You are all Otaku: Part Two – The Nail that Sticks Out gets Hit

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This the second part of ‘You are all Otaku’. Click here for Part One. In this article, I continue to discuss Otaku as well as a Japanese expression: ‘The nail that sticks out gets hit’.

Quick, put this bag over your head

Do you want to be the same as everyone else? Dress the same, act the same, go to the same places, follow the same interests, have the same conversations?

We are not all the same. Even in the same family, people will have different personalities and interests. Observe a busy street and you can see the diversity in people’s shapes and features. Same bodily structures, but different expression of it.

So if we are different, why do we try and hide that difference by trying to make out we are the same? It is fear. We are afraid to stand out.

The Nail that sticks out gets hit

The reason I call Otaku brave, is because they manifest in a culture that absolutely hates diversity and ‘standing out’. There is a Japanese expression – ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’. It is meant as a warning not to stand out, not to draw attention to yourself.

So lots of Japanese workers wear black suits, have the same haircut, never think to dye their hair and all walk and work the same way.

Many Japanese live that expression ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’. And conversely they have one of the highest suicide rates in the developed World. Have you ever seen Tokyo station at rush hour? It is a sea of black suits. People don’t dare to stand out in this society. Success is tied in with conformity. Tell me, how is that different to North Korea? This is where that expression – ‘The Nail that stands out, gets hit’,  gets you.

It’s a dumb expression.

The Japanese used to stick out

Firstly, the Japanese that turned Japan into the powerhouse of the 60s and 70s all stood out. They had huge charismatic personalities and were different to the Japanese today. Some of them were innovators with some serious guts and would probably laugh if they heard the expression ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’. If they didn’t stick out, there would be no industries, no great big Japanese companies, no innovations.

Only the bureaucrats and feeble-minded say ‘the nail that sticks out, gets hit’. Only they would say ‘don’t stand out otherwise others will judge us’. Well so what?

Not standing out is fine if you don’t want to stand out. But if you do want to stand out, than stand out. We are not all automatons.

Acupuncture and ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’

Even in Acupuncture, one of the most famous acupuncturists of modern time was Kodo Fukushima. Apparently he had a bullish, loud charismatic personality. His technique was rough. Fukushima wanted to create an organisation for blind acupuncturists even though sighted acupuncturists at the time, didn’t believe he could do it. That didn’t stop him. He did it anyway. Kodo Fukushima certainly stood out and became very successful for doing so. He was a nail that definitely stuck out. I wrote about him in my book.

So how does this relate to Otaku?

The Otaku within

There is a bit of otaku in all of us, But we suppress it.

How many of us have interests in things that we keep hidden from other people. They are our little secrets. We are afraid to show them in case people think us weird or strange.

Really there’s nothing wrong with anything we like, and so what?

A cool otaku lady

I had a client, a very stylish lady, who had a quirky tastes. On a trip to Japan, she found some of those shops that sell anime figurines. And she bought several of the most ‘otaku-esque’ of them. These were anime female-figurines  with huge bussoms, butts, school-girl white panties and bikinis.

I don’t know what anime they come from, but they looked very cool. She collected a few of them and displayed them on her bookshelf, which fit her general décor very well – a kind of noveua-art-type-decor. Perhaps she is deep down an otaku, though you would never tell from her appearance.

I want one

After seeing her buy these dolls, I too decided I wanted to have some of my own. So on my next occasion to Japan I did what I typically do and threw myself 100% in getting anime dolls. This is the way I tend to do things. The problem is that these dolls are very expensive – typically £30 to £70. I didn’t have that disposable income to buy them. However, I found the next best solution.

Recycle Shops in Japan

You can buy lots of these dolls second-hand. Many recycle shops in Japan sell them. Some of them are incredibly cheap – only like 200-500 yen. (£2-4) I also managed to win a couple of dolls from a shooting machine in a nearby games arcade – in a magnificent moment of glory. So I came back with a suitcase full of them.

That’s pretty Otaku.

On reflection. When my client did this, it made her apartment look cool, which in turn made her look cooler.

Unfortunately, when I put these dolls on my display case, it makes me look like a fullblown-wannebee otaku. I didn’t look cool. I just looked like otaku. Yada.

Otaku and the law of attraction

During this trip, when I actually went out of my way to find anime dolls, not only did I succeed  in building up an impressive collection in a short period of time for very little money, but I was also given a Dragon ball figurine as a present by a family member even though I didn’t ask for it. I suppose its like the law of attraction again. It I ask for something, it is granted. So I got an extra anime doll.

I was glad to receive the doll, but it kind of threw my collection off-balance. All my dolls are women, whereas the dragon ball doll is the only male figure I’ve collected. If I put them all together it kind of makes him look like the master of an otaku doll-harem.

But I’m not a real otaku

The picture above is a small assembly of some of my dolls. But it doesn’t mean I am an otaku… right.

Mind you, there was the time I visited the maid café in Akihabara.

Akihabara is basically Otaku-central. And I have to admit, the last few times I’ve been to Tokyo, I can’t help stopping in there and looking around. Something about the place draws me in. I can’t help myself…

But I am not an otaku.

Accept the Otaku within

Ok, I accept there is an otaku in me, and though I don’t dress like one, it is there. And I sense that side of me has a lot to teach me.

The lessons are that it teaches me to be more accepting of others and also to embrace interests that have meaning to me if I want to enjoy my life.

Being an otaku is not just about liking anime figurines or pop idols like AKB48. It is about embracing something that makes you feel happy, it could be trains, planes, collecting obscure rock groups LPs, anything.

