Maid cafés (メイド喫茶 / メイドカフェ Meido kissa / 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 permanent 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 some use unusual tactics in order to attract customers. They have also expanded overseas to countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, 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 wear animal 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.
Some maid cafés also have crossdressing males as maids.
Maid cafés were originally designed primarily to cater to the fantasies of male otaku, 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 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.
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 stalking). 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.
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- Maid Cafés – The Expanding Industry in Japan
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