If maid cafes weren’t strange enough to begin with, the profusion of cutesy cafes in areas like Akihabara has led to some operators stretching the concept in ridiculous directions in order to get noticed. So if being called ‘master’ (goshujin sama), having young ladies sing to you in childish voices and getting cute faces drawn on your omelette leaves you underwhelmed, then the following varieties may pique your interest.
The concept of maids in Akihabara is very much about subservience. The customers (usually male) are always addressed formally and the maids give the illusion that they are there to do everything they can to please their ‘masters’.
Flipping this idea on its head (although actually not so different) are ‘little sister’ maid cafes where the maids are rude, insulting and will intentionally get your order wrong – until it comes to leaving, at which time they will suddenly beg you to stay.
This is based on a popular character development concept in otaku games, manga and anime called tsundere.
Shinobazu Cafe isn’t really a maid cafe, just a cafe bar in which the all female staff dress as cute, anime inspired ninjas. In fact, it’s not strictly a cafe. The ninjas serve hot bowls of noodles between assassinating the staff of rival restaurants. OK, that’s not true, but a rival ninja cafe in the area closed at the end of November. Coincidence?
‘Gyaru’ is a shortening of the older term ‘kogyaru’ – ‘ko’ as in the Japanese word for school and ‘gyaru’ for ‘girl’. These days it’s just ‘gyaru’, and doesn’t really have much to do with school girls apart from the approximate age and gender of those who identify as ‘gyaru’. While maids are at home in Akihabara, gyaru rule in Shibuya – the place where the subculture suddenly sprung into existence at the start of this century.
Gyaru are a part of kawaii culture too, but in style and nature, they’re nothing like maids. They’re loud, garish and irreverent, which is why the concept of a gyaru maid cafe is a bit like a cat cafe with dogs. While most of these other cafes are in Akihabara, true to their roots the Gyaru Cafe called ’10shon’ is in Shibuya.
One of the bigger chains, Maidreamin – with stores throughout Tokyo – has a special cafe kitted out like the inside of a Mario Brothers game. Maids leap around hitting digitally controlled boxes hanging from the ceiling like those you see in the game.
While an interesting gimmick, it’s hard to see how they could get the punters back for a return visit. Like the actual Mario Brothers game it could probably be improved with go-karts.
Cross Dressing Maids
Otoko no Musume Cafe & Bar New Type (literally Daughter Male Cafe & Bar New Type – which still doesn’t make much sense) is a maid cafe staffed entirely by young men in drag. Their maid costumes are just as frilly as their regular maid counterparts, although the clientele is much more likely to be female than a regular maid cafe.
If you’ve ever been to a cosplay convention you’ll know that male cross-dressing is a not insignificant part of otaku culture, so New Type isn’t at all out of place in Akihabara.
These are just some of the many unique maid cafes that you can find in Akihabara. To learn more about the craziness and attractions of Akihabara read our 24h in Akihabara guide here.