My friends from Australia came over to Japan and so we decided to get some first-hand experience of Japanese sub-culture, as we headed for Harajuku and Akihabara today. These are two places in Japan that incessantly brew the novel ideas that propel the characteristically Japanese creativity, forming the core of its subculture, or even its economy. Harajuku (and Shibuya) is the heartland of Japanese fashion, whereas Akihabara is the land of electronics, anime and all kinds of weirdly themed cafes, spearheaded by arguably the most famous maid cafe.
I have been to several pseudo maid cafes, but this was the first time I entered a real one, and it was absolutely mind-blowing. An eye-opener too.
Each maid cafe has a different pricing system, but basically all maid cafes have an entrance fee (600 yen in this case), and you get to order drinks/ meals, or pay to play games with the maids. We chose the 1200 yen drink set that gave us a drink and an option to play games or take photos with the maid. (Other sets include meals, games, photo-taking session etc.)
You get to choose drinks ranging from coffee to soft drinks, to interesting ones like the magic shake (where the maid shakes a milkshake while chanting cute lines and words), or art latte (where the maid draws a picture of your choice, normally an animal, on your latte). Meals include omuraisu (omelette rice), curry rice (shaped like a bear) and so on.
What impressed me most was how there were maids who spoke fluent English (to entertain foreign customers), how well they are trained to treat their customers and make them happy. It was like a typical Japanese-styled hospitality, albeit adding a little exaggeration and cuteness to it.
Of course there are rules to the maid cafes too, such as, you are not allowed to take photos of them without permission, you are not allowed to ask for personal information (their real names, ages etc.) and so on. We were only allowed to stay for one hour, but it was a really interesting experience.
I would imagine it’d be rather awkward and strange to have a maid cafe in any other country apart from Japan. It’s this titillation of kawaii-ness (cuteness in Japanese) that probably does not exist in other countries or cultures.
Anyway, it’d be a great experience for any foreigner to visit a maid cafe, so do drop by a maid cafe if you’re coming to Japan!