lifestyle

Maid cafes show no signs of losing popularity

28 Comments
By Patrick W Galbraith

Pomeranian opened its doors in 2008, after the big maid boom had crested, and cafes with weaker characters and themes were closing shop. But theirs is not—Pomeranian is “The Chubby Maid Cafe,” where guests can expect their friendly companions to be portly. No one is quite sure how it all came to this.

Maid cafes first appeared in 1998 at sales events for the dating simulation game Welcome to Pia Carrot. The first permanent space, Cure Maid Cafe, was founded by cosplay outfitter Cospa in Akihabara in 2001. The concept was to provide a rest stop for "otaku," places where they could forget the costumed maids were real-life women and relax.

Maids in the original sense are not sex workers, though this is perhaps not always the case at the 200-plus cafes around the country. Costumed staff greet visitors with “Welcome home, master!” and then provide conversation. The food and drink consists of the same simple and cheap fare found on kids’ menus; for an additional cost, customers can get extras like messages written in ketchup. Since about 2005, many cafes have offered board, card, video or even hand-to-hand games (500 yen for three minutes), plus personalized instant photos with a maid (500 yen per shot).

The pillar of a maid cafe is communication, be it when receiving service, playing games, writing in the cafe’s communal diary or in personal “communication time” (as much as 9,000 yen an hour). It turns out the appeal isn’t gender-specific, either—in 2007, some 35% of customers were women, or “mistresses.”

The boom in maids can be traced to 2003, when media responding to the Ministry of International Trade and Industry’s support for the contents industry descended on Akihabara. Maids were the most visually appealing facet of the area. In 2002, there were four maid cafes in the neighborhood, but by 2006 that number had ballooned to some 40 establishments. The phenomenon peaked in 2005, when the hit Fuji TV show "Densha Otoko" featured Akihabara’s Pinafore, introducing mainstream Japanese audiences to maids. A TV Christmas special about Pinafore’s rival, @home cafe, culminated in a 2005 NHK TV special that was aired in over 180 countries. The first professional tour to include a maid cafe, operated by Akiba Map, started in 2006, followed by government-sponsored JTB tours and a private H.I.S. offerings.

The waiting time to get into popular cafes can reach about two hours, and some have adopted time limits for visitors. Regulars—usually students, part-time workers and the unemployed—have taken to going daily rather than when they happen to be in the area.

Tetsuya Ono, owner of Candy Fruit Optical maid optometry shop, says he makes nearly 20 million yen a month between physical store and online sales; more typically, a cafe might make around 45 million yen a month. Entrepreneurs, former hostess-club owners, and even gangs are muscling into the business, as demonstrated by the rise in “maid escorts.” A glut of new cafes means they can only survive by diversifying and offering bizarre and niche characters, costumes and services.

There is still no shortage of good maids, however. About 300 hopefuls apply for every open position that comes open in Akihabara, even though the wage is only about 850 yen an hour. Most do it because they enjoy it, but a lucky few can become cosplay idols. In response to this, a group called Maid Cooperative has fashioned a standardized test to qualify maids.

Today, “maids” in the loosest sense of the word cut hair, massage, sing, dance, gamble, cross-dress and so on. Some of the more bizarre offers worth checking out include Nagomi “Little Sister” cafe, Mother cafe in Osaka, St Grace’s Court (a sister nun cafe), B:Lily Rose ("danso," or females dressing as “beautiful boys”) and Hibari-tei ("joso," or males dressing as maids).

This story originally appeared in Metropolis magazine (www.metropolis.co.jp).

© Japan Today

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28 Comments
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I love cute japanese girls in maid outfits.

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Me too!! ^__^ Have you been to one before?? I've been to two of them, its a unique experience. There are a few in California I think and maybe Canada. Japanese women are soo cute especially with maid outfits.

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I can't wait to go to Japan to go to a maid cafe. It looks like fun.

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Japan should establish a national certification examination for "cuteness," so the girls can put it on their curriculum vitae when (or if) they grow up and have to go looking for a real job.

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At last the job of a maid is no longer seen as degrading.With my respect to housemaids.

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Have seen a lot of fat maids recently - I suppose it's like the goth or emo thing - compensating for feelings of inadequacy by adopting an alternative lifestyle. I always thought it funny that all the goths were wither ultra-skinny or 'big-boned'.

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Those girls in the caption above look nothing like my waitress during my trip to Akihabara.

I decided to spend a few days in Tokyo during golden week this year and wandered into a Maid Cafe by a decent-looking chick J-girl handing out flyers on the street in Akihabara. After being seated by an even better-looking chick at the front entrance I sat down and started sending a text on my phone.

I looked up and was honestly startled by this ugly looking hag who introduced herself as my maid. First of all...she was a western chick. More specifically she was one of those nasty looking "I love anime and cosplay" chicks. They must keep one of these in the broom closet somewhere and dust her off when a gaijin walks in. She wore these ugly glasses and had a crock nose.

