A trip to Japan would not be complete without experiencing the modern culture that it has developed. Part of the ever growing list of newer subcultures of Japan would be the Anime and Cosplay subculture and these are best experienced by a visit to a maid cafe in the world famous center for everything otaku.
More and more young Japanese adults were coming out as fans of the anime subculture, and many of them expressed their fandom by engaging in costume play, also known as cosplay, as a way to express their enthusiasm for their favorite anime characters.
The streets of Japan have become well-known for their unique sights, such as the Victorian goth strolling the streets or the anime character striking a pose for the camera. Even today, just mentioning Tokyo in Japan will conjure up images of young people dressed up in elaborate cosplay costumes.
A business proposal based on this subculture would likely emerge soon. Cosplay eateries sprang from this concept. Cosplay restaurants are themed establishments where the wait staff dress the part and provide service in character.
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What is Maid Cafe?
There is no anime or cosplay subculture in Japan that would be complete without the ubiquitous maid cafes. The wait staff at these establishments usually dress as maids as part of the motif.
Staff uniforms would reflect the chosen theme, whether it be Victorian or French, right down to the style of clothing. The personnel in a maid outfit would address each customer by the title “master,” and treat them with the same level of servitude as if they were a genuine maid.
Customers are treated like they own the place in these businesses.
As of right now, French maid-themed cafes are the norm in Japan. It is customary in these French maid cafes for customers to address the staff as “Master” or “Mistress” (goshujinsama and ojosama, respectively) upon entering.
When consumers enter the store, they will be greeted by friendly faces. The females would usually greet their masters or mistresses with the Japanese phrase “Okaerinasaimase goshujinsama/ ojosama.”
After showing diners to their seats, hostesses would bring each one a paper towel. The eateries serve largely Japanese comfort food that has little to do with the concept.
In some cases, customers at maid cafés can interact with the staff in ways beyond the standard interaction with the service providers, such as by taking photos, playing card games, or playing video games.
Some cafes provide an alternative type of entertainment, such as slapping and head-petting services provided by the wait staff in exchange for a fee. There are a few cafes that specialize in providing maid services, and some of them even provide entertainment for customers to enjoy throughout the day.
The Maid Cafes of Akihabara
Traveling to Japan without taking in the country’s cutting-edge culture is like missing a vital part of the country’s evolution. Diverse subcultures developed in response to the unexpectedly rapid growth of the Japanese population.
Visiting a maid café in Tokyo’s Akihabara area, the world-famous mecca for anything otaku, is the finest way to immerse yourself in the Anime and Cosplay subcultures, two of Japan’s rapidly expanding newer subcultures.
Many maid cafes can be found in Akihabara, all of them compete for the same clientele. For the average traveler, the idea of venturing into a city where every cafe has its own peculiarity can be rather daunting; therefore, it is recommended that they do some preliminary research before arriving.
Here is a rundown of the best maid cafés, guaranteed to satisfy any otaku in search of the perfect otaku experience.
Cure Maid Cafe
A trip to the world’s first cafe aimed only towards housekeepers is required.
The fact that Cure Maid Cafe was the first ever permanent maid cafe has helped to make it famous.
Cure Maid Cafe is a Chiyoda-ku institution, providing patrons with a delightfully authentic Victorian housekeeper experience. Since the maids maintain their prim and correct demeanor at all times, several reviewers have said the experience is incredibly immersive.
There is classical music playing in the background and the room is furnished with plants and Victorian-style furniture. Only those who have been given the secret password can enter the maid cafe. Thankfully, word has spread over the years and this is no longer a well guarded secret.
The doors will unlock as soon as you say “Iyashi,” which means “healing” or “soothing” in Japanese. The cafe’s sign, featuring a maid’s figure, is displayed on a wooden board.
Instead of the standard maid cafe arrangement, @home Cafe brings a vivacious and enjoyable twist. The staff at this café has been educated to strike up a conversation with anyone using a pleasant and refreshing tone, as the cafe places a premium on customer interaction and play.
This eatery has an abundance of adorable touches throughout. In the case of the restaurant’s signature omurice (Omelette Rice), for instance, the staff would ketchup-write instructions for your meal.
If you want to hear the workers sing “Moe Moe Kyun” about your unhappiness with your drinks, just act dissatisfied. The people who use this expression claim that it improves the flavor of whatever it is sprinkled on. Some would even suggest you use the magic spell “Moe Moe Kyun” before you even sit down to dine.
