is the photo club for you.
16. Unten-tetsu: conductor wannabes
The deepest desire of their hearts is to drive an actual train, but until then, simulators will have to do.
17. Houan-tetsu: railway safety fans
A lot goes into the safe operation of trains, and these otaku want to know about it all.
18. Kaki-tetsu: train artists
They make purdy pictures.
19. Kakuu-tetsu: imaginary train builders
These otaku like to create their own train systems from scratch, at least in their minds. Strangely, there’s always a station right by their house.
20. Ekiben-tetsu: lunch box afficianados
Ekiben are the lunch box sets only available for purchase at particular stations, and these otaku are determined to eat them all.
21. Chibi-tetsu: mini train nerds
This is a special term for the underage otakus-in-training.
22. Mama-tetsu: chibi-tetsu’s mom
Whether she is going along to please her kid or has an interest in trains herself, this lady is neck deep in the otaku world.
23. Kaisha-tetsu: an expert on train companies
They know the business end of things. Buying stock in companies they like is said to be a hobby.
24. Kaigai-tetsu: overseas train nerd
This doesn’t mean a non-Japanese train nerd, but rather a Japanese train nerd interested in trains in other countries.
25. Houki-tetsu: legal beagles
These otaku know the legal ins and outs when it comes to trains.
26. Soushiki-tetsu: literally “funeral otaku”, fans of final runs
These fellas like to be on the last train before a line is closed or model decommissioned.
27. Gunji-tetsu: military experts
Did you know there is such a thing as armored train cars and train-mounted weapons? These guys do.
▼ … I’ll just get the next train.
28. Tetsugaku-tetsu: train philosophers
These otaku like to look at older trains and philosophize about what their design has to say about society of that era. Deep.
29. Reikishi-tetsu: history buffs
They study the history of rail travel.
30. Tetsukei-tetsu: rail police fanboys
I guess they like the uniforms?
31. SL-tetsu: steam locomotive experts
These otaku only have eyes for the old-school steam engine trains.
33. Ne-tetsu: train sleepers
Wait, this is a hobby?
34. Ekine-tetsu: station sleepers
35. Tori-tetsu: thieves
Not to be confused with #1, this tori-tetsu uses as different kanji that means steal. They like to lift the number plates off of trains or steal branded goods from sleeper trains.
36. Kuzu-tetsu: jerks
Apparently, they enjoy riding trains just to be rude and make a nuisance of themselves.
Wow, that was quite a list. We never knew there were so many types of train nerds. Have you ever seen any while riding the rails? Just be sure to watch out for #36!