(Chubby) Maid in Japan

17th January 2009

(Chubby) Maid in Japan

A group of women in Akihabara, Tokyo have started Pomeranian: The Chubby Maid Café, staffed by “not-so-thin” girls who wear waitress costumes. For those unfamiliar with such cafes, check out this Boston Globe primer. Vice magazine interviewed several of the workers there, but first reminds readers just how unconventional these women truly are:

Dieting is, sadly, an important ritual for girls all over the world. But as with everything else they do, the girls in Japan take it just that little bit too far, right up to the point where it’s basically obsessive-compulsive disorder.

…proudly showing off their flab in a nation famous for its low obesity rate and pressure to conform makes these girls sort of like the foodie equivalent of a crust-punk throwing a lit Molotov cocktail into a bank.

Chubby Maid Cafe JapanIchigo, the cafe’s founder (pictured, right), says she was inspired to start Pomeranian after working at another cafe with mostly thinner coworkers. She said the cafe start-up has been an empowering experience and hopes it makes a broader social statement:

As for girls, I also wish they wouldn’t take their chubbiness as a negative thing. There are tons of girls out there who are chubby and attractive, so they should regard them as role models. Also, even if you notice that someone’s chubby, you shouldn’t comment on their weight so much [laughs]. It’s a unique trait of theirs, and that’s an important thing to have.

The feeling is mutual for many of the other maids. Says Kaya:

I always said to myself, “I must lose weight, I must lose weight,” but since working here I now think, “There’s nothing wrong with being fat.” Being able to accept myself in that way has been a huge change. I’m a more confident person, and other people have said I’ve become more positive.

In looking at the accompanying photos of the women interviewed, I didn’t think any of them looked even remotely chubby, especially Kozue, but, of course, I’m looking at them through an American filter. By Japanese standards, Kozue qualifies as chubby. She explains:

I think the word “chubby” means different things to different people. For example, some people see Kanako Yanagihara [an overweight entertainer in Japan] as being “chubby,” but I personally think that “chubby” is just when you don’t fit into the clothes sold at normal clothing stores, which I don’t. So when I meet customers who have someone bigger like Kanako in mind, they often say that I’m pretty average-looking, slender even. It upsets me when they say that.

Jezebel describes the cafe as a kind of “Hooters with a weight minimum,” and wonders if its yet another example of women being treated as objects. That may very well be true, but the women interviewed all insist they feel empowered and good about their bodies for it, so I say rock on.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, January 17th, 2009 at 8:00 am and is filed under Body-Affirming, Fat Bias, Pop Culture. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

There are currently 10 responses to “(Chubby) Maid in Japan”

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  1. 1 On January 18th, 2009, Jackie said:

    Hurray for chubby kawaii!(cute)

  2. 2 On January 18th, 2009, forever_dreamer21 said:

    I think it’s a wonderful thing that Ichigo founded this cafe and it’s pretty inspiring! Yes I think they might be treated as objects but it’s still inspiring to see none the less! Good job girls!

  3. 3 On January 18th, 2009, keito said:

    Really cute, marvelous and great!

  4. 4 On January 19th, 2009, Elena said:

    Although I feel it is positive to embrace larger sizes in Japan, Maid Cafés are anything but empowering places. I visited Tokyo a couple of years ago and went to a maid café with a Japanese friend.
    There are two sets of menus to choose from: drinks & pastries on one, and “services” on another. Think of nerd heaven: customers could pay a sum to have the girl bend down, to have a girl rub their eyelids (WTF?), to touch a maid’s knee, etc. More expensive services like a massage (albeit of the legal kind) apparently happened in private rooms. It was all about fetishism to the highest degree. I was the only woman at the café and as a feminist felt really uncomfortable, as the girls were completely objectified, and appeared servile and submissive. My 2 cents.

  5. 5 On January 19th, 2009, Rachel said:

    That’s interesting, Elena. I had never heard of these cafes before I saw this story. The servility you witnessed is most likely all just part of the fetishism of these places, in which case, I don’t necessarily see it as objectifying these women as long as its consensual. But I agree, I would probably feel uncomfortable there as well.

  6. 6 On January 19th, 2009, Misty said:

    I am surprised and pleased to see such a positive post here about this enterprise. I find it very inspiring indeed, and your write-up is commendable. If I had found out about it somewhere else, and then heard that it had been written up here, I would have expected a typical angry screed against it.

    But I underestimated you. Thank you for putting aside hyper-partisanship and recognizing a size-positive development when you see it. And thank you for sharing the links.

  7. 7 On January 19th, 2009, Rachel said:

    “typical angry screed”? Oh, dear. Please tell me that’s not what you generally think of my writing here on this site :)

  8. 8 On January 19th, 2009, Treasa said:

    Regarding Elena’s comment, keep in mind the social situation in which maid cafes exist. On the one hand, they exist along side the butler cafes, which isn’t all that different except that women are paying for the company of men. We also have the famous host clubs (again, women paying for the company of men) and the hostess clubs. Not that this necessarily makes the presence of maid cafes positive, but they don’t exist in a vacuum. Also, Japan unfortunately isn’t a bastion of feminism or progressive gender roles, at least not as most Western women I know would define feminism or progressive gender roles. Women are still expected to get married and raise families, and to leave their jobs to do so. Fatness isn’t a positive thing over there and I have some serious doubts that FA or HAES have made it to Japan just yet, which is what makes this new maid cafe so incredible. It might not seem like much to folks outside the system, but I think it’s pretty positive given the context.

  9. 9 On January 21st, 2009, Richard Mullen said:

    Amazing how standards vary between countries. She looks like a size 8 tops and is considered “chubby” by Japanese standards.

    Pretty much anywhere outside the states men are going to be treated like this compared to being here but I do find it funny how the “Butler” version available shows men and women are really pretty much the same.

  10. 10 On January 21st, 2009, Lampdevil said:

    Speaking as someone with a more than passing interesting Japanese pop culture, I feel all… fuzzy inside to hear about Pomeranian. I’ve internalized a desire “kawaii” to some degree, and berate myself for not being “cute”, in my weaker moments. I’m fannish. I like to go to conventions, squee about fun things… I have a burning desire to cosplay (short for “costume play,” dressing up like a character) but I always talk myself out of it. Oh, it’s too expensive, I don’t have the time to sew something, I couldn’t afford to comission that, it’s not worth the bother… when really, it all boils down to being terrified of mockery. Fandom can be brutal towards a fat cosplayer. But this inspires a little hope and confidence in me. I’m chubby and I’m cute, too. I can be chubby and cute and dress up all-fun-like, and that’s okay. I could totally rock a maid outfit, if I wanted to. Yeah.

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