Intersections: <i>Train Man</i> and the Gender Politics of Japanese '<i>Otaku</i>' Culture: The Rise of New Media, Nerd Heroes and Consumer Communities
Intersections: Gender and Sexuality in Asia and the Pacific
Issue 20, April 2009

Figure 1. Train Man book cover. Source:
Train Man and the Gender Politics of Japanese 'Otaku' Culture: The Rise of New Media, Nerd Heroes and Consumer Communities

Alisa Freedman

  1. Train Man (Densha otoko) has been one of the most significant recent Japanese popular culture phenomena and represents the interrelationship between the development of new media, marketing trends and notions of masculinity.[1] A sentimental love story of an awkward nerd and a fashionable workingwoman based on supposedly real events, Train Man was collectively written through anonymous posts on the influential 2-Channel Internet forum from March to May 2004 and centres on the couple and the online community who encouraged them. Train Man and most of his supporters are 'otaku,' generally negative slang for an avid fan who brings 'a passionate, single-minded intensity to bear on his object of obsession.'[2] In Train Man, otaku are portrayed as spending time and money on obtaining knowledge about and owning things that provide the potential for participation in global networks that run parallel to but often do not oppose local groups of family, school and work, which have formed the backbone of Japanese society. This tale of life-altering love has been sold as an Internet book (professionally-published paper edition of a story created and first made available online), a film, a serialised television drama, four manga series, a stage play and even an adult video. Because of the commercial appeal of Train Man's successful romantic relationship, corporate interests and the mass media have promoted the protagonist as representing a new sexualised identity and a harbinger of consumer fads, while continuing to describe the existence of otaku fan cultures as a symptom of Japanese socioeconomic problems.
  2. I argue that, along with changing the form of the book and furthering cross-media promotion, the protagonist of Train Man has encouraged more discussions about social expectations for Japanese men in the mass media during a time of falling marriage and birthrates than any other real personage or fictional character. Media discourses about Train Man reached a height in 2005 and 2006 when global fandoms of Japanese otaku culture grew and fertility rates were declared a national problem. In news magazines devoted to issues of marriage and family and the concurrent spate of books about heterosexual relationships, Train Man has been described as a potential marriage partner for career women, a demographic blamed for marrying late. At the same time, he has been promoted as an ideal consumer, loyal to brands and willing to spend money on self-improvement.
  3. As discussed below, although exposing contradictions inherent in gender norms promoted by state institutions and broadening conceptions of masculinity in the popular imagination, most journalistic accounts and marketing campaigns centring on Train Man recast patriarchal notions of love and family for the twenty-first-century Internet generation. In mass media discussions about Train Man, exemplified by those in weekly news magazines targeting a middle-class educated readership, the kind of otaku culture represented by the protagonist has been mobilised to advocate the conservative notion that individual happiness is most easily achieved by conforming to so-called mainstream society. Reflexively, otaku such as Train Man have been ascribed with the potential to change the society to which they once conformed. In striking contrast, female otaku have often been seen in a different light. Crimes against both male and female otaku, especially in Tokyo's Akihabara district, are extreme examples revealing that Train Man and his fan community might not be ideals accepted by the entire Japanese population. Members of otaku communities have also voiced dissent.
  4. In this paper, I first explore how this male character has shaped Japanese media and publishing trends, furthering the success of cell-phone novels (keitai shōsetsu) and other new book forms. I then raise questions about the social, economic and ideological impact of the image of masculinity that the story conveys and how it has shaped recent discussions about women, motherhood and labour, in addition to men and marriage. To provide a more composite and perhaps less mediated examination of Train Man, I have researched untraditional academic sources, including Internet forums, websites, advertising campaigns and blogs, along with widely circulating books and magazines issued by commercial presses. By analysing a limited sample of the almost countless online fan sites devoted to otaku culture, I attempt to understand the mixed reactions of members of the community Train Man is said to symbolise to the incorporation of the story into dominant heteronormative state discourses.[3]

