You’ve probably seen them as you stroll through the streets of Akihabara, Japan’s otaku paradise – cute girls in pastel-coloured maid outfits lining the pavement, handing out leaflets as they beckon to you with their high-pitched voices. What are they all about? Here’s a crash course to Akihabara’s maid cafes.
What Are Maid Cafes?
Maid cafes are cafes with a twist – you’re served by women dressed up as maids, who call you “master” and will treat you like royalty. Each maid cafe differs in style, so wherever you go, you’re bound to get a unique experience.
Of course, if you go to a cafe, you’re looking to get a good drink or a bite to eat. Maid cafes are filled to the brim with ice creams and curries adorned with cute decorations that are too adorable to eat!
One of the most popular offerings at @home cafe, known for its “moe” (described on the website as “a special power to make your heart burn with passion and love”) atmosphere, is the humble omelet rice. But how does one inject the spirit of “moe” into such a simple offering?
Service With a Smile (From a Ketchup Bottle)
First, the maid will come to your table and personally draw a special design on top of your omelette using a ketchup bottle – she could sign your or her name, draw an animal, a smiley face, a heart… anything you ask for! Once her art is complete, she will encourage you to join in with a magic chant to make the food even more delicious. Does making a heart sign with your hands and exclaiming “Moe Moe Kyuuun♥” (“Super super cuuute♥”) truly enhance the flavour of your meal? There’s only one way to find out – and you’d better put your all into it.
Entertainment With a Side of Nyan
If you’re looking for a little less moe and something a bit more lively, Maidreamin is one of the most popular maid cafe chains in Japan, and has several branches throughout Akihabara. Here you’ll still find the adorable aforementioned offerings on the menu, but your maids are also idols!
Sometimes, the lights will dim and the stage will light up, as the girl who just served you gets up on stage to sing and dance energetically with her colleagues. Like traditional idol groups, these songs have special chants that you do alongside them called wotagei, so don’t be afraid to get pumped up and join in.
Food Too Cute Too Eat
It should be noted that some branches of Maidreamin also offer a vegan ramen, so your veggie-loving friends needn’t be left out of the fun either!
In all this excitement, you’re going to want to snap lots of pictures – however, this is unfortunately not allowed. While you may take pictures of your food (and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want a picture of something this cute?), taking pictures of the cafe or the maids is off limits.
However, the majority of cafes offer, for an extra fee, the opportunity to take a selfie or polaroid picture with your favourite maid!
Take a Picture (or Buy One)
At Pinafore Maid Cafe, where your servers are “fairies”, you can get a cheki (small polaroid picture) taken with your waitress, and she will, as she did with your omelette, decorate it specially for you to take home as a memory of your time there. If that’s not enough personalization for you, the waitresses at Pinafore also double up as mixologists – they’ll mix you one of the cafe’s special original cocktails and shake it right at your table.
Maid cafes can get a little pricey with normal table charges upwards from 500 yen an hour, but it’s definitely an experience you won’t forget – who doesn’t want to feel a little spoiled, after all?