cosplay by Daniel Griffin

otaku, nerds and anoraks

Help! Disaster! Fire and Smoke!
Robin’s trod on Batman’s cloak.
Torn a rip right up the back…
He’ll have to wear his anorak.

Kate Williams, Batman Comes Undone!

At the buffet at the station we can grab a bite to eat;
Because we’re going spotting we’ll need three Shredded Wheat;
Well, you’ve got to keep your strength up and keep yourself well fed
When you’re spotting with the big boys down at Crewe South Shed.

Dave Roberts, Crewe South Shed

I am a nerd.
Some have called me
a word nerd.
Geeks are too chic.
You see ’em in the street
Pretending not to be pretty

Charles Linart

I will now start the first Occult Club meeting. But I’m the only member. And I’m also the president.
Fuyuki Hinata, Keroro Gunso

Happy new year to everyone who reads my blog. Best wishes for happiness in your private lives and success in your professional and academic lives. For aikido and budo I wish you a deeper understanding than last year. Nobuyuki Watanabe Sensei once told me that the most important thing was never to stand still. Don’t get stuck doing things by rote so that you stagnate. Go in a spiral and always upwards. That applies to eveything not just martial arts. For the first post of the new year I want to write about otaku.

I went round a bend in a country road in Hakone near Mount Fuji once and was suddenly hit with the surreal sight of a group of middle-aged Japanese men dressed in fake American police uniforms riding on Harley Davidsons.

The word otaku has connotations of animé and manga and plastic figurines from Akihabara, the electric town area of Tokyo. But the meaning is wider than American words like nerd and geek or British words like anorak and trainspotter.

Otaku お宅 in Japanese means house and can be just a polite and formal way to say you. How it started to be used for animé and manga fans was apparently something like friends all calling each other otaku in a joking way. Like a group of guys fooling around calling each other sir. So they were all otaku and they recognized other otaku. Eventually the name came into wider use.

So now it means someone with an obsessive interest in the details of an obscure subject. Otaku have their own specialized vocabulary. Incomprehensible to outsiders.

It is probably an inexplicable phenomenon. And I haven’t got time to try to explain it because now I have to go to aikido keiko at the dojo. I just have to get my gi and my hakama and my bokken and my jo. Just a moment… Oh.



Batman Comes Undone! © Kate Williams published in Superheroes, McMillan 1999. Kate kindly gave me permission to use her cool poem for this article.
Please check out her home page at for great children’s poems.
This is her latest book of children’s poetry:
And the link to her published poetry:

Dave Roberts kindly gave me permission to use his great poem Crewe South Shed about the ultimate trainspotter.
This is the complete version:
Please also check out his home page with details of various live performances and also his interesting blogs The Odd Exception and The MiddlewichDiary. I loved his poem Glossop too and I’ll use it when I get a chance. Nice rhyme in the last line: shut rhymes with kaput which might throw any readers south of Birmingham.
Salttown Productions
The Odd Exception
The Middlewich Diary

Great photo by Daniel Griffin used under creative commons licence. Check out his wonderful portraits in black and white on flickr.

Ian McMillan performs a hilarious poem about a trainspotter called Derek. Very cool!

Charles Linart’s cool Nerd poem

the monologue from the movie Trainspotting


wikipedia articles

manga and animé quotes

specialized vocabulary!
aikido: pure martial art
bokken: wooden sword
dojo: training hall
gi: cotton training uniform
hakama: wide split over-trousers
jo: wooden staff
keiko: practice


Finally I want to thank poet Kate Williams and poet and performer Dave Roberts once more for allowing me to use their poems and for being so cool and helpful and so lightning fast! Thanks guys.

Check out their home pages and buy Kate’s books and go to Dave’s shows


this post is simultaneously published on aikiweb the internet aikido site

my columns on aikiweb:
Martial Arts in Manga and Animé
Indigo Blue
Improvised Weapons No.1: The Umbrella
Unbalance – Feet of Clay
Half a Tatami
Zen in the Art of Aikido

This was originally posted on the aikido site aikiweb

Aqui la traducción en español.

Hier die Deutsche Übersetzung.

I have an essay in a charity e-book put together by some writers and photographers to raise money for victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku on 11 March 2011. It costs $9.99.

© niall matthews 2012


  1. niall

    Thanks Carina. There is a bit of an otaku in all of us.

  2. Your new post shows that you started the new year with power and new energy. Thanks for a very interesting article, for me a total new topic!

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