    How Fans Created Train Man and Engendered Media Trends
  5. Train Man was made possible by and exemplifies the cultural influence of the expansive 2-Channel Internet forum. Founded in 1999 by the then twenty-three-year-old Nishimura Hiroyuki, 2-Channel receives more than 500 million page views a month.[4] All 2-Channel users remain anonymous or are addressed by nicknames, enabling them to chat about subjects that might be taboo in face-to-face conversations. To keep topics current and save bandwidth, threads are limited to 1,000 posts, and users have the power to continue discussions by adding threads. Posts on the BBS (Internet Bulletin Board System) cannot be deleted. Along with text messages, 2-channel subscribers post ASCII artwork, often elaborate pictures made out of letters, punctuation marks and other printable characters.
  6. The story began after a shy twenty-two year old, given the handle 'Train Man' on the second day of the discussion, protected a woman from a drunk on a Tokyo train.[5] Although such harassment is common on Tokyo trains, help from a stranger is not, and the woman sent Train Man expensive Hermes brand teacups to show her gratitude. While the choice of Hermes cups is unusual, gift giving is an accepted way of showing appreciation in Japan. In a post that was part of a larger forum on computer games on a board for 'doku otoko,' the title of which is a pun for men who are both 'single' (doku) and regard themselves to be as unattractive as 'poison' (also pronounced 'doku'), Train Man, who had never had a girlfriend, asked for advice on how to invite the woman, affectionately nicknamed 'Hermes,' on a date.
  7. From the start, Train Man appeared as an exceptionally sensitive and caring person, with whom many 2-Channel subscribers felt a sense of empathy and a desire to help. The story developed as the online community, mostly men, offered and debated suggestions on how Train Man could make Hermes fall in love with him and as Train Man reported the events of his new relationship and feelings about how his life was changing. The story increasingly attracted new writers and readers and spread far outside the 'poison man' board.
  8. In 2004, the fifty-seven-day online conversation that included a total of 29,862 posts was edited into a six-chapter story of 1,919 posts and made available on a free website.[6] Fans rendered the website into other world languages, such as the 2006 English translation by 'Project.Densha.' Train Man reached a global audience and was particularly popular in other parts of Asia and with Japanese communities in Europe and the United States.[7] Each chapter of the online novel detailed a separate 'mission' that Train Man needed to complete in order to further his romance and included such tasks as inviting Hermes to dinner and holding her hand. The resulting narrative of boy meets girl and boy tries to take control of the relationship focused as much on Train Man as the fan community who supported him.
  9. Train Man and his supporters are self-identified 'otaku,' a derogatory term coined in studies of antisocial behaviours in the first half of the 1980s and made notorious by serial killer Miyazaki Tsutomu in 1989.[8] Especially from the early 1990s, otaku became a form of address among like-minded fans, as evident in the 1991 cult-hit mockumentary Otaku no bideo (Otaku Video). Although applied to other fandoms, the term is now mostly used both playfully and pejoratively to denote ardent collectors of manga, anime and computer technologies. Because of the global popularity of these forms of popular culture, otaku has had more positive connotations abroad than in Japan. Otaku implies the constant desire to learn more about a hobby, either for profit or for pleasure, and the sense of pride in being able to trade in knowledge of things that are often cutting-edge. Some of the world's richest and most influential men have been technology otaku, including Microsoft's Bill Gates and 2-Channel's administrator Nishimura Hiroyuki, showing the power and profitability of this form of geek culture.
  10. Especially in discussions among fans, otaku are divided into subgroups. Train Man represents the 'Akiba-kei otaku' or the predominantly male denizens of Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district, a subculture that is not too far removed from mainstream urban society. In Train Man, Akiba-kei otaku are portrayed as manifesting both conspicuous consumption and production, giving rise to new trends, vocabularies and behaviours through the shared desire for brands and commodities. Members of Akiba-kei Internet forums, interviewees in media reports and bloggers have generally expressed a mix of shame and pride in belonging to these communities— feelings articulated by Train Man.
  11. Through the online conversation that often reads as a guide to fashion and dating in Tokyo, Train Man gained confidence, especially as he changed his clothing and hairstyle. Train Man hid but did not give up his otaku identity. In a pivotal point in their relationship, he used his knowledge of computers to impress Hermes, whose nickname also shows an association with consumer culture.
  12. On 9 May 2004, Train Man posted on 2-Channel that he had confessed his love for Hermes, and, according to the edited story, the online community celebrated. Love confessions are a stock part of Japanese fiction and film, but Train Man unconventionally discussed his fears and feelings with other characters, rather than just making the reader privy to these private thoughts. In the last posts included in the story, the 2-Channel subscribers tell Train Man that he had successfully graduated from his lessons on how to be an ideal romantic partner and no longer needed the advice of the otaku community, who have, in turn, learned from his example. His task was to now advance into 'mainstream' society, remembering the people who helped him motivate and mobilise to change but leaving his former life behind. The participants in the online discussion gave Train Man a send-off and bade him well, implying that, although a hero, he was no longer one of them. According to Train Man websites and blogs, it is rumoured that the couple is still together, although their real identities remain unknown.
  13. Notably, notions of mobility are integral to Train Man's identity formation, for he had to leave one community to enter another. Ironically, Train Man's transformation was encouraged by many 2-Channel subscribers who manifest their withdrawal from society through spatial retreat, feeling more comfortable interacting with people online rather than face-to-face. In some versions of the story, a few of Train Man's supporters were hikikomori, predominantly young men who enclose themselves in their homes and refuse to participate in the world outside. While perpetuating stereotypes of women in general and of subcultures of men, Train Man has influenced the development of a new kind of romantic male hero in Japanese literature and visual media: the compassionate, motivated otaku with disposable income and leisure time. Train Man marks a departure from common images of the stoic middle-class businessman, a figure who represented twentieth-century Japanese social ideals. Yet to be this otaku hero, Train Man needed to move outside his community and prove that wanted to and could conform to notions of male behaviour that have dominated the popular imagination since the post-war period. Thus, the construction of Train Man's identity is fraught with contradictions.
  14. As news of Train Man and his supporters spread, Japanese publishing companies vied to turn the popular website into a book. On 4 June 2004, Nishimura awarded the publication rights to thirty-four-year-old Shinchō publishing company editor Gunji Yoko, who had produced five successful books since 1998 but remained a contract rather than a lifetime employee. Because of the current Japanese publishing focus on so-called popular rather than more highbrow literature and in part due to financial losses, especially in sales of monthly periodicals, it has become an industry norm to contract young editors who are familiar with book trends. As exemplified by Gunji, this change has made it possible for women to work in higher-level positions, but, without much security, they often need to demonstrate that their jobs are necessary. Gunji was able to acquire the project from Nishimura because she proposed designing the book to resemble an online chat, complete with the ASCII artwork that appeared in the 2-Channel discussion, rather than developing the story into a more conventional novel with elaborate plot lines, character descriptions and eloquent use of language.[9] For her efforts, Gunji was awarded the honour of the 2006 Nikkei Woman of the Year award in the category of hit maker. Additionally, published at a time of proliferation of 2-Channel user guides and the popularisation of ASCII art, as evident in such online fads as the Flash-animated 'Kikkoman Fight Song,' Train Man heightened the domination of Nishimura's Internet empire.[10]
