Cross-dressing waiters in Tokyo

"Welcome home, Master," a group of French maids sings out, bowing deeply to a customer entering their maid cafe.

by: Reuters: Chika Osaka | 16 Apr 2008

This could be any of the dozens of maid cafes dotting Tokyo's Akihabara electronics district, where geeks engage in role-play with girls dressed as French maids. But don't be fooled by the frilly pinafores: all of the maids here are men.

In this novelty-hungry market catering to Japan's free-spending computer and comic book fans, cafe owners are coming up with ever more exotic formulas to satisfy booming demand.

It all started when the manager of "Hibari Tei" cafe, named after a bird, asked a few cross-dressing men to fill in for women working at a different maid cafe. To his surprise, no customer found out they were being served by a male waiter.

"The maids are too pretty to be men," said 33 year-old businessman Takao Mochizuki, who also cross-dresses while on vacation.

Maid cafes generally do not offer sexual services. Customers order typical cafe fare such as coffee, tea and sandwiches, served by giggling, girlish maids. In addition, they can ask the maids for special, non-sexual services, such as drawing pictures on an omelette using tomato ketchup.

They have grown into a booming business and are a core part of the Japanese "otaku" or "nerd" industry believed to be worth nearly $2 billion.

Most waitresses at the cafe have day-time jobs so the cafe opens only on weekends, depending on the maids' availability.

Would this style of service work in South Africa?

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