JR East attempts to unite train-photographing otaku with new social media group – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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JR East attempts to unite train-photographing otaku with new social media group

Written by on November 14, 2021


Could this mean an end to the violence?

Of all the otaku in Japan, the “train otaku” is a particularly diverse subset containing the likes of noritetsu, people who take an interest in unique ways of riding trains, or the model train enthusiasts known as mokeitetsu. But it is by far the toritetsu who appear the most in headlines as well as sentences that start with “Those damn…”

These are the otaku whose prime interest is taking photographs of trains, the rarer the better. While that sounds like a peaceful hobby and often is, some of these otaku will stop at nothing to get the perfect shot, including the occasional bombing raid. It’s a problem that JR East is hoping to curb by hosting an online social network called Toritestu Community. “Community” is an interesting choice of words, because – and I admit this is just a superficial observation – they all seem to hate each other.

By that, I mean a toritetsu would seem to regard another toritetsu as little more than a potential obstruction as they all vie for the perfect vantage point to shoot from. As a result, the larger the gathering of toritetsu in a single station, the more profanity you are likely to hear and the greater the chance of physical violence.

▼ A greatest hits compilation of toritetsu freak-outs

However, it would seem this is exactly the situation that JR East wants to correct by uniting toritetsu, providing safer spaces to take photos from, and listening to the needs and concerns of the more level-headed segment of the population. They plan to do this through Mechu, a Japanese platform similar to Twitch but focusing on a wider range of content creation beyond game streaming.

Also like Twitch, Mechu has a payment system which JR East plans to use to make a little extra money in the process. Toritetsu Community will have a free tier and a premium one. Both tiers will have access to chats and photo contests, but for 1,000 yen (US$8.75) a month, paid members will be given extra exclusive content and events.

JR East will hold events in which selected toritetsu photos will be used in official posters and provide a special space for mamatetsu, train otaku mothers who enjoy the rails with their kids, who would be called “chibitetsu” if they share the love of trains. However, undoubtedly the real draw will be the limited photo session events in which toritetsu can enter JR’s private property to take photos…legally for a change.

▼ One proposal is to hold special shooting events inside train depots

Although it sounds like a great deal for toritetsu, non-train fans commenting online were even happier about the news because it meant these overly enthusiastic shutterbugs might finally be put under control.

“This sounds like a good way to improve the toritetsu community’s image.”
“I think it’s fine if they charge more money.”
“I wonder if we’ll have toritetsu committing robbery to pay the membership fee now.”
“Probably all the civilized toritetsu will join, but the maniac ones will continue to do whatever they want.”
“This is a smart move by JR East.”
“They really could get away with charging a lot more than 1,000 yen.”
“The bad toritetsu will probably assume this is a trap to get their personal information for easier arrests.”
“These people are taking photos on private property without permission anyway. It’s only fair that JR charge them.”

JR East was probably wise to go through a third-party to host the Toritetsu Community. Not only does it save them money, but also might assuage personal information fears since the railroad doesn’t handle registration.

It’s far from a guaranteed success, but definitely a move in the right direction to try and bring some civility and dignity to this often maligned segment of the vast otaku ecosystem.

Source: PR Times, Hachima Kiko
Top image: Pakutaso
Insert image: PR Times
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