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'Welcome home husband!'

120525_15

Photograph: Photo Supplied

Moepara is the vision of friends Yamamoto, Katsuyama and Rin, who share a mutual obsession for Japanese Manga cartoons. After seeing the mushrooming industry of maid cafes in Japan, the trio decided to bring the first Moe (pronounced Moe-eh) maid bar to Phnom Penh.

Moe is a Japanese slang word with multiple suggestive meanings. It’s the ability of a doe eyed ‘cute’ character to instill in an audience an irrational desire to adore them, comfort them or to evoke a familial protective instinct. It’s also a pun that literally means “budding”, as in a plant that’s about to flower; consequently it’s often used to describe the potential of a young girl’s developing beauty. The Moe personality typically reflects an “innocent” outlook on something vital, such as romance.

It’s with this in mind that the Moepara team have opened the first role-play Moe maid bar in Cambodia. “We basically want you to leave the stresses of the world behind you when you enter this place so that you can become yourself. It’s a big game where you can come and be who you want, before going back to your real life,” says Yamamoto.

Before entering the bar, the concept is explained to the customers outside before they come in. Sex tourists are expressly not welcome; this is not a girly bar. A maid then appears with the greeting “Welcome home husband/mistress!” and shows you into your new home.

Rin explains to me how she feels in her maid outfit. “I want to make people happy as friends. The minute someone comes through the door, they’re instantly close as friends. Everybody should be getting on and having a great time together. I want to create fun here like a family. I know when I dress like this it makes everyone feel better. I feel strong with their attention.”

As with most Moe bars, Moepara have their own unique gimmick. There are a variety of different role-play personas for you to interact with in this bar that you can select from a menu.

Along with the maids there are also cheerleaders, policewomen, tartan kilted schoolgirls and, bizarrely, a human polyester Budweiser can. You may even bring your own costume and character into the bar if he or she interacts respectfully with the other characters.

Interestingly, as well as the usual fare of a well stocked bar, Moepara also offers snowcones and hot dogs as bar snacks, while electronic dartboards and board games are available to play with your maid. There’s a constant visually imaginative screening of action dominated Manga animated cartoons silently projected onto the far wall. Japanese electro pop music plays unobtrusively and whenever the gong is donged all the maids get a free drink to great excitable clatter. Performances from the maids will also be a regular feature on their stage.

“It was our dream to bring a taste of Moe to Southeast Asia,” says Lin. “We found Vietnam too prohibitive and naturally gravitated towards Cambodia with its more libertine attitudes. We want to inspire people to desire and experience the differences in Japanese culture. It was an idea that has always been alive in my head.”

Moepara (Opens June 1st)
When: Daily 5pm-2am
Where: #40 St 130

Thanks to Kameron Lightly for kindly providing Japanese translation.

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