The heterogeneity of maid cafés: Exploring object-oriented fandom in Japan

Luke Sharp


Maid cafés may be positioned as objects of (often oversimplified) fan communities in Japan; their heterogeneous qualities may be explored by presenting chronotopes with which they may be reconsidered. The problematics of viewing maid cafés in a homogeneous or reductive way (via iyashi-kei, "relaxation purposes," and moe-kei, "entertainment purposes") are considered, and the results of empirical research conducted at establishments across Honshū in Japan are presented. The vast differences in the services and interactivities provided in maid café settings are at odds with the homogenized fashion in which these venues have been treated in the popular press, in local promotional publications, and often in the academic literature. By presenting chronotopes and case studies with which maid cafés may be reconsidered, what it means to discuss maid cafés as a holistic phenomenon is challenged, and a heuristic for examining how spaces are constructed inside such establishments is provided.


Chronotope; Iyashi; Moe; Space

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