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#23 International Otaku Expo Association (IOEA): The Network Connecting Otaku Across the Globe! (1/3)

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Everyday we’re bombarded with news of conflicts around the globe across various media. Will we ever understand each other? Even I’m one to succumb to that feeling of pessimism from time to time. But all that I’ve witnessed in my seven years traveling the world as an advocate for cultural diplomacy gives me the hope to push on. The things that people like are the same. I know just how instantly people can establish bonds with each other when they share the same sense of values.
People call them “otaku,” or at least, they used to. But now times have changed and today they call themselves otaku, and they do it with dignity and pride. Take idols for example. It used to be unthinkable that an idol would refer to herself as an otaku, but now it’s not that uncommon at all. These tides of change are visible not only in Japan, but all over the world. Just like with “kawaii,” otaku too has become a global term.

Japan is regarded as a country that makes things that are unique to Japan, and one subculture that has developed as a concept, just like kawaii culture, is otaku culture. I think the more potential avenues there are for making the world a brighter place, the better. And these avenues shouldn’t be left solely to politicians and the elite to create. The “otaku” potential is immense. After years of cultural diplomacy, I firmly believe it is. I’ve written about Japanese pop culture events held overseas on a number of occasions. This is such a dull way of saying it, though, and I want to put a stop to it. “Global otaku events” – there’s no easier or more appropriate way of saying it than this. Otaku is a subculture that started in Japan, but all the young people throughout the world who love anime, manga, cosplay, idols, Harajuku fashion or visual-kei, have become the otaku and the organizers and fans who love these things and who put together these Japan-themed events – made by locals for locals – are otaku events.

Just think: if the countless number of otaku events held all over the world banded together to form one big global network… My feelings on this topic grew stronger by the day, and then I would meet someone who felt the same way, and then another. One of these people I met who made a big impact was Kazutaka Satoh, a core member for the Comic Market organizing committee – an event that boasts more than half-a-million attendees and the largest privately run event of its kind in Japan. Like me, Satoh-san has been moved by the sheer number of fans and their passion for Japanese pop culture when he’s been to otaku events overseas in the past.

Let’s set up the International Otaku Expo Association. That was our dream and international organizers of events like Ani-Com & Games Hong Kong (Hong Kong, China), Anime Friends (Sao Paulo, Brazil), Comic Market (Tokyo, Japan), Niconico Chokaigi (Tokyo, Japan), Otakon (Baltimore, U.S.A.), Romics (Rome, Italy), Sakura-Con (Seattle, U.S.A.), and Salón del Manga de Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain) agreed to be a part of it, with 30 expo members unanimously announcing their participation at IOEA’s inaugural meeting and official launch on the 27th of March.
Satoh-san is the IOEA Representative and I am the IOEA Executive Office Director.
Of the 30 participating expos and events, 19 attended the inaugural meeting.

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