Dōjin (同人 dōjin), often romanized as doujin, is a general Japanese term for a group of people or friends who share an interest, activity, hobbies, or achievement. The word is sometimes translated into English as clique, fandom, coterie, society, or circle (e.g., a "sewing circle").
In Japan, the term is used to refer to amateur self-published works, including manga, novels, fan guides, art collections, music, anime and video games. Some professional artists participate as a way to publish material outside the regular publishing industry.
Literary circles first appeared in the Meiji period when groups of like-minded waka writers, poets and novelists met and published literary magazines (many of which are still publishing today). Many modern writers in Japan came from these literary circles. One famous example is Ozaki Koyo, who led the Kenyusha society of literary writers that first published collected works in magazine form in 1885.
After World War II manga dōjin started to appear in Japan. Manga artists like Shotaro Ishinomori (Kamen Rider, Cyborg 009) and Fujio Fujiko (Doraemon) formed dōjin groups such as Fujiko's New Manga Party (新漫画党 Shin Manga-to). At this time dōjin groups were used by artists to make a professional debut. This changed in the coming decades with dōjin groups forming as school clubs and the like. This culminated in 1975 with the Comiket in Tokyo.
Avid fans of dōjin attend regular dōjin conventions, the largest of which is called Comiket (a portmanteau of "Comic Market") held in the summer and winter at Tokyo Big Sight. Here, over 20 acres (81,000 m2) of dōjin materials are bought, sold, and traded by attendees. Dōjin creators who base their materials on other creators' works normally publish in small numbers to maintain a low profile from litigation. This makes a talented creator's or circle's products a coveted commodity as only the fast or the lucky will be able to get them before they sell out.
Over the last decade, the practice of creating dōjin has expanded significantly, attracting thousands of creators and fans alike. Advances in personal publishing technology have also fueled this expansion by making it easier for dōjin creators to write, draw, promote, publish, and distribute their works.
In Western cultures, dōjin are often perceived to be derivative of existing work, analogous to fan fiction. To an extent, this is true: many dōjin are based on popular manga, anime or video game series. However, many dōjin consisting of original content also exist. Among the numerous dōjin categories, dōjinshi (同人誌) are the ones getting the most exposure outside Japan, as well as within Japan, where dōjinshi are by tradition the most popular and numerous dōjin products.