For anyone with a keen interest in anime subculture, the maid cafés of Akihabara need no introduction. Despite their ubiquity in anime, however, they feel representative of a previous generation of otaku, with their emphasis on “moe” (a word people don’t really say anymore) and cheerfully cheesy displays of servitude.
Yet unbeknownst to many, maid café culture has been undergoing a sea change in the recent COVID years. Existing establishments have been enforcing social distancing and refurbishing their interiors to comply with safety guidelines. And in these updated, squeaky clean cafés where masks are the norm, new kinds of customers have been flocking to enjoy the food and atmosphere.
These days, I’m told, the number of female customers has surged.
“The ratio is pretty close to equal,” says Chimu, a maid who works for the at-home cafe in Akihabara, which…