We meet a sweet girl out on the pavement. She is smiling and giggling, showing us to the elevator inside a tall building. She pushes the “Maid Cafe” button, and the elevator doors close. Our hearts are pounding, we don`t know what to expect or how to behave. Was this a good idea?
The elevator door opens, and an enthusiastic and cute waitress meets us giggling and smiling dressed in a French maid uniform with a short skirt and a childish ponytail hairstyle. The waitress shows us to our table. This is our first time visiting one of the infamous Maid Cafes of Tokyo.
What Is A Maid Cafe?
Yep, good question! 🙂 Maid Cafes, or “Meido kissa” / “Meido kafe” as the Japanese call them, is a pop culture phenomenon in Tokyo, well actually only in the Akihabara area of Tokyo.
It is kind of like a regular cafe, except that the waitresses are dressed as French maids in maid outfits with cute short dresses, matching hair accessory (such as a frill or a bow) and stockings. They wear heavy makeup and cute hairstyles.
Some Maid Cafes even have males dressed in maid uniforms! 🙂
The waitresses treat the customers as “go-shujinsama”, which means “master” and acts shy, giggling and smiling. It is more or less innocent fun. Maid cafés were originally designed primarily to cater to the fantasies of male “otaku”, fans of anime, manga, and video games.
Maid Cafes also have their roots in Hello Kitty and Pokemon, and the whole “cuteness” rebellion trend of Japan which goes back to the 70s. While the USA and Europe had hippies, Japan had cuteness where young people did not want to grow up and step into the serious adult world with long working days. So they dressed up in childish clothes with cute hairstyles as a rebellion against the grown-up society.
Today most customers of Maid Cafes are Japanese tourists from other parts of Japan, and surprisingly many females visit Maid Cafes, rather than hardcore manga fans!
The first Maid Cafe, “Cure Maid Café“, opened in Akihabara in Tokyo in March 2001. They are becoming increasingly popular, and today there are over 200 Maid Cafes only in Tokyo. Maid Cafes have also opened overseas in countries like China, South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, Mexico, Canada, and the United States.
The menus of Maid Cafès are similar to those of typical cafes and offer coffee, tea and other beverages (also with alcohol), as well as some food and desserts. However, in Maid Cafés, the food is made with a little “twist”, as the waitresses will often decorate a customer’s food with cute designs at his or her table.
For instance, they use syrup or chocolate sauce to paint and make cute drawings on desserts like ice-cream. A dish that is very popular at Maid Cafès is the omelet and rice (オムライス Omu-radius), which the maid will typically make cute drawings on using ketchup. This extra “service” adds to the image of the waitress as an innocent but pampering maid.
Each customer has to order drinks or food for at least 500 JPY (5 us$). The maid cafe we visited, “Maid Dreamin”, had English menus.
Special Maid Rituals And Rules
There are many different rituals or special “services” offered by the waitresses/ maids, like greeting customers with “Welcome home Master/ Mistress!”, as well as fetching wipes and menus. They will also sit at your table and do small talks, like with us she asked where we were from, where in Japan we had been, for how long, and so on.
She served us tea and stirred sugar and milk in it. The food was unfortunately very overpriced and to be honest did not look very appealing. You don`t go to a Maid Cafè to have a gastronomic experience.
At some Maid Cafès, they also offer spoon feeding services to their customers, as well as grooming services (like cleaning the client`s ears), arm/feet/back messages (the customers do remain fully dressed) for an extra fee.
Customers can also play cards, a game of “moe moe jankan”(rock, paper, scissors in maid style), or video games with their maid, for an extra fee. The maids will also do a little dance show if you ask and pay for it.
One strict rule applies to all Maid Cafès: Taking a photograph of the maids or the interior of the cafe is strictly forbidden! That also goes for the girls outside on the street handing out flyers and trying to get new customers to their cafe. They get angry if you try to take a photo, and start yelling at you!
We ask if we could take a picture, and our maid agreed for a fee of 500 JPY (5 us$) per picture.
There are also other rules, like for instance are customers not allowed to touch a maid’s body, ask for a girl’s personal contact information, or otherwise invade her personal privacy.
Will We Visit A Maid Cafe Again?
Well, to tell you the truth our Maid Cafè experience was a bit bizarre! I had a sinus infection with a fever at the time, so I did not feel that cheerful and energetic.
At the time we entered the cafe the other guests were finished and about to leave. So most of the time we were the only one there which felt a bit weird and awkward.
