Runa, a cross-dressing for about 40 years, puts on makeup at Ryu no Tsuiki in Nagoya. (Takuro Chiba)

NAGOYA—A cross-dressing specialty shop has seen a surge in business in this central Japan city, where men dressed like women have increasingly become a common sight.

Ryu no Tsuki (Dragon’s moon), which also caters to cosplayers, opened in 2011 at an apartment near Nagoya Station to little fanfare or customers.

The shop now receives reservations on a daily basis mainly from men seeking its “transformation experience program.”

Ryu no Tsuki always has available at least 100 varieties of clothing, including dresses, business suits for women and miniskirts.

Professional staff members ask customers about the look they are trying to achieve, select the appropriate costumes and apply makeup to help them feel pretty.

The fee is 22,000 yen ($202) for a three-hour session, plus 3,000 yen for first-time customers.

Photo shoots are included, and the shop offers options, including walks around town.

Many of the shop’s customers are white-collar workers.

One day, a man in his 20s who works at a home electric appliance retailer in Aichi Prefecture transformed into a bride in a wedding dress after about two hours of styling at the shop.

Two-toned pink lipstick and glittering gloss were applied to his lips. His false eyelashes were curled, and his eyes were defined by eyeliner. He also wore a chestnut wig and a large ribbon to add to his “cuteness.”

“You can’t normally have an experience like this,” the man said as he looked at himself in a full-length mirror. “It feels exciting, and it’s so good.”

According to Hana Fujita, 48, who runs Ryu no Tsuki, the shop attracts customers in their 20s through 70s. Some are cross-dressing enthusiasts by nature, but most patrons are new to the hobby.

Generally, their faces light up with delight when they see themselves dressed as women.

“For salarymen who are usually under stress, there is a joy in finding their new selves, saying, ‘Even I can do something like this,’” Fujita said.

In recent years, the number of customers in their 20s has been increasing. In many cases, they ask shop employees to make them look like their favorite cosplayers, whom they have grown to admire after seeing them on Instagram and other social networking sites.

“Young people are psychologically open to cross-dressing. They view it as a means of self-expression,” the owner said.

Fujita decided to offer cross-dressing services after a male friend sought her advice about 10 years ago, saying he wanted to dress like a woman with proper makeup. She searched for beauticians who could cater to his cross-dressing needs, but to almost no avail.

Fujita found a beautician, but she did not have enough space for the friend’s cross-dressing needs. So Fujita rented a hotel room, and the beautician worked on the friend there.

When Fujita wrote about the experience on her blog, she received messages from men she didn’t know who asked for her help to disguise themselves like a woman.

Sensing a business opportunity, Fujita opened Ryu no Tsuki in October 2011.

Initially, the specialty shop was lucky to receive one customer a week. But requests gradually increased, and the shop now takes at least five reservations a week. On one single day, three appointments were made.

Runa, a regular at the shop since it opened, is a salaryman who lives in Nagoya. He has been a cross-dresser for almost 40 years.

“Nagoya has become tolerant of cross-dressing in the past 20 years,” he said.

Ai Haruna and other transgender TV personalities have played major roles in changing the environment for cross-dressers in Japan.

But in Nagoya, cross-dressing cosplayers are seen in public on an growing number of occasions because the city hosts many costume-related events, including the World Cosplay Summit that started in 2003.

“Nagoya has become a cross-dressing-friendly city. Demand for places that give men the experience of dressing like a woman will increase even more,” Runa said.