  15. Although the story website is still available for free and the URL address is even listed in the back of the book, more than 260,000 copies of Train Man sold in the first three weeks after it was released on 22 October, and sales reached 1.5 million in the spring and summer of 2005, when the film and television series aired.[11] According to a survey published in the 22 November 2004 issue of the news magazine AERA, which has focused in recent years on marriage and family issues, 70 per cent of the customers who purchased Train Man during the first three weeks were men and most likely 2-Channel participants, but, after November 2004, 46 per cent of book buyers were female, a change that was in part due to advertising campaigns and the ways that news of the story spread through television and other media.[12] In general, most readers were older than that of other novels written in text-message formats, such as the teenaged American Internet Girls series by Laura Myracle.[13]
  16. Produced at a time when publishing companies were seeking to revive sales, Train Man epitomised a new form of the book and transformed the act of reading. The collective author is listed as Nakano Hitori, a common 2-Channel phrase meaning 'one among us.'[14] No editor's name is provided. Because the posts are anonymous and the real Train Man and Hermes are unknown, notions of copyright, royalties and press releases changed. If Train Man were real, he should receive part of the copyright, which now belongs to Nishimura.[15] The 364-page book is arranged into six missions, all entirely composed of online posts; those by Train Man shaded in gray. A closing discussion on 16 May, a week after Train Man's confession of love, serves as an epilogue.[16] Very little explanation is given, implying that the target reader is familiar with the story and format. The story is told almost entirely through dialogue and makes the reader feel as though she is overhearing a conversation among a crowd. This new narrative form allows the plot to unfold in real time.
  17. The book is full of languages created by Japanese Internet users, resulting in a different appearance on the page and demanding familiarity with 2-Channel to be fully appreciated.[17] Often focused on the visuality of words and puns, aspects of this language include using homophones for Chinese characters, a technique that is not new and was used for transliteration of Western words into Japanese in the nineteenth century. This is evident in the author's name Nakano Hitori. In addition, long vowel sounds are shortened, short ones are lengthened, similar but incorrect characters are used, and two-word phrases are abbreviated into two syllables, a common way of referring to contemporary buzzwords and brands. For example, the popular coffee shop Starbucks is called 'Staba.'
  18. Train Man furthered the intersection between Japanese literature and new media, demonstrating a transformation in ways that Internet technology was affecting cultural production. Internet novels in a different format were published before Train Man but were not commercially successful. For example, in 2000, film director Iwai Shunji posted an interactive online website as part of plans for a film about the relationship between a Hong Kong pop star and a Taiwanese teen. Japanese adolescents logged on to talk about problems, including school bullying, in addition to respond to the story about music. Iwai published the posts in the book Riri shu shu no subete (All About Lily Chou Cho) in August 2001 and released poignant but horrifying film by the same title about three months later by the same distributor, Rockwell Eyes.[18] Unlike this and other earlier Internet novels, Train Man and the books it has inspired lightheartedly impart positive messages and begin with chance encounters.
  19. Additionally, the success of the Train Man Internet novel was perhaps instrumental in advancing publishing company experimentation with other new book forms written by amateur authors and enabled by new media. A prime example is the genre of 'cell-phone novels' that developed when telecommunications providers began offering unlimited text messaging in their monthly plans and flourished especially between 2006 and 2007. Most of Japan's bestsellers in these years were cell-phone novels. Readers, predominantly young women, subscribe to mostly free websites to receive installments of these dialogue-driven, single-authored stories on their cell phones. They can then read this mobile form of popular literature on trains and in other public spaces, thereby changing the nature of telling, circulating and consuming stories. Notably, like Train Man, cell-phone novels, which can be obtained for free, are published as books that sell hundreds of thousands, even millions, of copies and are made into television dramas, films and manga. For example, Ayu no monogatari (Deep Love), by an author known only as Yoshi, had grossed around 4.8 million yen by 2005 and the supposedly nonfictional Koizora (Love Sky), by Mika, ranked third on the national bestseller list in 2006 and earned 12.4 million yen.[19] The format and layout of cell-phone novels are more conventional than that of Train Man.
  20. Although a few disparaging posts and obscene examples of ASCII art appeared on 2-Channel, they were not included in the Train Man website and book.[20] According to the calculations by journalist Andō Kenji, only 6.4 per cent of the entire 2-Channel online conversation was included in the edited website and book, and there were at least four different endings that were less optimistic than the one that ended the published narrative and thereby prevented additional interpretations of the story.[21] Instead, the Internet community appears unified in their sincere desire to help 'one of us.' A note on the last page, presumably by Nakano Hitori, praises Train Man's courage and the 2-Channel users' sense of community. Beneath is an ASCII-art picture of two Monā cats, the 2-Channel mascot along with Giko neko, another ASCII-art cat figure, representing Train Man and Hermes. Hermes remarks that 2-Channel supporters are all good people, as they walk out an exit door, showing her approval of the kinds of otaku portrayed and the role that mobility played in their story.[22]
  21. Accordingly, Train Man can be read as a prime example of the 'pure love' (jun'ai) stories that were proliferating at the time and marketed toward both men and women. Pure-love stories have emerged as a distinct genre with its own defining conventions and tropes. In most cases, one or more of the characters falls in love for the first time, and the couple needs to overcome obstacles to be together. The stories end or a character dies before the love can become soiled with more mundane aspects of domestic life.[23] To date, the most popular pure-love story has been Katayama Kyoichi's 2001 Sekai no chūshin de, ai o sakebu (Crying Out Love, In the Center of the World), nicknamed 'Seka-chū.' Published in 2001, Seka-chū became the bestselling Japanese book of the twenty-first century in 2004 in part because of the efforts by a Shogakukan publishing company salesman to mobilise the book's fan base and the promotion by such young actresses as Shibasaki Kō, who appeared in the movie version. As evident in such cell-phone novels as Deep Love, many recent pure-love stories have increasingly focused on underdog characters who seek lost innocence and salvation through heterosexual romance, such as teenaged prostitutes who had to sell their bodies for reasons beyond their control.
  22. In addition to representing changes in the content and form of contemporary Japanese literature, Train Man exemplified the new ways stories were marketed. Namely, the phenomenon furthered the emphasis on cross-media promotion that was especially shown to be successful with Seka-chū, which was made into a manga, film and serialised television drama in 2004 and a Korean movie in 2005. Four manga versions of Train Man, using conventions of both seinen and shōjo genres (graphic novels targeting boys and girls, respectively) were published in 2005; one series was translated almost immediately into English and French. A play was staged in September 2005 on a multimedia set comprised of small interlocking rooms, conveying a sense of the 2-Channel individuals who supported Train Man.[24] Adaptations were timed to maintain the popularity of the trend. In addition, companion volumes, sociological studies and self-help books were published in the same year, marking one of the first times in recent years that popular fiction inspired examination of Japanese social structures and individual psychology. Prime examples are Otōsan ni mo wakaru? – jun'ai manuaru tettei kaiseki (The Story of Train Man – A Complete Guide to Pure Love that Even Your Father Can Understand) by the 'Train Man Friendship Society' and Arigato! Densha otoko – 50 man nin ga namidashita junai (Thank You, Train Man!: The Pure Love Story that Made 500,000 People Cry).[25]

