The maids serve not aristocrats but a string of pop-culture-mad customers at a "Maid Cafe" in Tokyo's Akihabara district.
"Welcome, Master," says the maid as she bows deeply, hands clasped in front of astarchedpinaforeworn over a pink dress.
This maid serves not aristocrats but a string of pop-culture-mad customers at a "Maid Cafe" in Tokyo'sAkihabaradistrict, long known as aMeccafor electronicsbuffsbut now also the center of the capital's "nerdculture."
"When they address you as 'Master', the feeling you get is like a high," says Koji Abei, a 20-year-old student having coffee with a friend at the Royal Milk Cafe.
"I've never felt that way before."
Maid cafes dot Akihabara, which has become a second home for Tokyo's "otaku" -- roughly translated as "geeks." They're known for their devotion to comics and computer games and can easily be identified by their standard outfit of track suit, knapsack and spectacles.
In the cafes, girls dressed infrilly frocksinspired by comic-book heroines waithand and footon customers, mostly male, who might have once been obsessed with naughty schoolgirls and nurses.
At one cafe, maids get down on their knees to stir the cream and sugar into the customer's coffee.
At Royal Milk, diners can follow up a meal with a range of grooming services, including ear cleanings.
Maids at some of the more attentive shops even offer to spoon-feed customers at their table.
Maid cafes have mushroomed since they first emerged about four years ago, evolving from cafes where waiting staff emulated characters from a popular series of role-playing video games, often dressed in schoolgirl-inspired uniforms.
Akihabara now boasts around 30 maid cafes that cater not just to male geeks but also to couples, tourists and the merely curious.