Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I visited a maid cafe yesterday. Maid cafes are popular in Akihabara, a section of Tokyo where the otaku hang out. Otaku are hard-core fans of anime and manga, and they enjoy the fantasized French-style maids who serve the customers as a maid would serve her "master" and "mistress" in their home. I heard that the maids greet customers by saying "welcome home master" but if they said this I wasn't able to understand it.
Customers are not allowed to take pictures inside the cafe, but I managed to take a couple of shots of maids on the street, inviting potential customers to visit the cafes. There are more than 30 maid cafes in Akihabara.
Really, I thought the "maid" service was not much different from service in a typical Japanese restaurant (which is much better than service in American restaurants, and you are not expected to tip). But the maid server did lots of cutsy things like making a cute drawing using ketchup over a plate of food. She drew a ketchup bunny, and as she drew she said, in a little girl voice that I can't even begin to imitate, "these are the ears, and the nose ..." For my benefit she said this in English. One visit to a maid cafe was enough for me. The food wasn't so great, and I don't really care for the idea of being "served" by a maid, but it was something to see once.
Also, it helped me see the importance of fantasy in Japanese culture. Japan is a huge exporter of its fantasy culture such as anime and manga.
People can go to a maid cafe and enjoy the fantasy of being served by a maid for an hour or two over coffee and dessert. But like all fantasies, some people take it too far. Maid cafes often have printed rules warning customers not to touch the maids, not to ask for their phone numbers, and not to wait outside the cafe for a maid to finish her shift.
There are also butler cafes, which cater to women customers, and cross-dressing cafes where men dress as maids or women dress as butlers.
More information about maid cafes is available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maid_cafe.
Posted by K at 7:23 PM