PHOTOS OF JAPAN MAID CAFES: PRETTY JAPANESE GIRLS IN AKIHABARA, TOKYO. COSPLAY FRENCH MAIDS, OTAKU SUBCULTURES.
In these establishments, customers pay good money to be pampered by cute, young girls in frilly costumes. The roleplay goes pretty far. Waitresses will get on hand and knees to take orders from “Master.” Some even offer ear-cleaning and spoon-feeding.
There are dozens of cosplay cafes in Tokyo’s Akihabara district. On weekends, lonely boys line up for a plate of ketchup-rice decorated by their favorite maid.
These eateries are an odd but harmless fantasy — a space where nerdy “otaku” can get attention from anime and manga heroines. Some develop warm “moe” crushes on their favorite maid. For a few hundred yen, customers can buy decorated Polaroids, or capsule toys from “gashapon” machines.
Japanese maids are elusive creatures. Most of these cafes ban photography, since they cash in by selling photos of the girls. Try to take a photo of a maid handing out flyers in the street, and she’ll cover her face and walk away.
However, I’ve had special access: I often bring TV shows to maid cafes, and photographed several for my Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo book. Here’s a peek at my photo collection…
Miko-san Cafe featured girls dressed as Shinto temple maidens. The spirits were not pleased. This theme cafe barely lasted a year.
In the changing rooms, there are racks of cute dresses and toy purses to choose from.
This maid cafe’s a drag. Look closely. All of the servers are cross-dressed men! (Yukiro worked here.)
At Mai:lish, the French maid blows on a spoonful of hot food… and hand-feeds the customer.
Each maid has an anime doppleganger. Customers buy merchandise, such as keychains and towels, with their favorite server’s image.
“Meidos” stand in the streets of Akihabara, handing out flyers to potential clients.
Melty Cure doubles as a massage parlor. Wonder what goes on behind the curtain…
You can see more photos and stories of maid cafes are in my book, Crazy Wacky Theme Restaurants: Tokyo.
I’ll soon be in Tokyo again, hosting a documentary about cherry blossom season for Belgium TV (VRK). To help prepare me, my Scottish Fold fat cat Basil Farrow taught a Japanese lesson about sakura season on Maggie Sensei’s blog! Come check it out here; Maggie’s blog is a wonderful resource for Japanese language learning that uses pop culture and visuals to make the process fun.
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Japanese Word of the Day: Natsukashii = Fondly remember
Song of the Day: Amanda Lear – Follow Me (Vampire disco magnificato.)