Cosplay (コスプレ, kosupure) was originally a Japanese term for dressing up like a anime, manga, video game, movie character, pop or J Rock band. The term or word is now more widely used in the western world as the activity has become popular around the world, particularly at major conventions. The word comes from the joining of two English words “costume” and “play”.
Cosplay involves dressing in very elaborate costumes, normally made by themselves, with other people who like to do the same thing. The community generally discourages the dressing in commercially made costumes as the construction is a large part of the challenge of the activity. Many players will work together or help others with their costumes and this part of the friendship and community that develops around the activity. While most players dress up for their own interest and enjoyment, it has become a public spectacle in places like Harajuku (Tokyo) and Den Den Town (Osaka), where interested members of public, mainly western tourist, come to take pictures. At times there can be more tourists and photographers than there are players.
You can see many players on a Sunday afternoon on Harajuku Bridge, next Harajuku Station. Since 1998, Tokyo’s Akihabara district has contained a large number of cosplay cafes, catering to devoted anime and fans of various bands or styles of music. The waitresses at such cafes dress as game or anime characters; maid costumes are particularly popular. There is a large range of Maid Cafes.