Wednesday, 19 November 2008

As seen in Japan

A few of you may know that I spent a bit of time in Japan recently. I thought I would post some of the wierd and wonderful things that are happening over there.

The Akihabara district is the electronic district in Tokyo and is home to everything Manga and Anime. One of the wierest things is the explosion of Maid cafes where "men who are too shy to have girlfriends" - The Otaku - go to have a cup of coffee. The waitresses are dressed as in the picture and are deliberately nice to the men. The girl on the left is dressed as a nun and if you go to her cafe she will bless you and read bits of the bible to you!

The men often struggle to deal with their emotions in their interchanges with the maids. to cover their embarrassment when they can't think of anything to say they simply exclaim: "MO-E".

There is nothing sexual beyond the short-ish skirt. In some cafes they might give you a foot massage or clean your ears! - a sign of intimacy in Japan. But mostly it is about role-playing. The girls will act out anime characters. For example, one character is "mean to you, but you know she likes you". Another is "anti-capability". She will be deliberately bad at serving you because she is not trying to impress you with her skills, but rather appeal to you through purity of heart. There is a girl who will cut your hair badly using a child's scissors for $100. She's booked up weeks in advance.

And if you are thinking this is all a bit male oriented think again. The latest phenomenon is Butler cafes, where girls dress as boys and are nice to women. They are queueing round the block for that one.


Anonymous said...

do you think there's something for brands in this? Obviously Sony has already capitalised on this in Japan, but are there other brands who could do something similar here?

It's amazing that a culture can be so open and honest about its - basically sexual - needs and build whole industries based upon them. We have red light districts where you can escape society, but we don't have this kind of open embracing of our habits.

Anonymous said...

I think there something about the English character that means it wouldn't quite work in the same way. As a nation, we have an inherent sense of embarrassment, we can't be open and honest in this way, its not in our nature. (Although I suppose you could argue that the reality TV culture of actively humiliating yourself in front of millions is challenging this somewhat).
Anyone wanting to know what I'm talking about, read "Watching the English" by Kate Fox. Brilliant insights into the nation's personality (and I reckon something that anyone marketing to the public in this country should read). Yes, Phil, I know its about English people - its not a racist that English = British, before you say so! She highlights certain differences between the English and the Scots and Welsh. Although on reflection, in this case I think the same inherent sense of embarrassment would be an obstacle.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly the phenomenon was started by Sega. When they launched an anime game at en exhibition they dressed up girls as the characters in the game and had them run a cafe. The place went mental and someone realised there was a demand for real life charcter role play for "men too shy to have girlfriends".

The Akihabara ditrict is now being taken over by big business. This is difficult for the Japanese who have been embarrassed by what happens in this area. But the Otaku spend a lot of money and so attitudes ar emiraculoously changing! Recently the Foreign Minister declared himself an Otaku much to the nation's surprise.


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