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  • Theodore K. Monroe

Maid in Japan

Maid by: Theodore K. Monroe (he/him)

Maid cafes are cafes where maids serve you, pretty self-explanatory. They are, however, only under the  larger umbrella of ‘Concept Cafes’ in which a theme or trope is explored for the customer’s personal enjoyment. The first ‘permanent’ maid cafe was built in 2001, with the purpose of being a place where you can have a meal and interact with women in a safe and interesting environment. Nowadays establishments like these are mostly utilised by tourists and the lonely, as Japan has a growing issue concerning intimacy and relationships. Maid cafes can aid to appease the symptoms, but not the cause. As far as I know none of or most Concept Cafes aren’t sexual in nature, and I doubt any in Akihabara offer sexual services. If any do I didn’t manage to find any of those myself—not that I looked.

In November 2022 I was on my way to Europe where I sought a new life, and my mother offered to pay for a layover in Japan lasting twelve days, as she knew that I’d always been enamoured with its culture and people. I eagerly went, and being fully intent on experiencing everything I could naturally meant that I got drunk every night, visited Shibuya, bought panties from a vending machine, made friends and memories that’ll last forever. The first week was spent on the outskirts of Tokyo, and the second within the district of Akihabara: Otaku central. A place well known for its dedication to technology and anime. 

I already knew of maid cafes from years spent watching anime. I watched my first anime when I was around twelve, and for a few years there it had me in a vice-tight grip, educating me on the weirder side of Japanese culture. I wanted to visit one myself—half out of curiosity, half out of intrigue, and entirely out of novelty. While at a bar I’d heard tales of a street where girls stood one after another, dressed in exotic and interesting attire, handing out flyers for their respective cafes. I tracked it down and spent about an hour walking down “Junk Street” collecting each flyer I could, perusing each one to see which cafe I’d like to visit. 

There were the stock-standard maid cafes (nothing wrong with the classics), along with bunny-girl cafes/bars, and even a military-style cafe—which piqued my interest. I visited approximately seven of these cafes, not including times I revisited. Each one had a ‘first time visitor package’ that usually included food, a song, and a polaroid. So suffice it to say, I have a lot of polaroids of women I paid to hang out with me. It got easier to go to each subsequent cafe as my nerves were quelled, and my sense of enjoyment rocketed. The novelty never quite wore off and the atmosphere was always inviting. Some cafes such as ‘Maiddreamin’’ had their own unique lingo, such as a ‘love letter’... which was the bill. Being a foreigner was an icebreaker in itself as usually the first question was about where I was from, and that made starting conversations easy. 

There was a ‘classy’ ‘gentleman’s club’ where the women dressed in Playboy Bunny-suits, thighs clad in fishnets. Being my first time in such an environment I had no idea where to keep my eyes, so I probably stared at the ceiling more than the girls. The Bunny-Girls didn’t offer lap dances, stripteases or anything of the sort. Even photographs were restricted. I felt like a fish out of water, surrounded by men in suits and women in bunny-suits.

There was another fashioned in a WWII military style. The girls wore green uniforms and marched with big leather boots, ordering you around and singing for you if you paid for the package. When reading the informational booklet I used my phone to google translate the more niche words, and found that these girls were the ‘Akihabara division of the Fuhrer's army’. I couldn’t help but laugh, hoping that perhaps it was a mistranslation of some sort. The place itself had concrete walls and a very spartan design aesthetic; I wondered if it was intentional, or budgetary. 

These maid cafes even caused some friendships to happen. I had been attempting to read a map provided on the back of one of the fliers when a Mexican girl who lived in Korea saw me and struck up a conversation. She mentioned that she’d never been to a maid cafe before, so like a true paragon of virtue I brought her along on the adventure. We followed the map to a dark and dingy alleyway where I wouldn’t have been surprised if a knife found its way into my belly, but instead we found a rather cute and low-budget cafe. Lala-chan was our host, and we were pleasantly surprised at her kindness and cuteness. As we left she wrote us a sweet letter on the back of a picture of her that I had bought.

My most treasured memory of any maid cafe is of Maiddreamin’, the biggest franchise there. I went one day after a shopping trip  for some lunch, just to see what it was like. Whilst waiting for my meal I read one of the manga I had bought called ‘Aku No Hana’. Believe me, it’s a niche and very problematic title, but alas, one of the cooks approached me and told me she’d read it. Not a maid, no. A chef. I purchased the whole song and dance and a polaroid, and went my way. 

Back at the hostel I found that I had accidentally bought one of the manga twice. I figured that I may as well give it away so I returned to Maiddreamin’ the following day and gave the extra copy to the chef, Kaoru. She loved it. When the time came to leave I was given a ticket for a picture. I’d already gotten a maid photo the previous day so I wasn’t particularly desperate for another and just shrugged, handing it back to her. She told me: “You can ask Kaoru for a picture, if you want.” 

Immediately I rushed to Kaoru and asked if she’d like to, and she broke into a grin, agreeing. She put a cat-ear headband on me and we posed together for the picture. She even doodled a heart and a little message on the bottom. Looking at the difference between the maid and Kaoru, I could definitely see who wanted to be there with me, and who was being paid. 

All in all the maid cafes were a minor but a very interesting and enriching experience I had in Japan. They were most certainly enjoyable, if not addictive. I even got rinsed of about $300 in one, so there was some bad to be had. But given the choice of all the bunny-girls and maids in the world, I’d pick the girl cooking at the grill.


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