Maid cafés (メイドカフェ Meido kafe) are a subcategory of cosplay restaurants found predominantly in Japan. In these cafés, waitresses dressed in maid costumes act as servants, and treat customers as masters (and mistresses) in a private home, rather than as café patrons. The first maid café, Cure Maid Café, was established in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan in March 2001, but maid cafés are becoming increasingly popular. As they have done so, the increased competition has made them become crazier in order to attract customers. They have also expanded overseas to countries like China, Taiwan, Mexico, Canada and the United States.
Costume and Appearance
The maid costume varies from café to café, but most are based upon the costume of French maids, often composed of a dress, a petticoat, a pinafore, a matching hair accessory (such as a frill or a bow), and stockings. Sometimes, employees often wear rabbit or cat ears with their outfits to add more appeal.
Waitresses in maid cafés are often chosen on the basis of their appearance; most are young, attractive and innocent-looking women. For example, Royal Milk Café, a popular maid café, reports that the average age of its waitresses is 20.
Maid cafés were originally designed primarily to cater to the fantasies of male otaku, obsessive fans of anime, manga and video games. The image of the maid is one that has been popularized and fetishized in many manga and anime series, as well as in gal games. Important to the otaku attraction to maid cafés is the Japanese concept of moe, which generally describes a fetish or love for anime, manga or video game characters. More specifically, moe refers to adoration for young or innocent-looking female characters. People who have moe (especially a specific subcategory known as maid moe) are therefore attracted to an establishment in which they can interact with real-life manifestations (both physically and in demeanor) of the fictional maid characters that they have fetishized.
Today, the maid café phenomenon attracts more than just male otaku, but also couples, tourists, and women. Though the waitresses at maid cafés are sometimes interpreted as objects of romantic or sexual desire, they can also be viewed as simply aesthetically appealing figures. One female patron of maid cafés explains, “Sitting here and admiring how pretty the girls are is like admiring a flower”.
There is also speculation that maid cafés are receiving increasing patronage from young women looking for otaku as romantic partners after the release of a popular feature film and TV series about “Train Man” (電車男 Densha Otoko). “Train Man” recounts a purportedly true love story about a brave and endearingly awkward otaku who rescues a pretty woman from harassment on the train, and eventually begins a relationship with her.
Most maid cafés offer menus similar to those of more typical cafés. Customers can order coffee, other beverages, and a wide variety of entrées and desserts. However, in maid cafés, waitresses will often decorate a customer’s order with cute designs at his or her table. Syrup can be used to decorate desserts, and omelette rice (オムライス Omu-raisu), a popular entrée, is typically decorated using ketchup. This service adds to the image of the waitress as an innocent but pampering maid.
Rituals, Etiquette and Additional Services
There are many rituals and additional services offered at many maid cafés. Maids greet customers with “Welcome home, Master (Mistress)” (お帰りなさいませ、ご主人様！ Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama) and offer them wipe towels and menus. Maids will also kneel by the table to stir cream and sugar into a customer’s coffee, and some cafés even offer spoon-feeding services to customers. Increasingly, maid cafés offer grooming services, such as ear cleanings and leg, arm, and back massages (provided the customer remains fully clothed), for an additional fee. Customers can also sometimes pay to play card or video games with maids.
Customers are also expected to follow basic rules when patronizing a maid café. One Tokyo maid café recently published a list of ten rules that customers should follow in a maid café. For example, customers should not touch a maid’s body, ask for a maid’s personal contact information, or otherwise invade her personal privacy (by persistently following her or waiting outside the café for her to enter or exit). One common rule in a maid café is that photographs of maids or the café interior are forbidden. However, customers usually have the option of paying an extra fee in order to get his or her photograph taken with a maid. The maid will then hand-decorate the photograph for the customer.
- ↑ Maid Cafés – The Expanding Industry in Japan
- ↑ Galbraith, Patrick (2009-11-13). "Best Tokyo maid cafés". CNNGo. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- ↑ KｲKｲ (2009-10-30). "Maid for Dummies Part 1 (version 1.0)". Akibanana. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- ↑ "Royal Milk". Royal Milk. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- ↑ "Maid Café’s In Japan.". Curiosite. Retrieved 2009-11-17.
- ↑ "Maid Cafe Code of Conduct Chastises Creepy Clients". InventorSpot. Retrieved 2009-11-17.[dead link]
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