The idea of being served by a maid may be frivolous according to some but it is not weird; at least not all by itself. But some Tokyo cafes and dry cleaners have taken the concept way over the top in an attempt to attract a very specific clientele who patronize their neighborhood establishments.
Maid costumes are a very popular attraction in the Tokyo neighborhood known as Akihabara, whose name translates into “field of falling leaves.” Here, streets are lined with shops of all kinds, including dry cleaning stores and many cafés where the waitresses are all dressed as maids.
This is a great source of pleasure to the Japanese geeks (western yuppies?) known as otaku who shop there for hi-tech, electronic supplies.
The concept of being served is no better exemplified than with the costume of a butler or maid. Girls in Tokyo promenade the streets wearing the uniforms and promoting the cafes in which they work. One English school, it is said, has a teacher who wears the standard black and white uniform every day to class!
In Japan, the concept of a live-in housekeeper does not exist. The idea of a maid style café exemplifies a word that may not be known to all; namely, cosplay.
The word has several meanings but by its widest definition, it refers to simply wearing a costume without characterization or performance. In Japan, the maid costume in all of its varieties is a type of cosplay and Candy Fruit is a company that is known for its production of the most fashionable brands of maid costumes.
In the maid cafes, in order to enhance the illusion that the customer is indeed the master, waitresses often serve the customer in a very deferential fashion.
Sometimes, staff will kneel to mix sugar or milk in teas or other drinks. While doing so, they are usually garbed in an apron dress, which hails from Britain and represents the symbolic outfit for Japanese maids although no one seems to know exactly why this is so. It is possible that the reason concerns the purity of the white apron, which is vicariously comforting, exciting and somehow up front and extremely personal.
The most popular and common style of maid uniform seen in Japanese cosplay cafes is the combination of the apron and the traditional 19th century, short-skirted, French maid costume of fantasy fame.
The maid costume is almost always above the knee and black or navy-colored. It usually includes an apron with some sort of frill. The skirt area of the dress is usually pleated and sometimes ruffled.
NTK Systems is a tiny place with a big idea. It still offers the same dry cleaning and locker service at the same reasonable price it did before, but now the front desk clerk greets customers wearing a maid costume.
There are also male cafes, where you can see men dressed as maids and the latest offshoot are drag maid cafes where men are dressed as maids and nobody seems to know who is who and what is what and that seems to be an acceptable state of affairs.