From used-panty vending machines to tentacle porn, it is often hard to imagine how things could be odder than Japan's indigenous fetishes. To their credit though, the Japanese continue to the raise the bar.

Take, for example, the novelty known as the "maid cafe" found in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. Relatively unheard of outside Japan, the maid cafe represents a mix of Japanese fetishism and obsessiveness rarely present in other cultures.

In 2001, the Cure Maid Cafe opened its doors in Tokyo's high-tech district of Akihabara. From this single cafe spawned a new industry; there are currently more than 200 maid cafes in Japan.

An enthusiastic "Welcome home, master!" greets visitors as they enter the maid cafe while a handful of attractive young ladies dressed in maid costumes stand ready to serve their new guests.

Once inside the cafe, the interior looks basic and Spartan, like what you might find in a corporate cafeteria. From the stage area, patrons can be photographed with the maids or engage in more embarrassing activities like a song duet.

Activities vary slightly by cafe, but all keep to the same basic theme. The more time spent being entertained by the maid, the more money will be involved. Most places have a one-drink minimum starting at around $6 with a maximum stay of one hour.

Other activities like one-on-one conversation with a maid can cost upwards of $90 per hour. The more cash one is willing to dole out, the more lavish and doting the attention they are given.

It's generally accepted that members of Akihabara's geek culture fuel the maid-cafe economy. Most regular folks off the street describe the typical maid cafe regular as socially awkward, with difficulty maintaining traditional male-female relationships.

That's probably just speculation, but based on observation of the Akihabara subculture, the regulars do seem to take their time in the maid cafes seriously.

Many bring their own cosplay props for pictures with the maids, and are well known in the cafes they frequent.

Most recently, niche cafes have begun to sprout up, offering everything from chubby maids to servers dressed as nuns.

The lesson here? If there is a niche, the Japanese will explore and exploit it.

More Weird News:
How Pervy Were the SEC Porn Finds? -- Let's do the numbers.

Freaktown, USA Fights to Stay Freaky -- Memorializing the world's strangest couple.