In Akihabara electric town, a district a bit north of Tokyo and jam-packed with a riot of tech-shops selling all manner of computer gear and accessories, the Akihabara maids roam. Decked out in frilly French maid outfits, wide-eyed and gushingly friendly to perps, they prey on the nerdy ‘otaku’ that inhabit Akiba’s warren of back-streets like level 3 kobolds in a beginner dungeon.
Pretty in pink.
Akihabara has been getting trendy in the past 10 years or so, as Japanese ultra-nerds coming more to the fore of mainstream culture with the international popularity of manga, anime, cosplay and games like final fantasy. The maids play to some medieval urge in these dorks to be treated like a master by a doe-eyed submissive cutie, something impossible to achieve for most of the (probably?) socially inept guys that frequent their ‘maid cafes’.
Rabit ears and bunny ears- very popular.
I’ve never been in a maid cafe, though I glanced into a few when I was doing this shoot. All the ones I could find had big lines of heavy old dudes lined up outside- not a crowd I much wanted to wait with.
Not quite a maid, more like cosplay, but advertising a very similar thing.
Giving rapt attention to a potential customer.
What is a maid cafe, then? Well, it’s sort of like a hostess bar, but cheaper, and with less of the ‘sex’ allusion and more of the submissive and manga-kawaii thing played up. So what’s a hostess bar then? A bar where you spend money per the time you’re there, get romanced and chatted up by pretty young women who you buy drinks for, and who may, if you persist and offer up big money, be prepared to go off the books with you and take things to the next level.
Is there that seedy side to maid cafes- will they go all the way for the right cash? I don’t know that, I imagine it’s less of a factor than with hostess bars, but I don’t doubt it can and does happen somewhat. Plenty of otaku have cash, and plenty of young women want it.
School-girl type outfit, petticoat.
Shooting these girls is the most like a paparazzi I’ve felt yet, not a comfortable experience really. They don’t want to be shot, they turned their backs or crossed their arms in front of their faces. I asked a few to see if getting permission would ease them up, but they said no in no uncertain turns.
Shooting maids as they walk away is easier. This one is probably not properly decked out yet- her kit will be in that suitcase she’s strolling with.
Making the pitch.
Demurely closing the sale.
Perhaps they are embarrassed by what they do, and don’t want to be seen in their professional gear touting their wares on the street.
She seems unimpressed.
Perhaps miserable in this job?
Panda-head, striding confidently along.
The archetype, hugely-busted massive-eyed blue-haired aliens.
She turns to see me, purses her lips, spins around immediately.
Impeccably put together.
Shooting this final girl I found another guy out with camera, taking shots, which made me feel less bad. I guess there’s truth in the theories of anonymity raising confidence. I used him as a blind, since she was trying to not face either of us, and managed to get the first shot of her head on as she turned from him.
But yeah, felt a little bad, so in the future will try to mostly take shots of people more willingly showing themselves off.
You can see all MJG’s Tokyo content here:
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