Mo’ Moe!

「秋葉」 used to be Tokyo’s biggest electronic district. I say, “used to” because it has been steadily turning into something shadier over the years.

「秋葉」(short for 「秋葉原」) is pretty much a geek’s paradise. There are all sorts of games and electronic stores including the massive 「ヨドバシカメラ」, which was newly built not too long ago.

Well, it turns out that there are two different categories of geeks: the technology geek and the creepy geek. 秋葉 used to be for the technology geeks, guys who were into gadgets, software, and hardware. But it turns out many geeks have interests in another realm, which I can only describe as “shady”.

I go through 秋葉 everyday on my commute but I decided to take my commuter’s pass, go over there on a weekend, and actually look around and explore the neighborhood. What I found out was that probably about half of the businesses there now cater to the “dark side” of the geek population.

First of all, there were mountains of porn. What looked like perfectly normal stores would suddenly have a whole floor for porn. Some stores had a whole floor just for animated porn. Scratch that, some stores were for animated porn! You can’t find this kind of selection for this type of stuff anywhere else in the world. (Incidentally, just to be clear, I didn’t actually look around or purchase anything. In fact, I didn’t even go inside, I could pretty much tell what it was from the staircase. Just to be clear.)

Besides the monumental amount of porn, 秋葉 is increasingly turning more fetish-like. I can’t explain this any better than saying one word: 「萌え」. 「萌え」 is kind of like “ubuntu” in that it represents a whole concept and therefore doesn’t have any specific definition. The similarity totally ends there though. Let’s see what we can find out about this word on the net.

(If you want to learn more about 「萌え」, you can also check out the Japanese wikipedia entry on 「萌え」. It’s so extensive, it’s practically a research paper.)


(from はてな)

「なぜか萌え=メイドさん」 Ahh yes, the maids. As a fellow male, I just cannot understand the attraction of maids. I mean, these maid costumes completely cover the body with layers and layers of clothing. Yawn. And yet 秋葉 has totally been taken over by maid cafes, called 「メード喫茶」, for reasons beyond my comprehension. Let’s take a look at this list of maid cafes. CURE MAID CAFE in 秋葉原、ひよこ家 in 秋葉原、Cafe Mai:lish… 秋葉原、Cos-Cha hmm… 秋葉原? 秋葉原 isn’t even that big a place but I bet the list doesn’t even come close to covering all the maid cafes in 秋葉原.

Cuter without the maid costume?
(from Cafe Mai:lish)

Worse, the maids have started branching into other industries such as 萌バーガー, a burger shop and even a hair salon called moesham. (Notice the use of 「萌え」 in both store names)

The 萌え phenomenon and 2ちゃんねる* have spawned a new class of vocabulary. My favorite is 「ツンデレ」, which comes from 「ツンツン」 and 「デレデレ」. I love it because, Yahoo, of all the places, has the funniest definition ever.

ツンデレ (つんでれ)

(from Yahoo!辞書)

Basically, 「ツンデレ」 characterizes a common manga/anime female character who is aloof and cold (ツンツン) but becomes all lovey-dovey (デレデレ) when she is alone with the boy she likes. The definition above explains it much better though. The last sentence is the best because it’s worded so seriously and yet is a total smackdown on the オタク nerds who have no real chance with such a girl.

I’ve actually heard rumors of 「ツンデレ・カフェ」. Apparently there was a 「ツンデレ・イベント」 this March. I guess the maids are rude when you walk in and nice when you leave? Hmm… might be the next big thing.


I’m going to conclude here, now that I’ve managed to brilliantly turn this into a language lesson. So I’ll just put this into the “Vocabulary” category and end yet another educational post. (What? You didn’t realize that the whole point of this post was to explore the exciting Japanese language?) I’m not entirely sure if it is appropriate for the “Culture” category though.


*2ちゃんねる is basically the most poorly designed BBS in the history of the world. I mean, I tried using it once but had to stop because the user interface induced me into a temporary coma. The popularity of this website is yet another mystery I’ll never understand.

12 thoughts on “Mo’ Moe!

  1. Akiba is god’s punishment for being an electronics and or gadget geek. You need a strong stomach to pursue this hobby in Japan, it seems.

    ( On the bright side, the best place to buy electronic components, ラジオデパト is packed full of booths of kind old men who give you discounts and there is no hellporn on display. I guess they’re holdovers from the old Akihabara. )

  2. Take a look at this definition on the net as well…

    Moe is a Japanese term used in connection with manga or anime to describe the ideal of youthful and innocent femininity. Written with the kanji for “to bud or sprout” (萌), the concept covers a narrow range of ideal behaviour for youthful female characters in manga or anime. To be properly moe, a character must be eager or perky, not overly independent, and call forth a desire in the viewer to protect them and nurture them.

    There is a lot of debate over the corssover between moe fandom and lolicom. While the crossover exists among fans and products the two genres are not synonymous.

    and quite expectedly Kawaii and Moe are different:

    Kawaii(可愛い) is pretty; cute; lovely; charming.

    Roughly synonymous with “cute,” kawaii is a common Japanese term that occurs frequently in manga and anime. The term often embodies a bit more than just “cute,” including a certain element of liveliness or happiness in the object being defined. For instance, “You are cute when you are mad,” would never be said using the term kawaii. In terms understandable to Western sensibilities, it might be said that kawaii embodies that quality of saccharine adorableness found in kittens and plush toys.

    Hey sorry for loosing the track…

  3. Hey Tae Kim! Awesome blog!! I really like your articles and this one about Akiba is very funny. You’re a genius!

    But, might I just add: ewwwwww!!! To all the nasty Akiba-obsessed guys!! Stop watching anime!! Get a life!!

  4. Wow, that just goes to say how horrible the original site is. I think that’s a new standard -> So horrible, you have to create a separate browser for it.

    I used to read ワラタ2ッキ for just the interesting posts instead but it looks like it was shut down for making money off 2ch content.

  5. Hey,
    You have a typo:

    “I go through 秋葉 everybody on my commute”

    everybody should be everyday, right?

  6. かわいい is just a regular word meaning “cute”. 萌え is as described in the post. It doesn’t really have a meaning except for the original meaning, “to bud”.

  7. A better translation for かわいい is lovable, which you can derive by looking at the kanji that make it up. Using “cute” is not incorrect, but given the wide array of usage that かわいい enjoys, lovable is usually better.

  8. One of the big differences between 可愛い and 萌 is that the former one can be used to describe almost anything, the later one is mostly restricted to a living object, especially female.

    We couldn’t say 萌え doesn’t really has its meaning except to bud. With the evolution of the language, 萌え now has its own newly acquired meaning. It can be a verb to become 萌える, or it can be a noun by being just 萌え or it can become an adjective by adding な. Since one of the hypothesis is that 萌え is associated with 燃え、the “burning” element of 燃え is now frequently being incorporated into 萌え.

    It means A “arouses” B or A “moe” B. This is how the meaning of the term 燃え being incorporated. 燃え though means burn, can also means “arouse”.

    Let’s look at another example:
    It means B feels “aroused”, B feel “moe”. 萌え now becomes a noun.

    Here is another example:
    It means old sister is “moe”. Now, 萌え becomes a Na-adjective.

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