Oft Mistaken Terminology: Otaku

Otaku is a familiar Japanese word to most, often being used to refer to an introvert/ambivert who spends his/her time indulging in anime, manga, and video games. This, however, is only the North American interpretation of the word. In Japan, the word literally means “someone at home” and refers to someone who, more often than not, is at home doing a specific task. Some Japanese people refer to anime fans, train enthusiasts, even model constructors (people who construct model planes, trucks, ect) as respective forms of otaku for doing what they love. In a way, everyone is their own degree/type of otaku.

Where the negative connotation comes in is when an otaku suffers from hikikomori,¬†which is defined by some to be a mental state in which the victim feels the need and/or desire to withdraw from society completely, but is not directly linked by any other mental disability (hikikomori is NOT caused by Asperger’s or Autism). It results in a dangerous, lonely, selfish lifestyle that is often reflected on by the word otaku in western cultures. It is important not to confuse the terms, as it can be insulting to otaku who are active in society. It is also important that we try to help people who suffer from hikikomori. An estimated 700,000 people worldwide suffer from this (what do I call it? It’s not really a syndrome or a disability… State of mind I suppose?) and an estimated 1,550,000 people are on the verge of it. The reasons and causes are for a different discussion.


In short, we are all otaku to some degree. We are not all hikikomori, and we should strive to help those who are. Please make effort not to confuse the two.