Organisers of an annual festival to showcase Japanese culture in Auckland have banned cosplay maids, saying they are "too sexy" for the family event.

Maid cafes, or meido kissa, are cosplay restaurants found mainly in Japan where waitresses dress in French maid outfits and treat patrons as masters and mistresses.

Michel.Sea, a maid cafe host from Japan, said she had proposed to make the service a part of Japan Day this weekend, but had been told by organisers the activity was "too sexy for Auckland".

Japan Day is an annual event organised by the Japanese Society of Auckland and the Japanese Consulate.


Society chairwoman Naoe Hashimoto said the decision not to include maid cafes on the programme was made after "intensive discussions".

"It's just the nature of Japan Day being a family event and we will not emphasise the part of our culture that can be misinterpreted," Hashimoto said.

Maid cafes were originally started to cater to fantasies of male otaku - or fans of anime and manga - and have been compared to the otaku equivalent of hostess bars.

Waitresses who work at these cafes wear short, frilly dresses and matching accessories.

To maintain this cosplay fantasy, most, like Michel.Sea, are also contractually bound to keep their real names a mystery.

First established in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan, in 2001, maid cafes have expanded overseas to countries such as the United States, France, Australia, China and South Korea.

In Auckland, regular maid cafe days are also held at Restaurant Morita, a French-Japanese eatery in the central city.

Hashimoto acknowledged that maid cafes are a big part of Japanese culture, but felt the concept was not suitable for Japan Day.

"There are lots of different views on maid cafes . . . it is not always correctly understood by outsiders or foreigners," she said.

"We would like not to cause any misunderstanding."

Hashimoto said Japan Day would instead be promoting other aspects of Japan's culture, from food, crafts, arts and music to J-Pop.

Michel.Sea said she was shocked and disappointed by the organisers' decision to ban the maids.

"We are waitresses in fantasy costumes, not sex workers and there is even a rule of 'no touching'," she said.

"It will do nothing to help people understand what maid cafe culture is all about, and probably create even more misunderstanding, by not allowing it at Japan Day."

Michel.Sea will instead work with nine other cosplay maids to offer those who want to get a maid cafe experience at Restaurant Morita on March 19.

Japan Day is now into its 16th year and organisers are expecting a crowd of more than 50,000 this year.

Highlights include an ice-carving show, kimono-wearing, tea ceremonies as well as modern Japanese culture such as otaku (manga, anime and cosplay), and J-Pop.

The event is modelled after Japan's summer festival and will run this Saturday and Sunday at The Cloud and Shed 10 on Auckland's Queens Wharf.