Cosplay has become an integral part of Japan's booming manga culture. The term generally refers to the practice of dressing up like your favorite pop-culture icon or a character from an animation or comic; think of a Trekkie convention, but with an even wider range of outfits to choose from. A quick run through Harajuku Station on a Sunday will bring you directly into contact with dozens of young practitioners -- the girls in flounced Little Bo-Peep skirts and the boys looking sullen in too much face makeup.

Tokyo's first cosplay-themed nightspot, Alcatraz B.C., opened in Roppongi in 1998. The concept was the brainchild of a restaurant marketing company and not a personal project by an impassioned devotee of dressing up.

"We were looking for a fresh new concept for a restaurant that would leave people thinking, 'Wow, where am I? Where on earth could I be?' " says Tomoaki Shirai, the manager of Alcatraz E.R. in Shibuya.