The Kimochi Warui Diary
We met Noah in front of the train station at Akihabara, went back to his apartment, and dropped off our backpacks.
That’s when he revealed the plan for the day:
We were going to visit the seven-floor anime store.
Sure, why not? Throughout my entire trip, I hadn’t once done a genuine look through an anime store.
The first few floors of the building featured items from popular shows and series—stuff that was trending within the last year. But as you made your way up, the merchandise began to diversify. You could find all manner of figures, trinkets, and accessories based on the classics.
And then there were the shows made within the last ten years, but had stayed popular enough to warrant their own line of merch. Whether these shows were just fads that overstayed their welcome or destined to be future classics, only time could tell.
Whether the show was new or old, however, you never knew what you’d see:
Figures and toys, towels and dish sets, keychains, coffee mugs, shot glasses… Some of them long out of print and priced at hundreds of dollars.
As for me, I was in a bit of a tough spot. Most of the series I truly adored were just a bit short of falling into the mainstream appeal—I’d rarely found merch for them online, and even if I did, they were likely to be long sold out.
But in one corner of the fourth floor, almost entirely out of sight, I spied something unique:
A Zippo lighter.
I had a Zippo lighter at home, too, but no…
This Zippo lighter was on a whole different league.
This Zippo lighter was laser-engraved with two characters from one of my favorite shows—one character on each side. Even the edge of the lighter was engraved with a subtle design that only someone who watched the show would have recognized.
Internally, I was laughing hysterically. How the hell does anime materialism get to this level? I’ve never even seen this show transfigured into the more mundane merchandise, and yet, here it was as an officially branded and copyrighted Zippo lighter.
I could only imagine that there was some American representative from the Zippo corporation who had to check up on the international parts of the Zippo business. He’d go into the board room where they present the new products for the year or something, and there it would sit: the mockup for a Zippo lighter featuring two anime school girls on it. There would doubtlessly be some Japanese rep in his ear assuring him that this was going to be a hot seller for certain types of Japanese customers.
In short, someone was actually going to use this to smoke cigarettes.
I was going to use this to smoke cigarettes.
I immediately took it to the register.
How much is that in dollars?
I didn’t know, I didn’t care, I gave them my debit card.
The juxtaposition of Zippo lighter and anime school girls could exist nowhere else but within the realm of otaku culture. And that’s what’s so funny about it.
But don’t you dare get me wrong—I sincerely loved this series with all of my heart. This series taught me things about myself that I still think about to this day. I treasure this series.
But at the same time, I could also take one of my favorite characters, flip her head open, and light my cigarette with her.
Anime is one of the only things that exits to be enjoyed ironically and unironically at the same time. This balancing act of self-awareness and sincerity cannot be found in many other places, and you’re bound to be grossly misunderstood for it, but that’s just the burden we have to carry.
Anime taught me how to laugh at myself and at life. Where the hell had that attitude gone for my entire trip? Why wasn’t I laughing at myself every step of the way, through each and every ordeal that I’d put us through? I continued through the rest of the anime store to uncover what else I had forgotten about myself.
The next floor was an 18+ section, filled with various fleshy sex toys to put your penis inside of.
I laughed even more, but truth be told, I was always curious about ordering one to see how they felt.
On one of them, the front of the packaging had a character printed on it—one of the heroines from a mid-2000s anime; a character that even I’d jacked off to at least once before!
I immediately bought her, and then I bought another one for my friend back home who only knew just enough about otaku culture to get a kick out of it.
By the time we left the store, I’d blown nearly $800 dollars.
Despite the two heavy bags in my hands, I felt significantly lighter. Until this point, I had no idea how to walk or talk or to present myself in this country. Now, with several hundred dollars of merch and sex toys in my bags, I could walk proudly with a certain sense of identity:
I was just some shit head otaku foreigner minding his own business.
I no longer had to carry the burden of trying to be the type of person I thought Japan wanted me to be.
I didn’t have to be anyone’s expectations of anything. I just had to be whatever I felt in the present moment.
My biggest concern was no longer what some cute Japanese girl on the street thought of me. No—my biggest concern was that I had no way to fit all of my new merchandise into my backpack for the plane ride home.
Luckily, Noah had a backpack I could use.
“I’ll find some way to ship it back you,” I said, sincerely thankful for his offer.
“Haha, don’t worry, just keep it.”
Turned out, Noah was a pretty good guy.
No… What was I talking about? He’d been a good guy the entire time, and he’d taken a whole week of his time to hang out with us.
That night, we ordered two medium pizzas for the astronomical price of $75.
And the toppings were some of the most fucked up things I’d ever seen. Some of it was actually pretty good, but some of the toppings were completely unforgiveable.
Truth is, I really had no idea what those Japanese people were thinking, but I could happily eat their pizza without having to understand.