'Maid Cafe NY' Brings Japanese Cosplay Culture (And Stereotypes) To U.S.

Over the past few years, American "breastaurants" like Hooters have begun showing up in Japan. Now Japan is returning the favor by introducing maid cafes to New York City. At Maid Café NY, Japanese women dress in lacy pink maid costumes and giggle, blush, and refer to male customers as master while serving curry and cakes.

The Hooters analogy isn't perfect — proprietors of NYC's Maid Cafe insist the costumes and concept aren't intended to be sexual. “Americans take it as a sexual thing, but we Japanese don’t see it like that,” founder Satoshi Yoshimura told the New York Daily News. “My goal is to give a sense of [Japanese costume] culture to New Yorkers.”

"Cosplay" restaurants, which also include butler cafes, are big in Japan, especially with anime and manga (otaku) fans. The maids and butlers refer to customers as masters and mistresses and pretend they're serving them in a private home rather than a restaurant. There are also school-themed, cross-dressing and railway-themed cafes.

Aside from the maid/butler-themed spots, none of the cosplay concepts have yet emigrated to America. We've got Maid Cafe NY and a few others like it (My Cup of Tea, Maidreamin, At Your Service, and Royal/T ), which — however innocently intended — totally perpetuate the kinds of stereotypes that American fetishists associate with Asian women.

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