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Otaku Flock to Akiba, Lucky Star Shrine for New Year's

posted on by Egan Loo
Over 500 count down to 2008 at Tokyo's otaku mecca; 40,000 more visit shrine

While most Japanese people celebrate New Year's Day at home, more and more otaku are defying their introverted homebound stereotype by celebrating the holiday together — at a symbolic otaku mecca and a literal holy shrine with an anime tie-in. Tokyo's public areas are much less crowded during New Year's holidays as many people take the traditional three-day break (January 1–3) to visit their hometowns. By contrast, many otaku go against the traffic and visit Tokyo during the last three days of the old year because of Comic Market, the dōjinshi convention which attracted an estimated 500,000 daily visitors last weekend. Comic Market is held at Tokyo Big Sight, a cavernous convention center on an artificial island in Tokyo Bay. ComiPress posted a listing of the English-language reports of the latest Comic Market, and the Daily Yomiuri newspaper files its own report.

Even before Comic Market officially ended, fans began filtering back to the main part of Tokyo to visit Akihabara or "Akiba," the most prominent of Tokyo's so-called "otaku meccas." There, a car emblazoned with Galaxy Angel iconography drew even bigger crowds than it usually does on other days. The cars was one of many "itasha" (cars layered with anime and other eye-catching graphics) that have appeared in Akihabara and other popular locales in Japan.

Koji of the Akihabara Channel website reports that over 500 fans celebrated the final moments of 2007 at an Akiba seiyū event held by Circus, the software developer of D.C. ~Da Capo~ and other adult visual novels. The president of Circus, tororo, personally led the gathered throngs outside Gamers!' Akihabara branch in a countdown of the final seconds of 2007. (Gamers! is the retail chain owned by Broccoli, the parent company of Broccoli International USA.) Circus had to cancel a planned live concert due to a police warning, but Gamers! opened its doors for the first hour of the new year. The Sankei Shimbun paper and the iZa website posted more photos of the event.

Traditionally, many Japanese people visit a local shrine during the first three days of the year to ask for good health and prosperity during the new year. An estimated 130,000 people went instead to Washinomiya, the Tokyo area's oldest shrine which was further immortalized (in a manner of speaking) by the Lucky Star anime series. Washinomiya's attendance during the first three days of the year is estimated to have grown almost 50% percent — 40,000 more people — this year because of this series which premiered last April. The anime features Kagami and Tsukasa Hiiragi — twin sister characters who supposedly work at the real-life shrine as miko (shrine maidens). The newsfeed at the livedoor website reports on the crowds who came in the first days of 2008. The livedoor news report includes photographs of the ema wish plaques that fans decorated with Lucky Star characters and even Miku Hatsune, the virtual idol singer that only exists within a voice-synthesis program.

Anime New Network's collection of New Year's greetings has grown to include pictures from 74 anime/manga groups and creators.

Errata: Lucky Star's premiere date corrected. Thanks, humbug23.

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