An English-Language Look at Wotagei

I've always had an interest in wota and wotagei. From those early days of my idol "fandom" I had a deep respect and love for the wota where others around me looked down on them as plain creepy. I respect them for the way they other members of society, both in Japan and abroad, treat them as though they are obsessed stalker-type fans. But despite this image they continue to do all they can to support their idols and to show that support. What better way to let your idols know that support them than to shout and dance like madmen, right?

For a long time I've wanted to be a wota. I was a fan, and I'd consider myself a pretty big fan too, but that just isn't enough for me. The biggest trouble was, although I'm sure I'm not alone, there were no english-language resources to learn and practice wotagei from. Even the Wikipedia page on ota-gei is devoid of information, and the small information they do have is wrong. It tells us that "Wotagei is a kind of otaku - one devoted to female idols", when really that's a description of the wota themselves. Wotagei describes the way that these wota cheer their idols (in fact the "gei" part of the word translates to "Art" or "Performance", making the word much more verb-like than the Wiki description tells us). So this is my attempt at informing the English-speaking fans about wota, although I do feel pretty uninformed myself - despite having done quite a bit of research into the matter. If I get anything wrong, I ask that you inform me so I can correct it and learn from the mistake.


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 abandnned 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 in the Public Eye

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 are 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.

Why do Wotagei?

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?

When you think about it with this open mindedness, it all makes sense. And it makes it very hard to understand why people think so negatively of the wota.

Wotagei Technique

This is where my knowladge draws a little dry, and I'm relying on you the reader to pick up on any errors here where accuracy is most important.

You are probably wondering, as I have been for a long time, how to actually do wotagei. So I've decided to try and answer this question to the best of my ability. As no english-language guide has been published to my knowladge, this makes this post one of (if not the) first to claim that title. Now, each song has it's own routine and I won't go into describing individual songs, at least not in this post, as I'm sure those can be found elsewhere.

The motion of clapping to either side, from left to right. Usually accompanied by yelling "Urya Oi!"

"Pan Pan-pa, Hyu!" Usually performed over 4 "measures", in that rythem which gives it it's name by yelling the Idol's name. Example; "Ri-sa-ko, Hyu!" The 4th is usually accompanied by a jump.

Jumping and clapping on each jump while simultaniously spinning the body around, perhaps the most famous wotagei movement.

A movement of the arms, by shifting each arm from side to side and pointing upwards, following the pattern of "LL RR L R LL" which is then inverted to "RR LL R L RR". Also note that the bottom hand is about level with the elbow of the upper arm at all times.

This is the name of the wotagei chant that you often hear during the encore and chorus, it takes many forms such as yelling "Tiger, Fiber, Cyber, Diver, Viper, Jah!! Jah!" or yelling the name of the idol in the form, "L-O-V-E Lovely Miyabi"

You stretch your arms out towards the idol in worship. One varient of this which requires the wota to be in good physical condition is the Bridge Kecha, where the wota's has his back to the idol and leans over backwards outstretching his arms towards the idol. (You can see this performed by one wota in the second half of this video.)

This isn't a complete list, and I'm not sure what some of the other techniques (/Rozario/, for example) are. But I hope that this will help you learn how to do many wotagei dances. Once again, if you spot something wrong in this post, please tell me. Or if you feel I've missed anything vital out your assistance will be appreciated. If we want to make a lasting impression at Anime Expo or Stockholm Japan Expo, I think we should learn wotagei. So let's work together to show the world that we are also wota.


kawan asupa said...

nice pose!

kawan asupa jugak said...

one of the best pose!

Gag Halfrunt said...

Of course there's nothing to stop you having a go at fixing the Wikipedia article. Wikipedia encourages users to be bold about correcting mistakes and improving articles.

Dran said...

Believe me, the thought had crossed my mind. By Wikipedia's page editor confuses me. Maybe someone else will take what I've said here and adapt, or write their own, wotagei wiki page.

Alita said...

I go to wota karaoke about once a month, though for the past couple months it's been sparse due to concerts up til march, then concerts through may. I think our next one will be end of may.

This month was my second time doing the wotagei fully with the other guys.

Of course it was to Mikitty, though I did learn about half the wotagei to one of Gocchin's songs.

Lemme tell you that if you did this once a day it would be the best diet as it is really draining.

Anonymous said...

this is awesome!

Gag Halfrunt said...

Ok, I've had a crack at rewriting the Wikipedia article and renamed it from ota-gei to wotagei.

Anonymous said...

Wotagei is found at AKB.
Oodles of it.

saya pun kawan asupa said...

here is a link of Malaysian wota dancing, and I believe one of the dancers is the one posing in the picture. :)


the user has more wota dancing videos. :)

Cotton Cloth said...

Terrific piece there Dran. I really learnt a lot.


Anonymous said...

They need to have wotagei lessons on youtube

Kurisu クリス said...

Thanks Dran, you are one of those foreinger Idol fans who are concious about wotagei and the rela wota culture:


Thanks for editing wikipedia!!! ^o^

Now, all the English Idol fans will notice better the real meaning of wotagei and, I hope, they will be start practicing it:



Dran said...

I hope so too, Kurisu. And I must confess that I was very much inspired to write this entry, not only because of my respect for wota and those who perform wotagei, but because of the "Americans are not wota" entries on your own blog. :)

turbos86 said...

OMG you guys found my super secret Naichau Kamo instruction video =P I was saving it for a guide on H!O, now the cat is out of the bag XD

Blu-Cherri said...

on MIX you missed out 'fire'

Paper Stars said...

Thanks for this post, it was really enlightening. :)

BZ H said...

I consider myself as what they call “wotageishi”(ヲタ芸師), although I soon found that ヲタ芸 is not so popular in US comparing to Japan and China. The driving energy, though, is the “idoling” passion that only a few can understand.

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