    Figure 2. Train Man DVD (Japanese Version). Source:
    Figure 3. Train Man Television Drama Advertisement. Source: DramaWiki

  23. The most successful adaptations of Train Man were the June 2005 blockbuster film, shot in twenty-five days under the supervision of television director Murakami Masanori and released around a month later to mixed critical reviews, and the television series, which aired Thursdays at 10:00 p.m. from 7 July to 22 September 2005 on the Fuji Television Channel, with special episodes on 6 October 2005 and 23 September 2006. While the book is told entirely from the point of view of Train Man and his supporters, the film and television drama show aspects of Hermes' life and portray her as taking most of the initiative in the budding romance. These changes might have been due to conventions of film and television melodramas or were added to make Train Man a more empathetic character with perhaps a greater appeal to the target consumer demographic of eighteen to thirty-four-year-old female viewers. The film and drama had different casts, but the actor who played Train Man in the film made a cameo appearance in the drama and vice versa. The Train Man movie relied on the actor's star power, but the male lead Yamada Takayuki (who starred in the Seka-chū television drama) was said to be too handsome.[26]
  24. In May 2005, Fuji Television representatives handed out fliers in Akihabara, requesting 'real' otaku to act as extras in the television drama, which was more successful than the film in terms of character development and parodied the people it celebrated.[27] The last episode of this extremely popular series was viewed by more than 25.5 per cent of the national television audience.[28] The theme song sequence, a scene from an anime series created for the Train Man drama, was made to seem like an existing twenty-six-episode program, complete with female voice actresses and merchandise. It was produced as a real series, Getsumento heiki mina, loosely translated as Moon-Faced Rabbit Weapon Mina, that aired from January to March 2007 on Fuji Television, the same network as the drama. The television series ended in a very 'adult' kiss, the kind that is rarely shown in primetime, which was significantly, initiated by Hermes. Although an adult video, The Kissing and Sex of Train Man was created, there has been no animated version of the tale to date.
  25. The film and the television series clearly visualised the class message inherent in the story. For example, the man who harassed Hermes on the train appeared to be working class, and Hermes and Train Man often carried things with recognisable cultural capital, especially designer goods and bags from Akihabara shops. Both visual forms depicted different kinds of 2-Channel users, and Internet posts influenced the content and visual compositions. In addition to various otaku, the film and television drama showed hurt and lonely people, including battered women, alienated married couples and hopeless youth, all of whom learned from Train Man's courage. Otaku characters were also used to make audiences aware of pressing national issues, such as domestic violence and hikikomori. Through happy endings and through stunning visual finales, they conveyed the message that people could improve their lives if they tried hard enough.
  26. By showing in great detail the efforts made by Train Man and his community and their joy in achieving their goal of a happy romantic relationship, the media employed the commercially successful Japanese formula of what I call 'gambaru' or 'try your best and you will succeed' films. In gambaru narratives, the fallen hero finds confidence by excelling at an unusual hobby or an unlikely feat with the help of a coach and other players. The coach and other players, in turn, learn to love the activity through observing the player's hard work and thereby find hope in other aspects of their own lives. Different from such American 'zero-to-hero' movies as Karate Kid and Rocky, in Japanese gambaru films, the individual learns to be a better member of a group or family, school or workplace. Famous examples include the films Shall We Dance?, the tale of a salaryman who finds meaning in middle-class life through the subculture of ballroom dance and Waterboys, based on the true story of a high-school boys' synchronised swimming team.

    Figure 4. Chikan otoko (Pervert Man) Book Cover. Source: Figure 5. DVD of Bus Man (Napoleon Dynamite). Source:

  27. In 2005, different publishers created spin-off Internet books in the same format that were also supposedly based on true stories of otaku asking for love advice and sharing their relationships on 2-Channel. This further attests to the profitability of the Train Man phenomenon and the long-accepted Japanese cultural notion that good ideas should be emulated. For example, Chikan otoko (Pervert Man) began with a post by a nerd obsessed with anime and reptiles who was mistaken for a molester. The collective author's name is given as Itano Sumito, literally 'those who live online,' and it was made into a film and manga.[29] The Japanese title of the American film Napoleon Dynamite is Basu otoko (Bus Man), which was released on DVD in November 2005 and sometimes marketed in displays near those for Train Man.

    The Gender Politics of Mainstream Otaku Culture
  28. Train Man fuelled the fascination among mainstream domestic audiences for social minority group of otaku, who had already become part of Japan's global image of 'gross national cool,' to borrow a phrase from journalist Douglas McGray, and a new form of superpower through the export of popular culture.[30] This growing interest was exemplified by the feature exhibit at the Ninth Biennial International Architecture Exhibition Japanese Pavilion in 2004 on the ways that otaku consumer culture and communal networks have transformed city space and urban design.[31] Japanese guidebooks to Akihabara proliferated in 2005 and 2006 but reflected the view of otaku as an urban curiosity. New large-scale buildings and shops have opened in the neighbourhood, including the Akihabara Crossfield complex comprised of two skyscrapers. A train line linking Tsukuba University to Akihabara opened in 2005.[32] Additionally, the Train Man phenomenon occurred at a time when nerd culture, especially that of computer geeks, was becoming popular worldwide, as evident in such American television programs such as Heroes starring the Japanese character Hiro Nakamura, who sometimes speaks in Japanese. The word ' The otaku' was included in the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) in 2007.
  29. On the other hand, the Japanese mass media has espoused the belief that otaku are a cause and symptom of the possible breakdown of Japanese society and have associated otaku with sexual perversion and the growing gap between the rich and poor during a time of economic restructuring. This makes the promotion of Train Man all the more striking. Prejudices against otaku have even resulted in hate crimes. For example, especially between 2005 and 2007, at the peak of the discussion on Train Man, the media reported several 'otaku hunts'—muggings and beatings of male otaku and a few cases of the rape of women working as maids in Akihabara cafés. The attacks, perpetrated mostly by delinquent youth, were parodied in the 2006 televised version of prizewinning author Ishida Ira's science-fiction novel Akihabara@DEEP, the story of a group of superhero otaku who protect Akihabara, which also became a manga and movie. This late-night serialised drama starred members of the beautiful boy band Johnny's Jr. and famous young comedians dressed like stereotypes of otaku.
