The word otaku has a long and complicated history in Japan. Originally, it was strictly a pejorative, a label used to mark those with an unhealthily intense interest in anime and other bits of minutiae-heavy hobbies. But while there are many who still use the word in that scathing sense, “otaku” has slowly built up another image as a badge of pride worn by those with a strong and enduring passion for the specific niches of art or technology that appeal to them.
That means that Japanese society, for arguably the first time, is starting to accept that being an otaku can be either a positive or a negative force in a person’ life. But what’s the difference between a good otaku and a bad otaku? One Japanese educator has an answer.
Among his hobbies, Japanese Twitter user @yoshiya_448 lists such otaku-friendly pursuits as video games, Vocaloids, and illustration. So no doubt he was happy when, in his high school days, his homeroom teacher (an otaku himself) said this:
“A good otaku shares enjoyment and information with the people around him, so that everyone can feel happy. A bad otaku forces his tastes on others, picks fights with people who have a different way of looking at things than he does, and makes the people around him feel uncomfortable. All of you, be good otaku.”
高校の時のオタクの担任が言っていた。 「良いオタクとは楽しさを共有したり情報を発信して周りを幸せにする。 悪いオタクは好みを押し付けたり自分と違う価値観を攻撃して周りを不快にする。 君達は良いオタクになれ。」 この言葉はどんな教科書の名言より胸に深く刻まれている。—
よし屋 (@yoshiya_448) October 09, 2015
On the one hand, the statement could be taken as no more than an esoteric rule of conduct in the sphere of fandom, but there’s actually a lot of valuable wisdom involved. Teens, by nature, are defined by their passions. For the most part, they haven’t lived long enough to compile a set of identity-solidifying accomplishments, and they don’t yet wield enough societal influence for their ideologies to be of significant import either.
So if kids can learn from a young age that everyone has different tastes, even within the same hobby, it should help them develop a sense of empathy, and also responsibility in how they pursue their own interests. Building that foundation should in turn make them that much more likely to grow into tolerant, conscientious adults.
“My teacher’s words left a deeper impression on my heart than any of the famous sayings in my textbooks,” says @yoshiya_448, and hopefully other otaku are taking notes.