Akihabara is a district of Tokyo that has traditionally been famous for the electronics which have for decades been synonymous with Japan. Because of this, Akihabara has also become well-known for its geeks – and now one of Japanese geeks favorite new hang-outs, the “Maid Cafe“. Read on for an explanation of wide range of services maid cafes have to offer, and a hilarious video which introduces the type of clientele that keeps these establishments alive.
The Maid Cafe is one of those startling Only-In-Japan phenomena, such as the Toilet Target Marker Sticker, the Magic Hand, or the Fundoshi. They are mostly regular cafes, serving the usual cakes, coffees and teas (milk AND lemon for the authentic geek), however the waitresses are all dressed up in French maid or lolita costumes. Often the costumes include cats or bunny ears to increase the “cuteness” factor.
The maids use honorific language toward the customers such as a servant would use, their greeting being “welcome home, Master”, and their level of service and subservience for the customer borders the extreme. In some cafes maids have been known to get down on their knees to stir the milk, lemon, and/or sugar into the Master’s drink, and at the more hard-core cafes, maid will spoon-feed their Masters. It is this kind of attention that draws the Akihabara, or Akiba-kei geeks in numbers.
Generally cafes serve drinks at regular prices and customers pay an extra charge for the time they are there, ie 400 yen for every 30 minutes. However, some cafes offer extra services; grooming services, such as shampoos and ear-cleaning, or maybe fully clothed massages. In one cafe, for an extra 9,000 yen, customers can chat with the maid in a private room cluttered with comic books, character figurines and animation DVDs.
The line between reality and fantasy quickly becomes a blurred one.
However, its is not just the Akiba-kei geeks queuing up to take a cheap ride into a fantasy world.
The demand of Japanese women wanting to become maids has been a startling result of this fad. In a country where many adults dream nostalgically of the fun of their childhood, this offers a rare opportunity for adult women to play dress-up and role-play in a variety of different costumes, transporting them away from their tough daily lives. Many of these women are also devoted fans of the comics, animation videos, and video games portraying maids as heroines, and they enjoy immersing themselves into their characters.
Patronage of Maid Cafes is also on the rise among young women hoping to snag a geek and turn him into Prince Charming. They are trying to bring to life the story of last year’s hit movie “Densha-Otoko” (Train Boy), a love story set in Akihabara that also became a popular TV series. This is a story, all supposedly true, of a 23 year-old Akihabara geek who intervened on a train when an old man was harassing a beautiful young girl. She in turn fell in love with him, and realized that he was in fact a nice guy who was just to shy to find a girlfriend or speak openly anywhere apart from online. This has lead a number of young Japanese women to try their luck at the real thing. No doubt much to the delight of all the potential nice-guy Train Boys.
In a classic piece of Japanese TV, an “investigation” was carried out to see of out of 100 Akiba-kei geeks, how many would actually have the courage to become like Densha-Otoko and help a real damsel in distress. The TV station lures the guys into an alley with a sign to a Maid Cafe, then stage a fight.
A twist to the Maid Cafe are the latest “Princess Restaurants” where waitresses in maid outfits treat their customers like royalty as they are shown to their “throne chairs.” Targeting female customers in their 20s and 30s, Princess Heart is becoming a hot spot in Tokyo Ginza, providing service to only women and couples.
For those interested, here is a list of Maid Cafes if you live in Japan. And even one here if you live in Ontario, Canada! (Canada maid cafe link removed as it recently was pointing to a hard core rape site for some reason..)
Akihabara is a must visit for tourists to Tokyo. It has a rare old-town atmosphere, people selling dirt-cheap electronics out of their garages as well as boasting the largest electronics chain stores in Japan. Maid Cafes dispersed throughout certainly add a new spice to this already interesting area.
25 thoughts on “Maid in Japan”
Gold, I think that those “bunny ears” are actually “cats ears”. They are generally called “nekomimi” in Japanese. It looks like Wikipedia has a good rundown:
I took my father to Akihabara when he was in Japan just to see the Maids handing out tissues. He was enthrawelled and took about 50 photos. They are quite cool about you taking photos of them, which reitterates the fact that these girls like dressing up like this. Only in Japan..
