“Have you guys checked out that new café on the corner? You know the one I’m talking about. Yeah, the one where the hot girls dress up in maid costumes, bow to your every request and constantly demean themselves for your pleasure.”
Although this snippet of conversation might be out of place in America, it would fit right at home here in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. The official otaku (?????????) or geek capital of Japan, Akihabara is where the world’s first maid cafes appeared back in 2000.
What’s a maid café you ask? Good question.
A maid café or meido-kafe (??????????????????) is a theme restaurant or bar where the staff dresses up in French maid costumes and treats the customers as masters in their own homes. While sipping your café and relaxing with your friends, a beautiful woman in an elegant costume will personally attend to each and every one of your needs.
The standard uniform is an elegant French maid costume, but in Akihabara it’s possible to find several variations on this traditional garb. From elegant silk and lace lingerie to maid outfits augmented with anime-style bunny or cat ears, Akihabara’s maid cafes cater to every conceivable fantasy.
Although exemplary customer service is typical of Japan, maid cafés take special care to pamper patrons beyond belief. When a customer enters the café, the maids typically greet them by saying okaerinasaimasen goshujinsama (お帰りなさいませ、ご主人様), which roughly translates to ‘Welcome home my exalted master!“
It gets even better.
The maids continue to play the role of a house servant, and will do such deferential tasks as kneeling while taking orders, complimenting customers on their drink selections and bowing their head to the floor upon request. In fact, at some of the more upscale maid cafes, you can even have your ears cleaned, your glasses adjusted and your hands and feet massaged for a small fee.
In the last year or so, even more bizarre variations on the maid cafe concept have sprung up in Akihabara. For instance, it’s now possible to find younger sister cafes, where the staff greet customers upon arrival by saying okaeri oniichan (お帰りお兄ちゃん), which roughly translates to ‘Welcome home older brother!”
Although this may sound bizarre to Western ears, relaxing in maid cafes has become something of a staple for the legions of geeks that call Akihabara their home. In fact, in the past few years, maid café culture has spread to other cities in Japan, and a few have even popped up in neighboring Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore.
Sure, maid cafes are a bit fetishistic, but truth be told, they’re a lot of fun!
I mean hey, everyone needs a little pampering once in awhile, right?
** Special thanks to Flickr users Oimax and Wirbelwind **