She asked me if I wanted to speak English or Japanese. I soon discovered that her Japanese skills were really crappy, but probably still better than most gaijin who wander into a place like that. It was really painful to look at her. After pouring my ¥600 iced coffee she said something like" もっと美味しくなる為にあたしの魔法をかけましょうか?"(Shall I use my magic to make this even more delicious?) She had me put my hands in a heart shape along with her and say 美味しくなれ、(become delicious) 3 times then "moe, moe" at the end. Probably my most embarrassing moment in Japan.

I understand that they're trying to cater to westerners by having an English speaker on hand, but that broad really killed it for me. I downed my coffee and got outta there asap. Very disappointing after a 3 hour shinkansen ride from Osaka.

Sorry for the long post. Just wanted to warn everyone about the gaijin switcheroo.

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bahahaha Rosjin,thankyou.You made me day.

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rosujin - you went all the way to tokyo just to go to a maid cafe?!

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It should say, Maid cafes show no signs of losing business, I would not say they are popular, I went to Akihabara to see if I could see what the fuss was about, well all the guys that were in the line were really disgusting looking otaku and I did not want to put myself into that crowd.

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It's hostess clubs for otatu's

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rosujin - you have been traumatized. lol

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I think an article about maid cafes would be more relevant if it were 5 years ago.

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I guess you have to let the nerds have their thing. Good luck to them. We will stick to the real bars without the silly "Welcome Master" language and heart shaped hand signs!

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OMG, lol I was thinking of giving the Maid cafe a shot until I read Rosujin's post. LOL I like to try and avoid trauma and drama. But seriously though I'd only really go to a Maid cafe if the food is good. I mean the food has to be really GOOD in order for me to go.

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rosujin - you went all the way to tokyo just to go to a maid cafe?!

No way dude! I left Osaka in the morning and arrived on Tokyo around mid-day, so all my Japanese friends were still at work. I had several hours to kill and figured Akihabara was one place where gaijin could wander around aimlessly in the middle of the day without looking out of place.

After 2 hours of looking at electronics and porn I wanted to see something else. I have zero interest in games and manga so I decided to do the only other thing you can do in Akihabara...go to a maid cafe. After my traumatic experience I had to medicate my eyes by walking through Shibuya 109. Now that was nice....and free!

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As an electronics geek, I enjoyed my trips to Akihabara back in the 60's and 70's. Now, as a soon to retire engineer, I find myself wanting to return to Akihabara also wanting to enjoy some "maid" fun. How life changes!

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Went a few times while was in Japan, got the legit deal Japanese girls not some gaijin like described above (shudder). Got out of there when it turned 6pm and everyone started smoking, not sure why that was, must be changing to night time zone or something? Need to get better at language so can communicate better. Anyone know what a typical conversation would go like in there?

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hhahahahhaaa, Rosunjin san, you had been had !!! left a " fat " tip ?

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Yes, rosujin's comment put a light on this! Why should I go into a maid cafe in Japan to see ugly western girls if I could get the same in Europe or USA? That completely defies the point of maid cafes!

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Sounds downright kinky. I think I might go if my brother wanted to treat (and he would be the type, believe me). I'm not paying high prices for sub-par food and deal with a moronic atmosphere at the same time. What is it with men and their maid fantasies - total dominance?

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rosujin 's post is awesome! Even if I went a few times in AKB, I skipped maid cafe and directly aimed to Shibuya 109, THAT was heaven ;)

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I was in Akihabara in the middle of the day recently when I began to feel a bit peckish. When I received a flyer from a maid on the street, I became tempted to give a maid cafe a try. It was then that I read the flyer and changed my mind. The om-rice was 1200 yen and a soft drink was 550 yen. The buffet at the Omotesando Brazillian restaurant is cheaper.

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Never been to a maid cafe before, but I hope this trend continues!

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Japan has enough problems already with gender inequality. The last thing it needs is this type of disgusting misogynistic drivel to be promoted. The women in Japan working day and night for equality should slap every employee in the face. And every customer too.

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rewetzel, you obviously have never been to one nor know much about them. Don't be so quick to judge. Our Cafe is nice, fun, and customers and staff alike really enjoy their experience. Food is great as well as drinks (coffee, etc).

btw, the real ones are nothing like hostess bars.

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Rewetzel1 - From an outsider looking "in", it seems that the Maid Cafes have nothing to do with the Maid Bars/Brothels (well, nothing except the "maid" angle). I could be wrong, though, as organized crime will try to co-opt ANY money-making venture if it looks like it will be around for a while.

KingSaint - You contradicted yourself. The fact that there WAS a line when you went there means it is still popular. Just because it is popular with people you don't like doesn't make it any less popular.

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I went once with a Japanese friend of mine and his wife. The whole thing felt completely fake and artificial and I don't think I would recommend anyone go. On the other hand I suppose it is more real than the computer games that most otaku play. AND the food wasn't bad and it wasn't any more expensive than typical kissaten fair.

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