Once you’ve tried a cat café, the next logical step is to try a maid café. There are lots of unusual places to have a coffee or a beer in town but one of the wackiest places must surely be a maid cafe. But Tokyo is Tokyo and I stand to be corrected on that.
From the minute you arrive in Japan you notice the massive cute culture. Everyone, from little ones to businessmen in suits, love cute. The initial idea with maid cafés was to cater for fans of anime and manga, and the idea behind the one we visited is to let you become “residents of the dream land” and provide something far removed from daily life. It was absolutely that, without a doubt.
Maid cafés started in Akihabara, the Electric Town area of Tokyo, in 2001. Nearly 300 sprung up amidst the computer gaming shops and electrical stores in a very short space of time. Too many, too quickly, because half of them shut down again pretty soon after. But the rest have remained and are a very popular attraction. Maids in ever cuter costumes line the streets encouraging you to visit their cafe. They also wave at potential customers from balconies along the main street.
Thinking there was safety in numbers, a friend and I took our first steps together into the totally loopy world of the maid cafe.
We were led to the cafe, one of the more “famous” ones, by a girl in full maid regalia. Another took over at the lift, with a big fluffy rabbit bag strapped to her back.
You’re allowed to take pictures of the food and your table, but you are supposed to pay extra for a photo with the maids. This picture (of our table and more) tells many stories.
The blue candle in the foreground was our magic candle. When lit we were princess and master for the evening (or at least for the hour we had paid to stay).
The first and main rule you are told is that the girls “will go boom and vanish in magic” (complete with boom actions) if you touch them. Phew.
The second rule, and something you can’t see from the photo, is that to order drinks you need to miaow. Yes. Miaow. My half-hearted miaow didn’t really cut it. But Gwilym was a natural, and his miaow had maids running over in seconds. He had clearly been practising in private.
We couldn’t quite work out the Japanese couple in the picture. The girl looked as bewildered as us. We’re not sure if she was looking at her new boyfriend through new, stunned eyes, or if she was having as much fun as him (and us).
Boyfriend, straight from the office in his full business suit, is learning a song and accompanying actions that you should join in with when your drink arrives. It kind of involved making half hearts with each hand and joining them together. In a very fluffy way. The girls really want you to be in their dreamland.
If you go the whole hog and order food (we didn’t but the couple next to us were in for the lot, so we got to look on), the maids create art right in front if your eyes. More accurately they draw a tomato ketchup cat face on a rice omelette.
We were just about to leave, as gobsmacked as we thought we could get, when a show started. One girl just stood (an apprentice I think) and another, with fluffy bag on her back and rabbit ears, started spinning her arms round and round. Literally, as fast as a helicopter. I though she was either going to severely injure herself on the bar counter or take off. One quiet patron in the corner, clearly waiting for this moment, (a female aged about 50?) leapt out of her chair to join in with light flares in both hands and music blaring. It was surreal to watch.
You really have to be there to believe it.
As much of a bizarre exposure to modern Japanese culture as a cat cafe, a maid cafe has to be a must on your Tokyo to do list. Do both on one night like we did and you will wonder what hit you.
Our cafe was called Maidreamin and is here….
Zeniya BLDG.3F 1-8-4 Sotokanda Chiyoda-ku Tokyo 101-0021 Japan
Entry was 1200¥ (just under £7), or ¥700 for an hour. One drink is compulsory (normal bar prices) and basic “fluffy” food is also served.
The link for the cat cafe just along the road, within easy walking distance, is here….