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), Akihabara 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 staff at such cafes, typically young women, dress in costumes to match the theme such as game or anime characters. One of the most popular and first theme cosplay cafes are the Maid Cafes or meido cafe where the waitresses wear traditional French maid costumes or uniforms. The focus of these cafes is fun and kawai (cute).