Japan geeks seek love at masked matchmaking

Self-confessed geeks in Japan who might ordinarily be too shy to ask someone on a date are trying a new kind of matchmaking: wearing cartoon character masks. In a small town north of Tokyo, 15 men and an equal number of women donned plastic masks of Doraemon, Mickey Mouse and other fictional creations to try to find a date on Friday. “I feel this is an easier way to talk to people,” said a 27-year-old woman wearing a rabbit mask, who introduced herself as Jet-Black Wings. “I wouldn’t be able to do this without this mask. I would feel too embarrassed.”
The party, in Washinomiya, was organised for the benefit of “otaku” — people obsessed with high-tech products, Japan’s manga comic books and the anime (cartoons) that sprang from them. Otaku — often translated as “geeks” — freely confess to being more at home with their two-dimensional heroes than communicating with the real world. As well as giving participants a boost to their bravery, the masked meet also ensured that people with similar, albeit rather particular, interests were able to meet each other. The event was organised by the local chamber of commerce, who realised the power of the otaku-yen when their otherwise unremarkable town became a pilgrimage site for fans of the Raki Suta cartoon in 2007, all clamouring to see the place in which it was set.

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