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The Asian ApertureYunmao Ayakawa
POSTED BY JASON FETTERS, January 30, 2011    Share

One thing that I neglected to mention during my last column on Japanorama was the appeal of Yunmao Ayakawa. Yunmao (pronounced as written Yun plus mao as in Chairman Mao,) helped Jonathan Ross by introducing the episode's topic. Ross would have a brief intro and Yunmao would pronounce the word correctly in Japanese and offer an English translation. She would also appear throughout the show usually performing cosplay, (costume play) dressing up as fan favorites from anime, manga, and video games. Cosplayers in Japan are usually young people who hang out on the weekends at places like Akihabara, Tokyo's electronic stores district, or Nakano Broadway, which features an entire mall of current and used manga, anime, and especially used toys from Japan, the U.S., and other parts of the world. Most cosplayers earn no money and do it to show off homemade costumes and get their pictures taken with foreign tourists just for fun. No so with Yunmao who is a professional cosplayer and receives a good salary for guest appearances at cons in Japan and throughout the world. I have never heard about anyone going pro among the thousands of kids who cosplay just as a hobby.

Following a successful run on Japanorama, Yumnao's career really blossomed when she started writing (in English even, very rare for a Japanese person,) a weekly column called Cosplay Cafe for Otaku USA magazine. The columns are well written and offer an entertaining perspective on the cosplay experience at the pro level for cons. It is interesting to read about Yunmao's cosplay work at American Cons because of the funny stories about the reaction of American fans. She also works for the biggest events in Japan like the Tokyo Game Show and, of course, the Tokyo International Anime Fair. Yunmao was also a Cosplay Judge at U.S. Anime Mid Atlantic in Viirgina. If all that is not enough, there is more.

Yunmao has a thorough knowledge of the Maid Cafe industry and even has a position with the Nihon Maid Association. A Maid Cafe is a restaurant that serves coffee, tea, and various foods and desserts that are sugary and sweet. The main draw is the young girls, usually in their twenties, who dress up in French Maid costumes that are often based on anime and manga characters. The generally male nerd customer assumes the role of the master and the maid plays a cute subservient role. This led to amusing play acting. This is the one chance that a Japanese nerd has of a cute girl ever talking to him and being nice.

As seen on the Japanorama episode on Maid Cafes, Jonathan Ross went for the ultimate experience as listed on the menu. For around 2000 yen or more, you can take your maid to a backroom and play video games with her. Ross was playing a Street Fighter type game with a lovely maid. Since there is a rule written inside the cafe of no touching a maid, this is the height of innocent pleasure. Maids can also perform odd services such as ear cleanings and back massages. No hanky panky at any time.

Now back to where Yunmao fits in with the Maid Cafe industry, she teaches a workshop on how to work as a maid at a Maid Cafe. You can ever go to her Official American website, (in English,) to book one of her workshops. There is still something greater than all the above mentioned put together with Yunmao's next project.

For the low price of $945 that includes air fare and hotel accommodations, you can visit Tokyo for the Japan Cosplay Tour 2011 with Yunmao Ayakawa and presented by Otaku USA magazine. A huge event from March 16, 2011 to March 22. For that price you get access to cosplay events, a visit to a real Maid Cafe, shopping for fanboy toys,video games, manga, anime, figures, Jpop CDs, the latest in digital cameras, and PCs, at Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. Akihabara really has no equivalent in the US. Imagine 7 or more city blocks filled with computer stores like Best Buy, Compusa, along with comic books stores, and Moviestop and Gamestop for used games and DVDs all in one convenient area. Nakano Broadway takes all that great stuff and puts everything within a mall setting. Something familiar for Western tourists. Besides shopping there is a Tokyo tour and costume shopping with the all around expert Yunmao. Also, a chance to meet Japanese celebrities currently working in the industry. I have never heard of a special trip to Japan with all that included along with a true celebrity to take an entire group around. There have been other anime themed trips to Japan but nothing on this grand scale.

Yunmao is very busy with scheduled tours, this year, to various U.S. Anime Cons, and she even writes a blog in English for her website. Just go to Google and search for Yunmao Ayakawa and the official website should be the first hit. Then skip over to Youtube to see her in action on various Japanorama segments. She will definitely be the one to watch in 2011 and beyond.

"The Asian Aperture" is ©2011 by Jason Fetters. All contents of Nolan's Pop Culture Review are ©2011 by Nolan B. Canova.

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