  30. Misunderstandings and biases against otaku were also apparent in the media discussions about Katō Tomohiro, the twenty-five year old who murdered three random people by running them over with a truck on the pedestrian streets of Akihabara and then fatally stabbed four others with a knife, on Sunday, 8 June 2008—the seventh anniversary of the Osaka Ikeda Elementary School killings. According to global reports, one reason why Katō committed this 'Akihabara Massacre' was because he was an otaku, citing as proof the fact that he posted thousands warnings about his crime on a cell-phone Internet site, spent most of his time shut in his home connecting with people online rather than in person, drew pictures in manga style when he was a high-school student and possessed several anime DVDs.[33] News articles also noted Katō's 'passion for Akihabara,' without providing answers to why he would choose to attack a place he considered a sanctuary.[34] However, in his posts, Katō bemoaned the facts that he was an underemployed temporary worker (haken) at a factory in Shizoka Prefecture, who thought that he had lost his job the day before committing mass murder, and did not have a girlfriend, rather than discussing an otaku identity. The mainstream mass media noted other factors that could have led to Katō's horrendous crimes, including his frustrations with the Japanese educational examination system and his inability to become a lifetime company employee. Yet perhaps in response to public fears concerning Katō's crimes, as some critics charge, the Japanese government decided to finally execute Miyazaki Tsutomu, the original 'otaku murderer' on 17 June 2008, ten days later.[35]
  31. The popularity of Train Man is in part due to its claims of realism and promotion as a 'true love story for the Internet generation, to paraphrase the tagline from the American translation.[36] The truth claim has, on one hand, made Train Man a topic of media debates about national issues facing Japan and has made changes in the publishing industry more striking. Conversely, it has spurred debate among people who consider themselves members of the otaku community about whether Train Man is a positive role model. Conspiracy theories that Train Man was not true and was instead created by Fuji Television and Dentsu Advertising Company, in collusion with 2-Channel's Nishimura and perhaps the Japanese Government, have also circulated in books and online, and critics have meticulously catalogued the aspects of the story that did not seem possible. For example, if Train Man is twenty-two years old, why does he post on 2-Channel that he has been working for three years at a job that requires a university degree? Why would a youth like Train Man use the verb 'dial' in reference to a cell phone? The expensive brand teacups, which Train Man seems to have received too quickly, are a strange thank-you present for a young man. The time of the couple's first date is a bit mysterious, for Train Man and Hermes went to two restaurants in two hours, the first being a Japanese restaurant that conventionally serves meals slowly. Lastly, the website in which all of the posts were compiled was created too quickly.[37]
  32. Through a confluence of marketing forces and media discourses, the height of the Train Man phenomenon came in 2005, the year that former Prime Minister Koizumi declared Japan's low fertility rates to be a national problem. Having steadily declined after falling below 2.0 in 1975, birth rates reached a then all-time low of 1.25.[38] Because marriage has been viewed in government and journalistic discourses as a means to paternity, late marriage also became issue of national concern. In 2005, the average marriage age for men was 29.8 and twenty-eight for women.[39] Although fertility rose slightly by 23,000 babies in 2006, the Ministry of Health predicts that the Japanese population will drop by 30 per cent over the next fifty years, and 40.5 per cent of the nation will be older than sixty-five in 2055.[40] A birth rate of 2.8 is needed to stabilise the Japanese population.[41] The Japanese government has taken measures to raise the number of babies, including instituting child-care facilities, tax incentives and family leave laws and has shown awareness that the falling birth rates are related to changes in gender roles and that both men and women need to be better able to combine responsibilities of family and work outside the home.[42]
  33. Instead of merely blaming women for selfishly choosing careers over marriage and family, AERA and other news magazines have published lengthy discussions about why men, especially those with so-called 'high specs' of advanced education, elite jobs and good looks, are choosing to marry late or not at all and about the need to change the salaryman system so that fathers can play a larger role in the family. The main reasons given for men who do not marry are based on emotions, implying that they could marry but choose not to.[43] Popular culture has played a role in providing images that mainly support these dominant discourses, and the character Train Man became a means to promote marriage, and thereby parenthood. To the best of my knowledge, Train Man has only been featured in mainstream journalistic debates about heterosexual men.
  34. Train Man shows that an otaku has the potential to become a new kind of ideal man, so long as he could acquire the looks and communication skills that would make him desirable to women and help him conform to mainstream society. Train Man did not relinquish his otaku identity and spent as much time on 2-Channel discussing his hobbies as he did Hermes, but he gained confidence and charm by changing his physical appearance. Expressed in the terms used in blogs and mass media articles in jest, while implying public fears of subcultures behind the humour, Train Man went from being an Aikiba-kei otaku to 'mote otoko' or 'popular guy,' a man with the style, confidence and money to conduct himself well in romantic relationships.[44] Fashion plays a large part in the story and was the prime factor that distinguishes Train Man from the men that Hermes would ordinarily choose.
  35. Notably, global narratives of socially-inept yet intelligent men pursuing capable, stylish women seem to share similar plot conventions and, although teaching that beauty is more than 'skin deep,' do not challenge gender norms. A common feature of most 'geek gets the girl' narratives is the geek's transformation scene. This climatic moment when the geek successfully appears to accept mainstream norms of masculinity convinces the girl of his inner beauty, thereby reaffirming stereotypes of both men and women and advancing consumer culture. In most cases, after the male underdog, the more empathetic character, dramatically alters his appearance, he becomes the dominant person in the relationship.[45]