We got the full attention of the maid since we were the only guests at the cafe at the time, but she did not speak much English so she only talked to us a little bit. She did, however, perform a dream candle ceremony at our table for us, where we could wish something while she did a little dance with a candle in her hands. Very cute and funny! 🙂
The food did not look so good and it was very overpriced. So we ended up having only a cup of tea and a cup of hot chocolate with cream, each costing 5 us$ (500 JPY). To be honest, they tasted pretty bad! 🙁 But you don`t visit a Maid Cafe to have a great gourmet experience, as it is all about the “show” and the setting. We did not order any food, so we missed out on the decoration-of-the-food-thing offered by the maid.
Everything felt very “fake” and not that heartfelt, but then again, what to expect. You could feel that this was pure business, as everything cost extra, like taking a photo of the maid.
Will we try it again? Hmm, we might give it another chance if we go back to Tokyo. The experience was crazy and felt a bit unreal like we were in another world. If there had been more customers in the cafe at the time we visited, it would probably have been more fun and lively.
If you want to experience something different, crazy, fun and a bit weird and awkward, then you should visit one of the many Maid Cafes in Japan! And if being served food and drinks by Hello Kitty is your biggest dream, then you definitely should pop by a Maid Cafe! 🙂
We might not have chosen the best Maid Cafè either. We visited one of the many “Maid Dreamin” cafes in Akihabara, but the most popular seemed to be the “@Home Cafe” (a large cafe covering four floors). There are maids on every street corner in the Akihabara area, handing out flyers, so you will find Maid Cafes basically wherever you go.
Here is a great film with two guys visiting a Maid Cafe in Tokyo:
How To Get To The Maid Cafe Area Of Tokyo?
Take the metro to Akihabara Station in Tokyo, and the whole area around the station is packed with Maid Cafes. Just look for maids out on the streets.
How Much Does Visiting A Maid Cafe Cost?
- You have to order drink/food for at least 500 JPY = 5 us$ per person
- To be allowed to take a photo you have to pay 500 JPY = 5 us$ per photo you take
- Some Maid Cafes also have a cover charge, typically around 600 JPY = 6 us$ per person
Opening Hours Maid Cafe
- Most Maid Cafes have open from 11:00 – 22:00 every day
Where To Stay In Tokyo
Tokyo has an incredible variety of accommodation available. Here you find some of the world's most luxurious hotels as well as traditional Japanese Inns where you sleep on a futon mat. Famous tiny pod hotels, love hotels for couples, business hotels for the businessmen that stayed out drinking too late to go home, and everything in between.
The Park Hyatt
Made famous by the movie ‘Lost in Translation’, The Park Hyatt is absolutely one of Tokyo's most luxurious hotels. The hotels 178 rooms are among Tokyo's most spacious and elegant and provides all modern comforts. The hotel's friendly and professional service is legendary, and the hotel's restaurants world-class. Located on the top floor with stunning views over Tokyo is the world famous New York Bar Grill, where Bill Murray’s character enjoyed his many whiskeys.
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Tokyu Stay Shinjuku
This hotel has a great location within just a few minutes walk from Shinjuku-sanchome station in Tokyo’s shopping and entertainment center. The hotel is bright and modern, with small but comfortable rooms that include a tv, refrigerator, microwave, safe and a washing machine(!). Wifi is free and fast. They serve a tasty breakfast in the bar next door. In an otherwise very expensive area of the city, this hotel offers great value for money.
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Hotel MyStays Asakusabashi
We stayed at Hotel MyStays in Asakusabashi and really liked this hotel! It is brand new, and the rooms are actually decent sized compared to the average hotel in Japan (choose a twin room if you need the biggest room). The neighborhood is great, with lots of restaurants and cafes, and a short walk to the underground station Asakusabashi. It was the cheapest and best hotel we could find in Tokyo.
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MyCube by MyStays
If you're traveling solo on a budget or would simply like to try one of the famous and unique cube/pod hotels of Tokyo then this is a great choice. It is a brand new hotel and quite spacious for a pod hotel. Every pod has lockable baggage storage and free Wi-Fi. The underground station is located right next door and there are plenty of places to eat in the neighborhood.
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Budget Alternatives: Khaosan Asakusa Hostel
Tokyo has a lot of accommodation options to choose from in different areas of the city. Click here to read our complete guide to our favorite areas and hotels in Tokyo.
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