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Wota
Wota

Wota (pronounced Ota, as in Otaku; the w is silent) is a term referring to fans of jPop idols, who may perform a specific kind of cheer dance, known as Wotagei. (literally, "ota preformance")

The Idol industry first rose to prominence in the early 70s, no doubt under the influence of Momoe Yamaguchi. Then the focus was very much on idols being cute and youthful, perhaps symbollic of Japanese society. This means that their performances would always be full of energy, songs would have fun lyrics and fantastic costumes, the idols brought some colour to the grayscale of everyday life in Japan. For this reason the fans they got came from interesting demographics - namely young women and children and older men. It would seem that while the women love the cuteness and the costumes, etc, (and indeed young girls can have dreams about becoming idols themselves) the men seek out the youth and energy that they can get from the idols, especially if they are working a dull office job or something.

Because of this gender-age divison among the fans, we have two ways that they show their love. Female "wota" will cosplay and imitate their idols by dancing, and perhaps even singing. It's not very appropriate for men to cosplay as the idols, however, so they developed wotagei so that they could also enjoy themselves.

During the late 80s and 90s, however, the idol industry started to decline in it's popularity as Japan's music scene shifted towards rock and Visual Kei, this meant that the Idol-Otaku either abandonned their fandom altogether or went back to join those Anime and Seiyuu ota. It wasn't until near the end of the Lost Decade with the creation of Morning Musume (and later Hello!Project) in 1997/8 that the idol industry became popular again. Something that is largely from the support that the wota provided them. Morning Musume's 5 day challenge wouldn't have been possible without the wota who had been captivated by their efforts to reach those 50,000 sales as they did whatever it took to achieve that dream. This led to a flourishing of the wotagei phenomena and a hugely successful industry revived.

Wotagei has been performed by fans for a long time, and started off as ouendan or "cheering squads", similiar to those ouendan seen in sporting events in Japan today which has developed into it's own form but still retains the same pricipal (see Hanshin Tigers' fans for example). Ouendan mostly consisted of organized chanting and shouting, but fans adapted this and created wotagei.

But it wasn't until fairly recently that Wotagei achieved mainstream recognition by the public by reports on TV and via the internet, this also largely boosted the popularity of wotagei. However due to the way in which it is presented, it can confuse viewers into thinking this is something relatively exclusive to Hello!Project - indeed, when was the last time you saw a TV VTR on wotagei that didn't involve Fujimoto Miki or her song Romantic Ukare Mode?

But it should be said that the real troopers of the idol world and wotagei aren't those you see on the TV, but the ones you can find by walking through Akihabara. No I don't mean the AKB Theatre, either. I mean the idols who perform in the streets who most often don't have great voices or aren't very great at dancing but clearly enjoy themselves as they perform, and the people who cheer them on with wotagei. That is what the idol world is really about, and is something you just don't find in Hello!Project or AKB. When I think of Akihabara, that is what I imagine - not maid cafés or gadget stores - young idols having pure, unadulterated fun as they sing and dance for whoever is watching.

It seems that opinions on wota and why they do wotagei is fairly mixed. And to be honest the truth depends on each individual. Some people may see it the whole thing as a bunch of grown men who have no life, so they resort to wotagei. Others may have a more liberal view on them, like myself. I personally think it's just one method of showing the idols that you care and support them. You could do wotagei, you could send fanletters, or simply buying the music, it all counts as support. This is just a more interesting way of going about it.

But it would seem the truest answer would be that they do it because they enjoy it. If you enjoy the music and the dancing, you want to be more involved. If that means simply cheering loudly at concerts, you have fun doing it. If it means doing wotagei, I'm sure they have alot of fun doing that too. It also gives a good excuse to have fun with a few friends. If I could go down to a friend's house, put on a concert and have a good time doing wotagei, I would. Wouldn't you?

Female Wota often cosplay as idols, males often wear longcoats decorated with photos of them, but in day-to-day life both genders are more likely to wear casual clothes and merchendise of their favorite idols.

Image from Deviantart, info -save for the first and last paragraphs, which are mine- from www.berryzkyuuden.com


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