    Figure 6. Book Cover of the Fashion Guide for Otaku. Source: Kinokuniya Online Store BookWeb Figure 7. Book Cover of the Train Man Styling Bible. Source: apparel-click

  36. Train Man became the icon of the fashion industry targeting men, for advertisers realised the potential of otaku as a consumer force willing to spend money on hobbies and aware of the social status associated with brand-name goods. Especially after the Train Man television drama, manuals were published to help otaku become more attractive romantic partners. For example, the October 2005 Datsu otaku fāshun gaido (Fashion Guide for Otaku), written in manga format, is the story of an otaku who gets the girl because he learns how to dress.[46] The December 2005 Densha otoko sutairingu baiburu (Train Man Styling Bible for Otaku) is a compendium of winners chosen from 135 entries in a 2005 contest sponsored by the web company Apparel Click, open only to fashion academy students around the same age as Train Man, to design clothing outfits that would turn Akiba-kei otaku into 'Moe-kei,' otaku. ('Moe' is common otaku slang for someone who is sexually attractive or 'hot.')[47] Although readers are most likely fashion designers and aficionados familiar with Apparel Click rather than the target consumers, these guides attempt to profit from the belief that all otaku are members of a subculture unified by shame, who desire to disguise themselves as a step to becoming more participatory members of larger society.[48] A main theme of Train Man is that it is okay to be an otaku so long as you do not look or act like one in public.
  37. It is important to acknowledge that not all otaku have felt positively about the mentality depicted in Train Man or the discourse on masculinity it engendered. Many instead have expressed a sense of pride at being part of a community apart from greater society and were angered by the suggestion that they should change. For example, in his March 2005 400-page book manifesto that sold 33,000 copies in its first three months, Denpa otoko (Radio Wave Man) and the September 2005 sequel Denpa taisen (Radio Wave Crusade), prolific journalist and self-proclaimed extreme otaku Honda Toru criticised Train Man for advancing the notion that otaku are inferior to members of mainstream culture and that they should transform their identities for what he scorned as 'love capitalism' (renai-shihonshugi) that might lead to unfulfilled desires.[49] Honda states Hermes should have been willing to change for Train Man, and he should have made her into an Akihabara otaku.[50] For example, in December 2005, the Akiba Blog, reported signs placed near sales displays of the Train Man television series DVD in Akihabara that 'Real Otaku Don't Desire Live 3-D Women.' Behind the extremely misogynistic slogan lay the idea that otaku might want to seek alternatives to mainstream visions of romance.[51] In one episode of the television drama Akihabara@DEEP, the otaku heroes discuss the impossibility of a relationship like that between Train Man and Hermes.
  38. Blogs and websites also reflect the fact that otaku men are finding romantic partners in their own communities. Online dating sites have been founded to pair men and women with similar hobbies to share 'otaku lifestyle together.'[52] This might also imply that female otaku are seen as equals to men, different from the way Hermes was objectified by Train Man's supporters.
  39. Female otaku have received more media attention since around the time of the Train Man phenomenon, but, rather than being embroiled in discussions about the family, they have most often been showcased as a creative force of consumers and producers of Japan's flourishing manga and anime industries and as brave pioneer members of fandoms generally dominated by men. Although positive, these reports present female otaku as anomalies rather than role models and reveal aspects of gender segregation in otaku culture. There was a spate of articles about and guidebooks for female 'rail fans,' train enthusiasts (affectionately called 'tecchan' or 'tekko') when the TBS network aired a serialised television drama about the topic, Tokkyu Tanaka san go (Tanaka Express Number Three), watched by an average of only 9 percent of the national audience) on Friday nights in the spring of 2007.[53] The 'Otome Road' in Tokyo's Ikebukuro district offers shops for female otaku, including the Swallowtail butler café that was opened (perhaps in parody) as an alternative to the more numerous and popular maid cafés serving men.[54]
  40. Lastly, Train Man has been perceived as the prototype of a suitable marriage partner for career women, a growing demographic blamed for marrying late. On one hand, Hermes exemplifies many of the characteristics of heroines of pure-love stories.[55] She is wealthy, for two Hermes teacups cost about $220. Especially in the film and television versions, she is portrayed as the daughter of an upper-middle-class family and earns her own income as a prominent company employee but seems willing to quit her job after marriage. She is compassionate and forgiving of others' character flaws. Additionally, in the serialised drama, Hermes speaks English fluently and travels abroad, shorthand ways to indicate a character's sophistication that have been conventions of Japanese television programs since the 1980s.
  41. On the other hand, although the term is not stated in the story and the movie and television versions downplay the fact that Hermes is older than Train Man, Hermes represents the media figure of the 'loser dog' (make inu), an unmarried woman in her thirties or forties who embraces her career and time with friends and spends money on fashionable entertainments or goods rather than on family. The term was popularised by Sakai Junko, prolific essayist and author of books on relationships, in her 2003 bestselling self-help book Make inu no toboe (Distant Howling of the Loser Dogs), written partly in response to the Japanese popularity of the American television program Sex and the City, which also depicts marriage as one of women's life goals. Th The lesser-used but more positive term for these women is 'ohitorisama,' coined around 1999 for women who dine by themselves in restaurants and adopted in feminist Ueno Chizuko's 2007 book Ohitorisama no rōgo (Growing Old Alone).[56]
  42. Sakai advocates that 'No matter how successfully they are in their careers, unmarried women in their thirties are "loser dogs" until they find husbands or become single mothers. Wives and mothers are "winner dogs".'[57] Sakai advises that 'loser dogs' should continue to spend money on themselves and look fashionable to show that they are not ashamed of their single status and that it is be their own choice. Yet she admonishes that unmarried women in their thirties and forties keep in mind that Japanese society has changed since the Bubble Era, the time when they came of age. They should accordingly adjust the qualities that they stereotypically value in men, such as the ability to appear recognisably elite in urban society. In her 2005 humorous essay collection Sono hito, dokushin? (Still Single?), Sakai writes that the pairing of 'loser dogs' and the kind of otaku represented by Train Man, both of whom exemplify aspects of conspicuous consumption, may be a countermeasure to late marriage and falling birth rates.[58]
  43. Overall, regardless of whether the story was based on real events or merely on the possibility that it could have happened, Train Man presents an important image of masculinity that arose from the interrelationship between new media, communities and a historical context of changing gender roles. Train Man has had a lasting influence on the ways that otaku culture has been examined in order to find possible solutions to, rather than merely being blamed for, pressing national issues and to understand twenty-first-century social and economic patterns. The trans-media phenomenon symbolises the power of online fan communities to establish cultural trends with larger political implications and reveals how the permeable boundaries between so-called mainstream Japan and its subcultures provide insight into contradictions inherent in the discourses underlying Japan's national growth. Few Internet novels in forms similar to Train Man have been published after 2006, perhaps because the trend is no longer as alluring. The book, however, has had an enduring impact upon the ways that stories have been written, marketed and consumed, as evident in the proliferation of cell-phone novels, and it has shaped television and film characters. While encouraging greater acceptance of communities that exist apart from larger public society, this tale of love, in the end, advocated conformity instead of alternative forms of marriage and family. While Train Man is an entertaining role model and exemplar of the power self-achievement, he has helped champion the social status quo.


    [1] The author would like to thank Mark McLelland, Fran Martin, Carolyn Brewer, the two anonymous readers, David Goodman, Kumiko Sato, and the members of the University of Oregon COL[TV] study group for their helpful suggestions and insights on global fandoms.

    [2] Chris Baker, 'Anime freaks now have a guide,' in Wired, 15 December 2004, URL:, site accessed 4 April 2008.

    [3] I am indebted to Kumiko Sato for the suggestion that I consult the Akiba Blog, a rich online resource of Akihabara culture found at

    [4] Lisa Katayama, 'Meet Hiroyuki Nishimura, the bad boy of the Japanese internet,' in Wired, 19 May 2008), URL:, site accessed 6 June 2008.

    [5] In the original online discussion, Train Man was first referred to as 'Post 731.'

    [6] Andō Kenji, Fūinsareta Densha otoko (Cracking the Story of Train Man), Tokyo: Ohta Books, 2005, p. 5. The official Train Man edited website can be found at

    [7] The 'Project.Densha' site is

    [8] The term 'otaku' has been credited to essayist Nakamori Akio (real name Shibahara Ansaku) in his 1983 series of 'Otaku Investigations' (Otaku no kenkyū). The term originated from an honorific form of second-person address, which Nakamori noticed fans use in reference to each other. Miyazaki Tsutomu was arrested in July 1989 for killing four girls, aged four to seven, and being a sexual predator to other children. Because he possessed an exorbitant amount of anime and horror videos and discussed his murders in reference to these media, his case started a public panic about otaku. See, for example, Machiyama Tomohiro, 'Mondo Tokyo: otaku,' in Cruising the Anime City: An Otaku Guide to Neo Tokyo, ed. Patrick Macias and Tomohiro Machiyama, San Francisco: Stone Bridge Press, 2004, pp. 13–15, p. 14.

    [9] 'Shinchōsha: 27 sai, ano issatsu no hon ga tenkideshita' [Member of the Shinchō Publishing Company: With this One Book, She Made a Turning Point in Her Career at Age Twenty-Seven], Nikkei Woman, 1 January 2006, pp. 62–63, p. 62. I would like to thank Shiori Takeuchi for recommending this article.

    [10] The mainstream consumption of 2-Channel ASCII art is exemplified by the popularity of the Flash animated song 'Fight! Kikkoman,' which was based on the soy sauce brand name. In the song, an ASCII-art superhero fights food-related villains, including ketchup man, and teaches Giko neko the foods that taste best with soy sauce. The song was created by 2-Channel users and has no connection with the Kikkoman Company. I would like to thank Henry Oshiro for bringing this song to my attention. English explanations for the main characteristics and designs of ASCII art were featured in the May 2008 issue of Wired magazine. Lisa Katayama, 'Art and ASCII: the stories behind all those brackets, slashes, and carets,' in Wired, 19 May 2008, URL:, site accessed 20 June 2008.

