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Where Hello Kitty Serves Your Food – Maid Cafe Madness In Tokyo

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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.

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Akihabara area in Tokyo
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The streets of Akihabara

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.

Menu

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.

Hello Kitty Japan
Hello Kitty is big in Japan

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! 🙂

Akihabara Tokyo
In Akihabara, you will meet all kinds of people

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:

YouTube video

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.

Top Range

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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Top Range alternatives: Palace Hotel TokyoThe Tokyo Station Hotel

Mid-Range

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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Budget

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.

Travel Guides

We used Lonely Planet`s Japan Travel Guide on our trip. You can get that and other great books by clicking on the pictures below which will take you to Amazon.com (affiliate links):



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Do you want to visit a Maid Cafe, or have you visited one somewhere? Please leave a comment in the comment area below! If you liked this article and found it useful, please share on social media. Thanks! 🙂  

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Written by Maria Wulff Hauglann

Maria is a Norwegian travel nerd who has explored more than thirty countries on four continents. She holds a master's degree in Computer Science, as well as an MBA. In 2014 while on a year-long trip across South East- Asia, Maria co-founded the travel blog Nerd Nomads to help others get out and explore the world. In 2018 she left her day job permanently for a life of full-time travel. See our about page for more about Maria.

25 Comments

  1. What an interesting cafe. I am adding it to my Japan wish list. I love the girls and the poofy skirts. So colorful and fun.

    Reply
    • It was really fun, and a bit crazy and surreal. 🙂 You should definitely give it a try if you go to Japan! I am sure your daughter will love it too!

      Reply
      • Maria,
        If you are going to continue to be a blogger you sure need a lesson on blogger etiquette.
        You ignore the replies that people send you but if it’s about you you sure reply quickly. Blogging is a two way communication. And you should appreciate your followers by replying to them.
        And don’t make the excuse that there are too many to reply too. That’s how blogging is and you should be grateful you have followers. That is just down rude.

        Reply
  2. Haha, så festlig! Det er mange opplevelser i Japan som er en smule bisaree virker det som! Neste uke er det min tur til å besøke Tokyo – få se om jeg stikker innom en Maid Cafe da =)

    Reply
    • Ja det var et skikkelig rart, men samtidig artig kafebesøk! Gikk fra å være flau til å synes det var gøy. 🙂 Dere får prøve det ut hvis dere får tid, men tror jeg ville valgt en annen kafe enn Maid Dreamin hvis jeg var dere, tror andre er bedre og mer populære. Tokyo er helt crazy, er som et eget univers. 🙂 Kos dere masse!!! Gleder meg til å lese og se bilder fra deres Tokyo besøk!

      Reply
    • Just checked out your blog, LOVE you #globaloffice concept Cheri! So cool!!! Looks like Paris has a lot of nice cafes!

      You should definitely visit Japan and especially Tokyo which is packed with cool and strange cafes like these Maid Cafes. We also visited a cat cafe, a goat cafe, a Scandinavian retro cafe (cool because we are from Norway, hehe), and lots and lots of pancake cafes as american pancakes is THE BIG thing in Japan at the moment! All Japanese seem to love pancakes. I would say that Tokyo is the ultimate place to have a global office :). You will never run out of cool cafes in Tokyo!

      Reply
  3. I’ve read about these cafes but have not come across such a detailed account.

    I’m very curious and I’d definitely want to visit one of these cafes when I’m in Japan. The whole set up is quite strange!

    Reply
    • Thanks Natasha!! 🙂 Yeah, I like to write detailed blog posts, hehe. These cafes are strange, I agree, and can be a bit overwhelming, but great fun once you play along and just keep an open mind. 🙂 You should definitely check it out!

      Reply
  4. I’ve always wondered about the rise in the ‘cuteness’ phenomenon in Japan – and your comment about it being a rebellion against growing up and taking on serious adult responsibilities with long working days makes a lot of sense. This looks like a truly bizarre, but fascinating experience!

