There is a place in Akihabara, Tokyo, called Pomeranian: The Chubby Maid Café. It's a restaurant run by "a bunch of not-so-thin girls" and the waitresses dress in maid costumes. Vice interviewed a few.
Ichigo (pictured at left), who came up with the idea, says: "I used to work at a regular maid café until I realized that all of the other girls were much thinner than me. I guess I felt a sense of inferiority, but then I considered how I could turn that around and actually make it work for me." Vice's Tomokazu Kosuga asks Ichigo if she thinks being chubby makes people treat her differently, and she answers: "I find that people find me easily approachable. When it's raining and I don't have an umbrella, old ladies let me go under theirs. Also, I get asked for directions a lot. I suppose they think I'm friendly, but whether that's an advantage, I don't know! In any case, people tend to open up to me more."
Another employee, Kaya (pictured below), tells Kosuga she used to obsess over dieting before she started working at Pomeranian:
I always said to myself, "I must lose weight, I must lose weight," but since working here I now think, "There's nothing wrong with being fat." Being able to accept myself in that way has been a huge change. I'm a more confident person, and other people have said I've become more positive.
On the one hand, this restaurant basically caters to a fetish, like a Hooters with a weight minimum, and its entire point is to focus attention on the physical appearance of the female employees. Is it just another example of women being treated as objects? On the other hand, all of the waitresses interviewed (click to read more) seem to have a great relationship with their bodies in a culture that's extremely diet-obsessed and where a woman is "supposed" to be tiny and slender. Should we be accepting of a place like Pomeranian?
"I wish [girls] wouldn't take their chubbiness as a negative thing. There are tons of girls out there who are chubby and attractive, so they should regard them as role models. Also, even if you notice that someone's chubby, you shouldn't comment on their weight so much [laughs]. It's a unique trait of theirs, and that's an important thing to have."
Photos via Vice by Takaaki Tanaka