It makes us more interesting as people and well why not? Being an otaku is the antidote to this over-serious life

Otaku is an antidote to excess seriousness

Aren’t we already too serious in life. Striving to look good with our jobs, careers, our homes, our holidays. Even Facebook is about portraying this great version of ourselves. Facebook doesn’t sit well with the inner otaku inside of me, so I had to unplug from it.

So if you want to be happy in life, don’t be normal, Be an otaku.

I am an Otaku

Deep down, I know I am an Otaku. Although, just like Densha Otoko in the movie I talked about earlier, I have overcome most of my less-attractive otaku features and I am able to pass in society. If you meet me, you may not be able to immediately tell that I had otaku tendencies. I usually look like a regular person.

I have been able to balance my otaku traits with an awareness of style and appearance. In the past, I have lived my life according to that phrase ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’, but I want to stop doing that now. Life is too short to care about what people or society thinks

Childhood Otaku habits

As a school kid, I collected various toys. I had a minor obsession with Michael Jackson for many years.

For school kids, something that is popular in society, is not necessarily cool. That was how it was with Michael Jackson. He was popular in society, but for school kids – majorly uncool.

Whilst all my classmate were openly talking about rap or metal depending on their groups, I was the only kid to openly say I liked Michael Jackson. I had all his albums on LP (not even CD). It had to be LP. I had videos. Also, I had a particular interest in Lego, even to an age when kids stopped playing with it and had a small collection of Lego buildings.

My otaku fashion sense

I used to have zero understanding of fashion and thought that what I was wearing was ok, but actually looking back it wasn’t. That is probably how it is with a lot of otaku. They think what they are wearing is fine, but actually it is not.

My wife still tells me she was shocked at my choice of clothes when she first met me. I bought a really cheap t-shirt from a French market. I think it was £1. It seemed like a great bargain at the time I thought it was cool and that it had a kind of retro look to it. My wife thought it looked like an ‘ojisan’ top – a shirt worn by your grandfather. I guess it was uncool, but I didn’t see it.

It was only a few years later, that I started to develop an interest in fashion and underwent a fashion rehabilitation, as mentioned in this article.

She likes to think she rehabilitated my fashion sense. But I don’t want to give her that satisfaction. I did it myself.

Getting the right otaku balance

So I probably don’t come across as otaku even though I have some interests that put me close to that camp.

For example, I like Star Trek. I’ve watched the Voyager series several times over and much preferred it to TNG. I still like to play video games (occasionally) when I have time and I used to be obsessed with zombie movies. I’ve even written a couple of zombie books.

In the last few years, I really came to like anime and quite like AKB48.  I have one of their albums on my walkman, which I suppose is bordering on being a bit ‘hentai’ (Japanese word for pervert).

But I think we have to explore these other sides of us to develop our characters. I wrote about this concept in this article.

Love Exposure

The Sono Sion movie ‘Love Exposure’ may be a good example of this.

In this movie, the main character – a teenage boy is innocent and pure. He has a good relationship with his father and mother. They have a happy family, who are all faithful Catholics. His father is a local Catholic priest and the boy happily adopts the Catholic faith.

But then tragedy comes. His mother passes away from an illness. Years later, his father embarks on a new relationship with a wild woman who dumps him. After this, his father becomes depressed and becomes mentally unstable. He then starts to take out his frustrations on his son. He believes his son is not taking his faith seriously enough and makes his son confess to him.

However, because his son is so pure and innocent, he doesn’t have anything to confess, which annoys his father even more. His father thinks his son is lying to him, because he can’t believe that no one is pure enough to have no sins to confess.

Committing Sin to get noticed

His son only wants to please his father and to do so, he starts to commit actual sins just so he has something to confess. The strange thing is that it made his father happy to hear these confessions, so he starts committing even worse sins and he gets in with a  group of delinquent friends.

Eventually, he decides his needs to take  his ‘sinning’ to the next level and so he decides to becomes a hentai (pervert). He learns a special technique for taking pictures of school girl panties and even becomes famous for his skill. The movie becomes progressively more crazier from this point on.

The usual-unusual Japanese storyline

It’s a strange story for sure, but perhaps the balance of the boy’s life was not right. Perhaps in the beginning, he was too pure. He needed to go to the other extreme side of becoming an absolute ‘sinner’ to balance his energies. This also made his story and character far more interesting. This path also led him to meet his true love – ‘his Maria’

Perhaps more of us should do the same in order to balance our lives. I don’t mean learning to take pictures of school-girl panties. I mean – learning to practice self-expression.

By the way, this story is about finding our true love.  The boy falls in love with a girl with an equally troubled past, but he has some challenges to overcome to be with her. Check it out.

So embrace the inner otaku

Before we go to Part 2, have you thought about your inner otaku?

It is not necessarily the same as finding a love for anime or manga. Your inner otaku may manifest differently. But basically it is about expressing an enjoyment for something that may be criticised by others and may even seem threatening to them, because it sets you out as different.

So many people are terrified of standing out and will go through life ducking and weaving and making out we are the same. These people will find your interests strange and may vocally criticise you for your interests or make fun of you. Basically, it is ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’ mindset.

Liberate yourself from ‘The nail that sticks out gets hit’ philosophy

It is extremely liberating when you indulge yourself in doing something to favor your inner otaku. To throw yourself into something unusual, lose yourself and meet like-minded people. Also to move to the fringes of society. How wonderful a feeling it can be.

Just ignore that expression – ‘the nail that sticks out gets hit’.

And those people who dare not tread into otaku territory. How much inner tension they must hold in them to resist it all? Well listen to me. That inner tension will make you sick. Really sick. Release is cathartic.

End of Part Two

The is the end of Part two of ‘You are all Otaku – the nail that sticks out gets hit’. The final part is coming soon.



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