While traveling around Japan for a week, my friend and I ended up spending the second part of our trip in Tokyo. After seeing numerous shrines and temples in Kyoto, we decided that we wanted to have a more “modern” experience in Tokyo.
Through various blog posts (and one anime show that I watched several years ago) I knew about the existence of something called a Maid Café. If you’ve never heard of them, a maid cafe can be a little difficult to describe; in some ways they’re exactly what they sound like and in other ways they’re like stepping into a completely different universe.
To start with the basics, a Maid Café is very similar to a themed café where the “waitresses” dress up in little maid costumes and act extra cute when they serve you your food or drinks. The difficult part it accurately describing the atmosphere and all the other things that go on in these cafes, so we’ll get into that later.
My friend and I decided that we would try the maid café chain called @home café. It had decent reviews online and we were planning on hanging around the Akihabara neighborhood that day anyways. We were aware that there is some controversy when it comes to maid cafes, especially when it comes to the age of the maids. In choosing this café, we thought that a popular, chain maid café in a busy part of town would most likely be better regulated than some little maid café that’s located in some alley.
It was really easy to find since there was a humongous billboard advertising for the café on the street corner.
Just a bit farther down the street was another large advertisement, this time of the maids themselves.
Right next to this poster was the entrance to the actual café (street level). I was a bit shocked that the café occupied 4 floors and had a separate floor for its personal gift shop.
Unfortunately, on Saturday around lunchtime, there was a pretty long line to get into the café on every floor. I think we ended up spending approximately an hour waiting to be seated on the 7th floor.
What was even stranger was that we were the only females in line. We would occasionally see some other girls leave the cafes on various floors but the overwhelming majority of the customers were male.
Once inside the café, one of the maids led us to our table. Though, she first made sure to give us a list of their rules, which included a strict no photography rule and that we could only stay an hour without having to pay more. She also picked up and rang a little bell while she escorted us to our table, causing all the maids in the café to all say something to us at the same time (I have no clue as to what they said because I only know three words in Japanese).
Once at our table, a different maid came by and gave us a menu. Both my friend and I decided to take a combo set that included a drink and a picture with one of the maids. I chose to order an iced mocha latte. I had read on various online reviews that the food at these cafes were usually not very good- plus they’re pretty pricey.
After taking our order, the same maid came back with a fairly large bulletin board that had 7 or 8 polaroid photos of different maids. After some confusion, we realized that we got to pick which maid we got to take our photo with. I wanted to be nice and pick the maid that was currently serving us but the photos were such low quality that I couldn’t tell most of the girls apart in the photos, much less pick out which one was our current maid (In my defense, they all have the same uniform and most have the same haircut).
After randomly selecting a maid, the maid left and then shortly returned with our drinks. She then told us that she could draw something for us on top of our drinks using chocolate sauce. My friend asked for a cat and I went for a dog.
This was one of the few things that we were allowed to photograph.
Before we could drink, the maid taught us a little ritual that including chanting some words in Japanese and making a heart shape with our hands. We then performed the ritual togetherand were allowed to drink our coffee. The coffee wasn’t bad but it wasn’t spectacular either- at least the puppy face she drew was really cute.
After receiving our drinks, the maids left us alone for a while. Usually, they would at least come up and talk with their customers for a little bit but since none of them spoke more than a few words of English, it was for the best.
This gave my friend and I some time to really soak in everything that was going on around us, and believe me there was a lot.
Remember that part in the beginning of my blog when I said that this place was like a different universe? Here’s what I meant about it- the people here.
The Other Customers
Before I start, I want to make perfectly clear that these are just my observations and I mean no disrespect. I love people watching and these were some of the unusual things I picked up on.
Inside the café, the ratio of male to female customer was a little better. Most of the costumers were men, anywhere from their early twenties and up- I would say most were middle aged. There was also another pair of girls there like my friend and I and there was one girl that seemed to be by herself, though she spent most of her time staring at her phone.
Sitting next to us was a table of three people, two guys and one girl roughly our age. The strange this was that it looked like they were working on some sort of scrapbook but the scrapbook only had stickers and Japanese text. The two guys took turns actually putting the stickers on the page while the girls napped on and off. This group of people was here before we got there and stayed after we left an hour later.
There was also a man, a woman (who I presumed was his wife), and a 5 year old child sitting at a few tables behind us. Yes, a child. I was completely baffled because I wouldn’t exactly call this a “family friendly” setting. At some point the little boy began to throw a tantrum and they ended up leaving before us. The whole time we were there, none of them looked very happy.
The majority of men that were there also came with presents. These gifts could be anything from flowers to scrapbooks to plushies and more. These guys were the ones that held platinum membership cards (more on this later) and stayed here for well more than an hour. They were also the ones that I saw that would pay for pricey extras such as a 15 minute game of Connect 4 with a maid or bought little pictures (headshots) of a specific maid.
I won’t lie and say that this place didn’t creep me out a little. I must point out, however, that I didn’t see anyone acting inappropriately (based on the cafés rules) and it seemed that people were genuinely just trying to have a good time- we just have different ideas of what that may be.
Just before our hour at the café was up, I got my photo taken with the maid I had selected earlier. I almost fell out of my chair when one of the maids called me “My Princess” to get my attention to come to the front. I was given a choice of props, I chose cat ears, and got to choose one of four poses to do with the maid for the photo.
Just before leaving, I was given a keepsake polaroid photo of the maid in me, decorated by the maid herself. I also got an official membership/ loyalty card to the café- bronze level one. I have a lot to catch up to all the guys that have platinum cards.
The café charges an entrance fee that, with a student discount, was 500 yen (approx. $5). The drink and photo combo (which was also the cheapest combo) was 1,200 yean (approx. $12).
Student & Traveler Tips
I had always been curious about Maid Cafés since I had first heard about them but going there once was enough for me to experience all the culture shock I ever wanted.
These places aren’t cheap so be ready to spend around $20 when you’re here, but don’t forget to ask if they have any special discounts.
From what I can tell, these places are always busy. Like any tourist attraction, get here as early as possible if you don’t want to wait in line. Another note, the line to get in stretches down the staircase of the building which was technically not inside the building. There were some tarps that kept the wind out but I don’t think we would have waited if it was much colder outside.
Have you ever been to a Maid Café before?
Do you have any opinions about Maid Cafés?