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A-MAIDS-ing Grace: Far Out Toys in San Jose, Calif.

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So on Friday I happened to hear about a maid cafe that runs on Saturdays at a toys and collectibles shop in San Jose, California. As it happened, that same day I was planning to fly to San Jose for a family event. So, do you guys think I would spend the weekend devoted to my family, particularly my brother, whose graduation party was the event I was there for? Or do you think that I would sneak out of the house to check out the first maid cafe I've heard of in the United States (outside of a convention)?

If you guessed "A," that I would hang around with my family...well, you don't know me very well, do you? Hit the jump for a few more photos (including the maid on duty, Jamie) and details!

 

As soon as you open the door to Far Out Toys, a collectibles and toy shop in San Jose's Japantown, you're assaulted by otakudom (and I don't mean B.O.). On a soda machine right next to the door is a poster of Konata, Kagami, and Tsukasa from Lucky Star in waitress outfits. Other anime posters wallpaper whatever open space there is on the walls-- which isn't much, since shelves piled high with anime toy and figures take up a ton of space. Several fans are chilling on the couch watching the newest episode of Sky Girls and chatting about new shows, while a few others browse the copious amounts of swag. A girl in a maid outfit delivers drinks to customers, and the owner, Izzy, answers questions and converses with the regulars.

Such is the shop's maid cafe, which only runs on Saturdays from 1 to 4pm. Izzy notes that he didn't want to make it an everyday thing; such is the law of supply and demand. Normally two maids grace the cafe, but today only one is working, and her name is Jamie. A recent transplant to California from Michigan, she's absolutely an otaku herself; my lovely assistant and I spend a bunch of time chatting with her about manga-making, cosplaying, and conventions.

To call it a "cafe" might be a bit misleading; it's really more of a couch and a couple of chairs in a corner of the store. But that doesn't stop it from being a lot of fun, because it has a really nice geek-community feel. It reminds me of American comics fans hanging out at a local comic shop, which is a casual hangout that has no universal equivalent for anime fans.

Although he doesn't plan to expand on the cafe much for now, Izzy has grand plans for the store, including becoming a licensed Sanrio seller. Before too long they'll have a whole Hello Kitty section-- which should boost the store's appeal with girls, since it leans a bit more towards the male otaku at the moment. They'll be carrying the more adult Sanrio merchandise, like jewelry and other accessories. Speaking of the store's selection, there are a TON of figures, from Atelier-Sai's waitress Mikuru (black version) to numerous Pinky:st cuties and more mechs than you can shake a Gundam at. That's on top of DVDs, magazines, and all sorts of other imports.

So, in other words, if you're in California and you don't feel like making a(nother) pilgrimage to Japantown San Francisco, you've got a pretty sweet alternative...especially on Saturdays from 1 to 4.


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