At his favorite neighborhood cafe, Shunsuke Yamagata, a college student who proudly calls himself a nerd, smiled shyly behind his horn-rimmed glasses at waitresses hurrying about in black Minnie Mouse shoes and lacy, racy mini-dresses inspired by Japanese comics. The place is a dream come true for Yamagata, whose passion is collecting comics and cartoons. He giggled with glee when his servers addressed him in the squeaky little character voices they use to delight their fantasy-loving clientele.
For Yamagata, 20, it was just another night out with the pocket-protector crowd in Tokyo‘s neon-splashed Akihabara district, where “costume cafes” are the latest of hundreds of new businesses catering to Japan’s otaku , or nerds. A subculture of social misfits obsessed with electronic role-playing games, manga comics and Japanese animation, they began gathering in Akihabara in the late 1990s, lured by the district’s proliferation of electronics retailers and stores selling everything you would need to build your own computer.
Maligned and shunned by mainstream society, here they stayed, their tastes and habits transforming the area also known as Electric Town into what sociologists are calling an urban first — a ghetto of geeks.