That it actually does anything at all is debatable.
The wait time to get inside this Tokyo institution might reach three hours on a good day.
@home café has a starting seating fee of 500 yen, with the same amount going toward additional services and games. Singing and dancing maids perform, and their wares are on sale at the gift store.
If you’re looking for a maid cafe in Japan where you may have interesting conversations with both professional women and other people who share your interests, go no further.
Schatz Kiste, which bills itself as a “Akihabara Culture Cafe,” takes pride in its female staff members’ extensive understanding of Japanese fandom and otaku culture.
Restaurant staff may not have much in the way of planned entertainment, but they are so passionate about their hobbies and crafts that they exhibit them on shelves and engage diners in conversation about the newest developments in their chosen fields.
Here you can unwind and indulge in your passions in the company of like-minded people, some of whom may be working. The cafe’s small size and high volume of repeat customers are its only drawbacks.
In Akihbara, you’ll find the well-known Popopure Maid Cafe. This establishment is particularly proud of the fact that it employs English-speaking maids who work exclusively with international patrons.
Even if the maids at the other cafes mentioned above don’t speak English, don’t panic; they’re used to dealing with tourists and can communicate with them even if they only know a few words.
The maids at Popopure are, like those at other cafes, friendly and accommodating. Keep in mind that the “kyun kyun” magic spell is required to enhance the flavor of your food at Popopure Maid Cafe.
Butler Cafe: Male Maid Cafes
A variation on this theme was inevitable given the meteoric rise of “maid cafes.” A butler cafe is a maid cafe that caters to men. Butlers Cafe first opened its doors in Shibuya, Tokyo in 2006, right in the middle of the Japanese capital’s thriving fashion sector.
The company began in Akihabara and has subsequently expanded throughout Tokyo. Since 2008, Butlers Cafe has stood out as the only male maid cafe that exclusively recruits men from abroad for the role of butler.
The cafe’s menu is centered on Italian cuisine, and it also features teas and alcoholic beverages. The idea came about because the café proprietors observed that the Japanese women in the office had a penchant for handsome boys and would enjoy having a little extra excitement and pleasure after work.
Graeme Cooke and Yuki Hirohata have partnered up to open a restaurant called The Butlers Cafe. Both the English teacher and the typical Japanese office lady, Hirohata, were living and working in Japan.
In interviews, individuals shared their dissatisfaction with their current situations and discussed several ways they hoped to change their lives. A great deal of back-and-forth discussion between the two was responsible for the finalized concept.
Butlers Cafe has been drawing in as many as 2000 regulars every month when it first opened in 2006. The cafe has been highlighted in numerous publications.
CNN’s coverage of the Butlers Cafe as the solution to the problems faced by young Japanese women in their society was by far the most prominent.
The prevalence of Western-themed amusement parks like Disney and Universal Studios in Japan provides a clue as to where Butlers Cafe’s basic concept originated.
Non-Japanese males in their twenties who fit the description of “beautiful,” “personable,” and “sweet” are welcome to apply for jobs at The Butlers Cafe. They’re trying to project an idealized caucasian male stereotype.
After speaking with numerous women in Japan, Hirohata and Cooke developed this theory. For these Japanese ladies, the perfect cafe would include male wait staff who were attractive, respectful, and of western heritage, and who would treat them like princesses at all times.
The owners, who appear to have read Cafe Cure, promote their business as a place of healing for Japanese women. They say it’s a place where women may meet international men without worrying about being judged or objectified.
The men on staff should treat the women with the same level of respect they would offer to royalty as a matter of basic etiquette. Customers’ outerwear would be taken by butlers, and they would bring out chairs and even tiaras for the ladies.
In an effort to further the international image, staff members would respond to inquiries from consumers in Japanese while using a foreign accent. Customers can pay extra to have their picture taken with the butlers, and if they like, they can even have the butler carry them like in an old-fashioned fairy tale.
The Japanese maid cafe craze has gone global, influencing cultures as diverse as Victorian housekeepers and Western butlers. In recent years, countries as diverse as China, South Korea, Australia, and the United States have begun opening up their own takes on the maid cafe.
While you may be in a different country, the basic regulations for interacting with these businesses remain the same everywhere. Because of the risk of sexual assault and stalking, it is important that maids not be touched inappropriately or asked for personal information.
You should show the wait staff the same courtesy and respect that you received while you were a customer there.