Akihabara (affectionately known in Tokyo as "Akiba" (Ah-key-bah)) is a vibrant area that originally
flourished as a discount electronics destination as early as 1948. In the 1990's after being nicknamed
"Electric Town" tourists started showing up, as a consequence the prices gradually went up (why sell at a discount when people
will pay full price?) by the year 2002 "electric town" was filled with the latest albeit full priced electronics.
Around this time, some manga shops opened up and the area
became known as a place for Otaku (slightly insulting term defining an "enthusiast" and most commonly "comic
book enthusiast") to get electronics and manga (comics) and related merchandise (figurines, costumes, animation
cells). The costumes are usually from characters in video games and are worn by "cosplay" Otaku. Please click here for more about Cosplay.
In 2001, the first maid cafe (Cure Maid Cafe) opened in Akiba offering a new twist for the Otaku clientele of the area. They sell
the experience of servers dressed in costumes playing the role of cute french / english maids serving their boss tea when
he/she gets home. Please see the YouTube video below for an explanation from a Maid Cafe owner.
This tamer version of the japanese Host/Hostess Club, was intended to grab those Otaku that
would otherwise be too shy to pay someone to pour alcoholic drinks and talk to him. In fact, they insist
that it's not like a hostess club as it doesn't "excite" the customer but rather calms the customer in a soothing manner,
making him feel at home, a concept they call "Moe" (pronounced "Moh-ay"). For this reason, Omelette
Rice is a popular meal at Maid Cafe's as it's something your mom might have made for you as a kid. The omelette
pictured below has been decorated with "Love" by the maid who served it. Just like mom would make, right?
With "moe", Maid Cafe's have broken away from the
Hostess Club concept and evolved into their own genre of business, attracting western tourists, curious visitors
and japanese women looking for relationships with shy Otaku (mostly because of a popular tv romance drama that started with an
Otaku rescuing a girl from harassment on a crowded train).
Anyway check out Tommy Lee Jones in a Boss coffee commercial
poking a bit of fun at the Moe concept in Akihabara. Notice that the maid is feeding him with a spoon and playing
a game (that she's bound to lose), these are services offered at Maid Cafes if you pay more. The concept of this
commercial series is of an alien who saw a Tommy Lee Jones movie and took his image (as his disguise) for doing
research on Earth.
there are so many Maid Cafe's in Akiba that it's hard to stand out from the crowd, so the cutest representatives from each
Maid Cafe will stand outside of Akihabara station to hand out flyers and increase their cafe's business.
In fact this public
show of cosplay may have led to increased popularity of wearing costumes in Akiba.
Check out our 2010 visit to Akiba including a trip to Club Sega and a Maid Cafe:
is a contraction of the words "Costume" and "Play". In Japan, they don't celebrate Halloween and there really
aren't school plays, like in the U.S. so this is their chance to dress in costume and play the part of someone else for
awhile. At first, the costumes for sale in Akiba were sold to Otaku who took them home and (after some elaborate
detailing) were worn later at Comic or Video Game Conventions to take part in the costume contests, as
But following the immense
success of Cosplay Maid Cafes in Akihabara and taking after the established Cosplay trend in Harajuku (where high school girls wear
handmade costumes of their favorite J-Pop / Visual Kei artists on Sundays, [click here for more on Harajuku].) Otaku began wearing their video game and manga costumes on Sundays in Akiba
and performing for passers' by. Please see the YouTube video below of fans of the anime "The Melancholy of Haruhi
Suzumiya" (aka "Haruhists") performing the dance and song from the end credits.
Pretty good, huh?
In fact, cosplay has gotten so popular it now extends further than Jpop stars in Harajuku and Anime characters in Akiba, the
guy in the clip below (Danny Choo aka the dancing Stormtrooper) takes his Stormtrooper costume and dances from Akiba
to Shibuya and even on the trains. FYI: If you happen to see him in Tokyo, it would make a very good photo opportunity.
See? If you're a
Stormtrooper in Akiba, everyone will dance in the streets with you, even those camera shy Maid Cafe waitresses....wha-ut?
Life is good when you turn to the dark side...very good.
So if you're looking to
find an impromptu party on Sunday, you might want to check out the full-on costume party every week in Akiba and maybe have some
tea and cake at a Maid Cafe. However, if you're a true anime fan and looking for rare and hard to find items,
you might want to ditch the crowded shops and streets of Akiba and head to Nakano.