    Reply
    • Same here Fairlie, I have always wondered why the Japanese are so obsessed with cute stuff so I had to research quite a bit to find the answer. Interesting phenomenon. Maid Cafes really are bizarre, but great fun! 🙂

      Reply
  5. I am visiting Tokyo in December; whilst I am not sure a Maid Café will be a cultural highlight of our stay; I do think they warrant a visit.. Your article gave a great insight on these quintessentially modern Japanese girls…

    Reply
    • Ah, lucky you who are going to Tokyo in December Monique! Love that city, and I`m sure you will too! Although it is a bit crazy, like these Maid Cafes. You should definitely visit one of these cafes! 🙂

      Reply
  6. We ran out of time in Tokyo to visit a Maid Cafe although I was very intrigued by the concept. I didn’t realize that that cuteness was a counter-culture rebellion equivalent to hippies. Very interesting! When we were in Harajuku, I wondered how all those people dressed up in cosplay ended up transitioning into the real world of being salary men. Perhaps they never do? I’m glad that I got to peek inside a Maid Cafe via your eyes. I think my kids would have enjoyed the ketchup decorated food, but I was not clear if this is the type of place you take kids. As for cleaning out ears at a restaurant. Gross!

    Reply
    • I was also amazed by all the cuteness in Japan, it is very interesting how obsessed they are of cuteness. Harajuku is a crazy place! All those crazy dressed people. 🙂

      I don`t know if Maid Cafes are suitable for children, I did not see any children enter any of the cafes. It probably depends on the age of your kids, if they understand the concept or not. Maybe a cat or a goat cafe is more suitable for children? I agree, those ketchup drawings on the food are so cute! 🙂

      Reply
  7. A friend of mine was just in Tokyo and I joked to him that he should go visit a maid cafe. I don’t think he ultimately did which judging on your experience, was probably a good thing! I think it would have been a very surreal experience. Kind of like visiting a cat cafe I guess…

    Reply
  8. I’ve heard of this before but never really read about someone who went to one! I could see it being very surreal and a bit fake, but I think just something you have to try, to experience something different…maybe it would be a different experience if many people were there, more lively…I think it’s really cool how Japan has many themed cafes and restaurants. My favorite would be the cat cafes though, I need to get to one of those!

    Reply
    • It probably would have been even more fun if there were more people in the Maid Cafe, I agree Lauren. Maid Cafe is just so crazy and a very Japanese thing, so I think it is a must-try if going to Tokyo. We did not have time to visit a cat cafe, unfortunately. But will definitely check it out if we ever go back to Japan. It sounds a bit crazy and cute too! So does goat cafes! Japan sure has a lot of crazy stuff! 🙂

      Reply
  9. What the hell is this, really! Japan, and by that I mean Tokyo, is such a weirdly fascinating place. This post captures the essence quite perfectly!

    Reply
    • Hehehe, yep Maid Cafes are a bit strange! Tokyo is a crazy city, but we loved it! It actually felt like being on another planet some times. 🙂

      Reply
  10. Hi Teri,

    Thank you for commenting and telling me about blogger etiquette. I actually try to reply to every single comment that we get on our blog. So far I have replied to 2588 comments, and I spend a lot of time replying to comments and emails from our readers. Some readers have complicated travel related questions which take me hours of research before I can send them a proper and correct answer. I also have a normal nine to five job at a University in addition to running this blog. I don`t always manage to reply to all comments and emails on the same day, but like in this case with your comment on the Hachiko post, a couple of days later. So sorry about that and sorry I offended you and your feelings!

    Happy travels! 🙂

    -Maria-

    Reply
  11. I’m a Hugh Hello Kitty ( & Maid ) fan, I’d Luv 2 visit a Hello Kitty themed Cafe & of course a Maid’s cafe. Are there any tours setup for such a trip ? Please let me know & thank you for any & all help & information.

    Reply

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