    [11] Densha otoko o kangaeru tomo no kai (Train Man Friendship Society), Otosan ni mo wakaru?: Junai manuaru tettei kaiseki (A Complete Guide to Pure Love So That Even Your Father Could Understand) Tokyo: Koara bukkusu, 2005, p. 7; Janet Ashby, 'Hey Mr. Trainman,' in Japan Times, 18 November 2004, URL:, site accessed 8 March 2007. A British English translation was published in 2006 by Constable and Robinson, but an American English version was not printed until 2007 by Del Rey Books, a section of Random House devoted mostly to manga.

    [12] Suzuki Atsufumi, 'Densha otoko' wa dare nano ka – 'netaka' suru komiunikesshon (Who is 'Train Man'?: his story has become the basis of communication), Tokyo: Chūō kōron shinsha, 2005, pp. 69, 72, and 111.

    [13] Lauren Myracle, ttyl, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc: 2004; ttfn, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2006; l8r, g8r, New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 2007.

    [14] For an explanation of Nakano Hitori, see Suzuki, 'Densha otoko' wa dare na no ka, p. 140.

    [15] The Shinchō editor in charge of the Train Man project explained the publication procedure in a public relations website: 'Densha otoko, ganbare!' (Keep Trying, Train Man!), URL:, site accessed 17 April 2007.

    [16] Nakano Hitori, Densha otoko (Train Man), Tokyo: Shinchōsha, 2004.

    [17] For a list of common 2-Channel Internet slang translated into English, see '2-Channel–English navigator,' URL:, site accessed 18 March 2007.

    [18] Iwai Shunji, Riri shu shu no subete (All About Lily Chou Chou), Tokyo: Rockwell Eyes, 2001.

    [19] 'Futsū no wakamono ga keitai shōsetsu–besutoserā mo zokuzoku' (Average young adult readers turning to cell-phone novels: the bestsellers continue), in, 11 February 2007, URL:, site accessed 1 March 2008.

    [20] For example, Train Man logged off at 12:32 a.m. on 17 March, after successfully making dinner plans with Hermes. 2-Channel subscribers continued to chat late into the night, sharing doubts that Train Man would have the courage to start a romantic relationship. This scepticism does not appear in the edited website or Internet novel. For a discussion about and examples of the 2-Channel threads and lewd ASCII art edited out of the published versions, see Andō, Fūinsareta Densha otoko.

    [21] Andō, Fūinsareta Densha otoko, p. 5.

    [22] Nakano Hitori, Train Man, p. 364.

    [23] Suzuki, 'Densha otoko' wa dare na no ka, p. 60; Kaori Shoji, 'Japan gripped by obsession with pure love,' in Japan Times, 30 December 2004, URL:, site accessed 1 March 2007.

    [24] Tanaka Nobuko, 'Salaryman nightmares, otaku dreams,' in Japan Times, 5 September 2005, URL:, site accessed 14 May 2007.

    [25] Arigatō! Densha otoko (Thank You, Train Man!), Tokyo: Takarajima, 2005; Densha otoko o kangaeru tomo no kai (Train Man Friendship Society), The Story of Train Man –' A Complete Guide to Pure Love that Even Your Father Can Understand (Otōsan ni mo wakaru? – jun'ai manuaru tettei kaiseki), Tokyo: Koara bukkusu, 2005.

    [26] Train Man had a limited international theatrical release in 2006 and was shown mainly in anime conventions and in cities with large Japanese communities. VIZ Media released a region-one DVD for American audiences in February 2007, with a tagline 'A love story for the geek in all of us.'

    [27] 'Fuji Densha otoko dorama – "koana otaku no kata" o Akiba de ekiutora daiboshū' (Mass recruitment of 'real otaku' to be extras on the Train Man Fuji Television Drama), in Akiba Blog, 16 May 2005, URL:, site accessed 10 June 2008.

    [28] Fukui Yōhei and Uchiyama Hiroki, 'Densha otoko no iya onna ron' (Train man's argument against women), in AERA, 17 October 2005, pp. 16–19, p. 16.

    [29] Itano Sumito, Chikan otoko (Pervert Man), Tokyo: Futabasha, 2005.

    [30] Douglas McGray, 'Japan's gross national cool,' in Foreign Policy Magazine, no. 130 (May–June 2002):44–54.

    [31] Kenzo Tange, Okada Toshio,, 'Japanese pavilion at the 9th Biennale International Architecture Exhibition 2004,' URL:, site accessed 6 March 2008; 'Otaku': Persona=Space=City, in La Biennale di Venezia: Japanese Pavilion, URL:, site accessed 6 March 2008.

    [32] Sugiura Yumiko, 'Tsukuba otaku ga yatte kita' (The Tsukuba city otaku have arrived), in AERA, 19 December 2005, pp. 60–61.

    [33] For a sample English-language blog response to the Japanese media coverage, see 'Tomohiro Kato – Akihabara Killer,' in Japan Probe, URL:, site accessed 10 June 2008.

    [34] Leo Lewis, 'Tokyo knifeman Tomohiro Kato recorded killing spree on mobile phone blog,' in The Times, 9 June 2008, URL:, site accessed 9 June 2008.

    [35] See, for example, Martin Foster, 'Japan hangs three convicted killers,' in New York Times, 18 June 18 2008, URL:, site accessed 18 August 2008.

    [36] Nakano Hitori, Train Man, Bonnie Elliott, trans., New York: Del Rey Books, 2007.

    [37] Densha otoko o kangaeru tomo no kai, Otosan ni mo wakaru?, pp. 459–60. For a discussion on the truth value of Train Man and differences between the official website and the edited book, see 'Densha otoko-san no zenhatsugen' (Complete remarks by Train Man), URL:, site accessed 18 April 2007.

    [38] The highest post-war fertility rates in Japan were in 1947, when 2.69 million babies were born. In 2005, 1.08 people died, but only 1.08 million babies were born. See Kitazumi Takahashi, 'Low birthrate threatens Japan's future: support, job flexibility may prompt couples to have more children,' in Japan Times, 9 November 2006, URL:, site accessed 1 March 2008.

    [39] Late marriage has been attributed to a variety of factors, including lifestyle changes among youth, high rates of unemployment and loss of traditional family structures and the community that supported them. According to the Japanese Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, the percentage of unmarried men and women over thirty-five in Japan rose from 7.5 in 1990 to 18.6 in 2005. See Philip Brasor, 'What's love got to do with it? Holding on for a while,' in Japan Times, 10 September 2006, URL:, site accessed 23 September 2007; Annette Schad-Seifert, 'Coping with low fertility? Japan's Government measures for a gender equal society,' working paper, Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien, 2006, p. 5. Perhaps because of the improving economy, there were 18,000 more marriages nationwide in 2006 (for an estimated total of 732,000 couples) than in 2005. Kitazumi, 'Low birthrate threatens Japan's future.'

