With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, many of us anticipate romance — or at least some "giri" chocolate. But not a certain breed of Internet-dwelling Japanese. They call themselves "himote," or “the unpopular,” and they’re seeking asylum from the tyranny of love.
"Himote" perceive a gender bias in Japanese society — a bias against men. They reject the idea that guys must slave to accumulate capital and win women, and that romance is necessary for a fulfilled existence. With love on the back burner and time and energy to burn, these outsiders say they are happier, and smarter, than the average man.
The typical "himote" is an intelligent sort who is painfully shy and has difficulty communicating, and so spends a lot of time online. There are male and female "himote," called "mo-otoko" and "mo-jo," respectively.
A popular outlet for them is 2channel, Japan’s largest anonymous BBS site, but autonomous communities are on the rise. The Himote Army on Mixi, for instance, has 1,659 registered members, all of whom have passed a test to authenticate their "himote-ness."
In November, "himote" got a networking site of their very own: Himote SNS. In its very first month, the community attracted 15,000 members, running the gamut from self-identified “human waste” and male virgins to “home security guards” (that is, unemployed layabouts). Eighty-eight percent of users are between the ages of 20 and 40, and four out of five are male. Another 10% describe themselves as "mo-jo," and the rest are "nekama," or virtual drag queens. The rules of engagement: if you get a girlfriend, you are banned; members can only talk about "himote" topics; comments by "riajyuu," or those “satisfied in real life,” are not allowed.
“The site was originally founded so that the people who spend Christmas alone writing on 2channel could help one another get through it,” says Hiroyuki “Ega-chan” Egami, the founder of Himote SNS. “It is a place to go get companionship when you need it.”
Egami, a salaryman by day who operates as many as 100 websites as a hobby, is a self-proclaimed "himote" who is more interested in chitchat than pillow talk. He organizes regular offline meetings, like the Himote Conference in December which drew some 200 people to Loft/Plus One in Shinjuku. At the event, "shaberibeta," or those with difficulty speaking, were given their own special zone, and paper bags were passed out at the entrance for those who were too embarrassed to show their faces. Of course, couples and anyone looking too smug were turned away at the door. Egami elicited cheers when he took the stage and said, “'Riajyuu,' drop dead!”
With Valentine’s Day approaching, the group stands resolute. Their meeting, “Can I make 100 friends? Drenched in Loneliness Valentine’s Special!” will be held at Loft/Plus One just after midnight on Feb 13, in the opening hours of Valentine’s Day. Egami is hoping 200 people will attend to help ring in the holiday. The price of commiserating is 2,000 yen, but women get in free (no minors of either sex allowed). The online sister event, “Valentine’s Day Crush,” will take place on Oshaberi TV later that evening from 9-10 p.m.
Despite his extreme approach, Egami says he’s only against romance in the real world insofar as it limits the potential for personal realization. “'Himote' is a culture, it is an ideology,” he insists. “It’s about being satisfied with who we are before we go looking for partners. If we do that, we realize we don’t need them to be happy. 'Himote' camaraderie grows from that understanding.”
For more information (in Japanese), see the Himote SNS at http://motetai.egachan.net or Hiroyuki Egami’s blog at http://tinyurl.com/egami-blog. Oshaberi TV can be accessed at www.oshaberitv.com.
This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).© Japan Today