Go-shujin-sama! Here Are 10 Things to Know about Maid Cafes! – Say, for example, you had a really bad day at the office. Or, you’re on vacation and the whole day has been dreadful. Not only was it raining throughout, you even lost your camera. You need a lot of comforting and pampering, in other words. To be reminded you’re still an awesome person after returning “home.” Perhaps also fed a yummy meal that’s all colorful and bright and cheerful.
Where should you head to? A maid cafe of course, if you’re in Japan! One of the quirkiest experiences anybody can enjoy in the country, these cosplay cafes are not only synonymous with Japanese pop culture, many nowadays would even consider the French maids staffing them the faces of Tokyo’s Akihabara District.
And if you’re indeed heading to one, Okaerinasi, Go-shujin-sama, O-jo-san! Welcome home, master, and ma’am! To make the most of your visit, here are the top 10 things to know about these unique cafes!
1. It Began in Akihabara
The first permanent maido-kissa (メイド喫茶) was the legendary Cure Maid Cafe in Akihabara, established in March 2001. Immensely well-received by fans of Japanese pop culture such as Anime, subsequent years saw several hundred similar cafes appearing all over Japan.
As of 2020, there are still tens of such cafes in Tokyo alone. The popularity of the concept also resulted in similarly themed eateries opening throughout the world. For example, in China, Europe, and even the United States.
2. It’s All about Fantasy
In a nutshell, the concept is all about fantasy dining. The “story” might vary between establishments, but in general, it’s about you returning home to be fussed over by an adorable attendant. One dressed as a French maid, with pinafore, frilly accessories, stockings, and all. (Or some variant of)
To sustain the ambiance of such a fantasy, the cafes are invariably decorated with cuteness in mind too. Bright colors, or more accurately, happy colors are abundantly used. Kawaii objects such as plushies could be displayed everywhere too.
Lastly, even food will be gorgeously plated. A parfait will never just be ice cream. It will be a dessert too lovable to eat, because it’s like a pouty rabbit staring at you in the face.
3. It’s All about Moe Too!
If you’ve ever watched any documentaries about maid cafes, you’d get the impression that “Moe” (pronounced Mo-eh) is the catchword of any visit. In the Japanese language, the word means “to bloom” or “to blossom.” In modern parlance, however, it refers to the heightening of affection and positive feel towards something or someone.
Famously, maids would chant this power word while presenting your food, such as when pouring curry onto your rice or when drawing ketchup onto a perfectly made omelet. Go with the flow, join the enthusiasm, and you will surely, surely be invigorated by the powerful vibes invoked.
4. All Visitors Are Welcomed, with Something for Everyone
While maid cafes predominantly target male clients, they do welcome ladies and children. The servers will do their best to entertain while remaining in the persona they are playing. For the convenience of tourists, English menus are often provided too.
Because of intense competition, many cafes today also provide other forms of light entertainment. For example, you could request your maid to do a song and dance. Or, you could enjoy an enthusiastic game of Janken i.e. Scissors-Paper-Stone. Naturally, these additional entertainments come with surcharges.
5. Sonna Wa Dame! (That’s Not Allowed!)
To address the elephant in the room, it’s all about cuteness, not sexiness. While it’s admittedly hard to completely differentiate between the two, remember that these cafes admit children too. It’s all about clean, decent fun.
To put it in another way, touching and hugging and groping of the servers are strictly, strictly forbidden. Most if not all establishments even disallow handshakes. Should you violate this golden rule, you will immediately lose your esteemed status, and be curtly asked to leave.
6. Speaking of Rules …
As a type of cosplay cafe, there are various rules to follow when visiting. Don’t be put off by this, though, as all will be painstakingly and respectfully explained to you during entry. All rules are also to ensure smooth operation and a great experience for everyone.
In general, these rules are:
- To repeat what’s said above, strictly no physical contact with the staff! No asking for contact information and the likes of too.
- No photography of the premises.
- You can only take pictures of the maids if you’ve paid for it.
- Taking pictures of your food and drinks might or might not be allowed. Before snapping any, check with your server.
- Visits are timed. Don’t expect to stay the whole day or evening. Some establishments charge by the hour too.
7. About Food and Prices
Japanese comfort food such as Omurice, Curry Rice, and Parfaits are served. Prices are also higher than typical eateries, even if you have purchased a package. Frankly speaking, few if any cafes are noted for superior cooking too.
But it’s all about elaborate kawaii presentations, attentive service, and the ambiance. Generally speaking, a visit would cost around 2000 yen for a person. More, if you request for photos with the staff, additional entertainment, etc.
It’s, of course, also about letting loose and enjoying yourself.
8. Maid Cafes are a Japanese Pop Culture Icon
Given their popularity, it is no surprise that maid cafes and maids are now staples in Japanese pop entertainment. For example, in the popular Anime series Re:Zero − Starting Life in Another World, the twin fighters Rem and Ram are perpetually dressed like French maids. The wimpy protagonist, Subaru, was exhilarated when he first saw them.
In the outrageous Akiba’s Trip: Undead & Undressed video game, there are maids galore everywhere, including a supporting character dressed as one. Last but not least, you could even virtually visit a make-believe Akihabara one in the role-playing hit Persona 5 Royal. Without a doubt, these quirky cosplay cafes have found a permanent and esteem place in modern Japanese culture.
9. You Could Be Your Own French Maid
In the event that you’ve tremendously enjoyed your visit, and would like to have a slice of it at home, you could easily purchase a full cosplay set of a maid costume in Japan.
These costume sets vary in price, and purpose. For general tourists though, the most convenient place to grab one would be at the large Don Quijote stores. For example, the one at the heart of Akihabara, or the popular outlet at the fringe of Tokyo’s Kabukicho district.
10. There Are Cafes That Mainly Target Women
While maid cafes welcome all visitors, the experience is admittedly conceptualized around guys. Some ladies might even find the whole theme boring. If that’s the case for you, know that there is a “for ladies” variant, these known as butler cafes. In place of the bubbly maids are suave, tuxedo-wearing butlers, all decisively princely in demeanor.
An interesting twist in a land where gender differences still run strong, a meal at a butler café could make for a most interest excursion for female travelers. Just be sure to make reservations beforehand, as butler cafes are far fewer in numbers.
See you again next time!
A devoted solo traveler from Singapore who has loved Japan since young. His first visits to the country were all because of video game and Manga homages. Today, he still visits for the same reasons, in addition to enjoying Japan’s culture, history, and hot springs.