For over a decade maid cafes have been popular for both entertainment at refreshment in Tokyo. The concept behind these seemingly odd places is that you are suppose to get the experience of being a wealthy, well-born person returning home where you are waited on by your staff of maids. The particular cafe I went to is actually called, “@home”.
When you enter they cheerfully tell you, “Welcome home!” All the men are “master” and all the women are “princess.” You are seated and walked through the menu by maid. Each maid has their own look and style with various accessories added to one of the basic maid costumes. Besides food and drink, you can choose a maid to have your picture taken with and you can even (for a fee) select a small table game for a maid to come and play with you.
Many people were there with friends having fun. My friends and I ordered shaker drinks which involve more interaction than a basic coffee or tea. The maid chooses your flavor and makes you help her shake it up by singing along as she does a little chant. For me she chose a blue, cream soda flavored mixer. For my friend and this week’s guide to Tokyo, Ayako, she chose an apple mixer.
Our main maid, Usagi, or “Rabbit” even tried to speak a little English to me. We got to pick props and little costume pieces out of a big box to take pictures with the maids we chose. I made silly faces in both. When the maid from the top photo brought our picture over she said, “Wink! Oh, kawaii!” So I guess she approved if my weird winky face.
It was a lot of fun, but some of the customers were very serious. They came alone and seemed to be mainly interested on playing games with the maids. One young man even brought a present for his favorite maid. And one man sat there doing his makeup and putting on false eyelashes for a very long time in preparation for his photo. It is a little sad that some people would rather come pay a girl to spend time with them than go and play games and have coffee with friends or girlfriends. The fact that you can rent time with these girls does hint of low level prostitution in a way.
For most people, it’s a little innocent fun, something different. But for some people, visiting seems to be a regular habit that they take very seriously. I couldn’t help but wonder if it ever become difficult for the girls working there if a customer takes this bit of fantasy too seriously.
Recently the first maid cafe opened up in the US, in California. Whether or not the trend will spread or last as it had done in in Japan, I’m not sure. There is definitely an interest in Japanese culture, but there isn’t such a strong habit of costume play and themed places in the US. Not for adults anyway. I am sure many people will go once for the novelty, but I guess we will have to wait and see how far it goes and how long it lasts.