It’s killing me – what is the answer???
Stuff the tea and cofeee,..do these chicks give out handjobs?? now thats what I call hired help!
Geekus, as far as I have seen, there are no handjobs on offer. HOWEVER, I have no doubt that they are there someone, just a matter of searching.
Perhaps you would be interesting in the famous Japanese “Magic Hand” here:
Goddamn! They took down the Densha-Otoko video clip! That was very hilarious, and enjoyed by all.
I guess it is in noones interest to spread some of the more intriguing and interesting aspects of Japanese culture to the world.
Thanks very much to whichever bohemeth media company did that. Not.
From today’s Nikkei:
TOKYO (Nikkei)–Video-sharing Web site operator YouTube Inc. is prepared to display on-screen copyright notices in Japanese, as urged by a host of media associations and companies in Japan.
Apparently the broadcasters were asking YouTube to publish the names and addresses of violators. Come on!
I’ve found that the actual sub-culture of Akihabara has become quite commercialized in the last couple of years. Compared to when I first visited 5 years ago, and now, Akiba has changed completely. While Densha Otoko was one of my favorite drama’s of the last couple of years (movie sucked, drama is a little over-zealous, but in a kind-hearted way) it also brought with it a stereotype that people are trying to cash into. As weird as it sounds, Akiba just feels fake and forced now. I tend to go to Akiba with friends for forced maid outings, and I’ve been to a regular cafe that was simply girls in maid outfits, to a maid bar, to an over the top bar with a stage and shows. There are now apparently Maid Massages and Maid Hair Salons as well, at least according to the handouts I’ve received.
Another similar drama that showcases Akiba, and in a somewhat more realistic way (IE, actually hardcore references as opposed to general vagueness) is Akihabara @ Deep, which I believe was directed or produced by the same guy who did Ikebukuro West Gate Park, Kisarazu Cat’s Eye, and other fairly decent dramas. Anyways, one of the locales used is a maid cafe which is the one that has a small stage and shows that I mentioned. For those who know where the Super Potato is, right accross the way there is a Laox, and in the b1 floor is the maid cafe that was used in the drama. Last time I took a friend there it was a 30 minute wait to get in. He was Japanese, from Osaka, visiting on business and his first time. After twenty minutes though he had enough. まわりがキモイやって。 On the other hand, he spent 2000 yen at Asobi City buying the little gachagacha figures. Go figure eh.
While no longer the cheap place to go for regular electronics (hell they’ve got a Yodabashi now, that screws it all) you can still find lots of parts pieces, american games, and bootlegs regular. The black market there seems to be growing if anything. And, there’s always the maids.
I really really wonder what those girls think about it though.
I clicked onto the link to Prince Heart – the “maid cafe” for women. Isn’t that a bit risque? It says that “you are Snow White” and that you will be “greeted by drawfs” at the entrance. Isn’t that a little discriminatory? Only in Japan…
*0* it may sound weird, but it has become my life-goal to someday work in a maid cafe. Look at the pretty costumes!!!
For the next animecon, I’ll try to team up some girls to see if we can at least do a mini version
the next big thing is not a maid cafe, but a maid lounge like the Akiba Refresh club
they are really cute
ehh ~~~ i wanted to watch , too bad it was removed =T
About the Princess Heart cafe…
My friend and I went in this May and from my experience, it was nothing more than a themed restaurant. When the website says you will be greeted by seven dwarfs, they are referring to the 7 dwarf statuettes in the entrance of the cafe.
The place was decked out for private dining or small parties, and decorated like a castle you would imagine in Disneyland. The first room had a white light tree in the middle and walls that glowed purple with princessy decor like glass slippers. The room my friend and I ate in was pink and pretty, with chandeliers and the like. Our waitress wore a maid costume, but besides that the service was just as nice as any decent restaurant in Japan.
We arrived right as the cafe opened and the other customers there were a party of young business women, a couple of older ladies, and a couple of teen girls. All in all, even though I didn’t particularly like the menu, it seems like a nice niche for ladies looking for a fun environment to relax in.
All the best