    [40] 'Japan birthrate shows rare rise,' in BBC News, 1 January 2007, URL:, site accessed 2 March 2008.

    [41] Kitazumi, 'Low birthrate threatens Japan's future.'

    [42] Schad-Seifert, 'Coping with low fertility?,' p. 5.

    [43] Kimura Keiko and Kuzutani Shingo, 'Kekkonnan danjo no honne–Dokushin danjo 1200 nin tettei chōsa' (The bottom line about difficulties in finding a spouse–detailed survey of 1,200 single men and women), in AERA, 3 January 2005, pp. 16–21, pp. 17–18; Shirakawa Tōko and Kuzutani Shingo, 'Takai spekku otoko kekkonsazu' (Men with 'high specs' who do not marry), in AERA, 3 January 2005, pp. 46–49, p. 47.

    [44] Sakai Hirokazu and Fukui Yōhei, 'Densha otoko no mote otoko kenkyū,' (Train Man's study of popular guys), in AERA, 27 June 2005, pp. 14–19, p. 16. For an example media article contrasting 'Akiba-kei otaku' and 'popular guys' in terms of marriage and lifestyle choices, see Fukui Yōhei and Murabayashi Takanobu, 'Densha otoko ni naritai bokutachi' (We want to be like Train Man), in AERA, 28 February 2005, pp. 12–17.

    [45] These narrative tropes are taken to extremes in the American reality television program Beauty and Geek (begun in 2005), in which couples comprised of a 'gorgeous but academically impaired' woman and a 'brilliant but socially-challenged' man compete in an 'ultimate social experiment' for the chance to win a $250,000 prize. The 'missions' in the first season were strikingly similar to those in the Train Man story. As a plot twist in season four (2007), one of the couples comprised a male beauty and a female geek. According to the official program website, this reversal raised concerns whether the other men would feel intimidated and the women would try to give the 'geek' a cosmetic makeover. See CW Network Official Website: Beauty and the Geek,, site accessed 8 June 2008.

    [46] Kuze, Torendo Puro, and Haruse Hiroki, Datsu otaku faashun gaido (Fashion Guide for Otaku), Tokyo: Ohmsha, 2005.

    [47] Kikuchi Fumie, Densha otoko sutairingu baiburu (Train Man Styling Bible), Tokyo: Sogo Horei shuppan, 2005; 'Densha otoko sutairingu baiburu – "Kore issatsu de akiba-kei kara mote-kei ni henshindekiru"' (Train Man Styling Bible: Change from Akiba-kei to Mote-kei With the Help of This One Volume), in Akiba Blog, URL:, site accessed 25 May 2008. For more information on the Apparel Click contest and the winning entries, see 'Densha otoko fashhun kōdineito kontesto,' (Train Man Fashion Coordinator Contest), URL:, site accessed 25 May 2008. In the spring of 2005, Apparel Click sponsored a fashion contest around the theme of Calpis milk soda and received more than 500 entries.

    [48] See, for example, Sakai Hirokazu and Fukui Yōhei, 'Densha otoko no mote otoko kenkyū,' p. 16.

    [49] Honda Tohru, Denpa otoko (Radio Wave Man), Tokyo: Sansai Books, 2005; Honda Tohru, Denpa taisen (Radio Wave Crusade), Tokyo: Ōta shuppan, 2005; Fukui Yōhei and Uchiyama Hiroki, 'Densha otoko no iya onna ron,' pp. 17 and 19; Sakai Hirokazu and Fukui Yōhei, 'Densha otoko no mote otoko kenkyū,' p. 14. Sayaka Yakushiji, 'A world of his own: create, erase, redraw,' in, 4 June 2005, URL:, site accessed 10 June 2008; 'Denpa taisen' – shijōsho, kobamu mote-kei o mezasu bokutachi no tame no goshin rekuchā hon (Radio Wave Crusade – The Very First Anti-'Popular Guy' Primer for Us Otaku), Akiba Blog, 18 September 2005, URL:, site accessed 11 June 2008.

    [50] See, for example, Fukui Yōhei and Uchiyama Hiroki, 'Densha otoko no iya onna ron,' p. 19; Sakai Hirokazu and Fukui Yōhei, 'Densha otoko no mote otoko kenkyū,' p. 14.

    [51] 'Somo somo jijitsu no 'ota' wa, 3D ni yokujōshimasen' (Real otaku do not desire 3-d women), in Akiba Blog, 9 December 2005, URL:, site accessed 9 June 2008.

    [52] 'Otaku o tagetto ni shita deai-kei saito,' (Online dating for otaku), in Akiba Blog, 11 October 2007, URL:, site accessed 14 June 2008.

    [53] 'Moe o tsukamu bijinesu sensu' (The business sense to profit from 'moe'), in AERA, 18 July 2005, pp. 16–17; Ariyoshi Yuka and Sugiura Yumiko, 'Moeru onna otaku otoko no gajō ni shinshutsu' (Growing ranks of female otaku–advancing into a male stronghold), in AERA, 20 June 2005, pp. 42–45. Examples of books on how to be a female 'rail fan' include Joshitetsu (Rails for Women), Tokyo: Marble Books, 2007 and Tekko no heya (Female Rail Fan's Room), Tokyo: Kotsū shimbunsha, 2007. Many women are hesitant to admit that they are otaku because of the continued negative connotations of the subculture.

    [54] Akamura Akemi, 'For female 'otaku,' a coffee house all their own,' in Japan Times, 24 April 2006, URL:, site accessed 8 June 2008.

    [55] Suzuki, 'Densha otoko' wa dare na no ka, pp. 64–66.

    [56] Ueno Chizuko, Ohitorisama no rōgo (Growing Old Alone), Tokyo: Hōken, 2007.

    [57] Sakai Junko, Make inu no toboe (Distant Howling of the Loser Dogs), Tokyo: Kodansha bunko, 2006, pp. 8 and 9; Kaori Shoji, 'One day, Japan's losing dogs will howl in unison,' in Japan Times, 15 April 2004, URL:, site accessed 10 September 2007.

    [58] Fukui Yōhei and Uchiyama Hiroki, 'Densha otoko no iya onna ron,' p. 17. Especially since 2005, there has been a plethora of sociological studies and self-help books on men and women marrying late. In addition to Sakai, authors offering self-help books and sociological studies of otaku and marriage include Watanabe Shin and Saito Tamaki.

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