In response to an article by Japan's Sankei News about increasing numbers of young men choosing to dress as women in Japan, the blog news109.com posted a round-up of some of the country's top cross-dressing bloggers. The general consensus? "It's okay so long as they're pretty."
Truth be told, Japan has always had a live-and-let-live attitude towards transvestitism. Onna-gata, male actors in drag, are a beloved part of the Kabuki theater. But the recent explosion in interest among young urban men is a different trend.
Recent developments include a handful of cross-dressing maid cafes, in which men decked out in lace and frills serve customers. There is now a guidebook for men who want to transform themselves into beautiful girls. And last year, lingerie company WishRoom released a bra designed specifically for men.
It's hard to say exactly how popular the activity truly is among average Japanese males. The occasional Harajuku fashion-victim aside, men in skirts are hardly commonplace. But one thing is for sure. In Tokyo, there's never been a better time to get in touch with your feminine side.
At Hibari-kei, your maid just might be a master - actually they ALL are, since this unique floating Maid Cafe is the first in Japan to feature cross-dressing male maid servers.
Tokyo's Akihabara district is famed for its Maid Cafes - small, often themed restaurants staffed by young women wearing maid costumes. From humble beginnings, the Maid Cafe phenomenon has branched out to include Eyeglasses Cafes, Ear-cleaning Cafes, even Scientist Lab Coat Cafes... all featuring nubile servers of the feminine persuasion.
Gender equality is intruding into this particular perfumed world, however. First came Butler Cafes; basically the reverse of the usual Maid Cafe in which elegant male butlers served mainly female customers with upper class English civility. Now the other high-heeled shoe has dropped: get ready for Hibari-kei, "the one and only cross-dressing maid cafe in Akiba."
Hibari-kei is staffed by cross-dressing male waiters who, for the most part, work at assorted IT industry jobs in the Akihabara area. By day they look and act like average Japanese salarymen - by night, look out! That fashionably dressed, soft-spoken techie who replaced your computer's hard drive this morning just could be Chazuke (left) or Ichigoneko (Strawberry Cat), two of Hibari-kei's many marvelous male maids.
If you'd like to visit Hibari-kei - their clientele seems to be a unisex mix - visit their website to find out their latest location. Yes, Hibari-kei is a sort of "floating cafe" that holds pre-planned events at several regular Maid Cafes in the area, such as Royal Milk, Nomidokoro Wood and Honey Sheep. The website also provides news on the evening's theme; for example, the popular Nostril Challenge... I'll just leave that to your imagination. Hibari-kei's website is worth a visit even if you don't live in Japan, as the maids have their own profile pages and some of those link to their personal blogs.
All in all, Hibari-kei offers something off the beaten track to visitors who think they've seen everything Japanese Otaku culture has to offer.
SOURCE: Japanese / English / English