Header image courtesy of Asian Wanderlust
What are maid cafés? How do they work? And why are they such a big hit in Japan?
As part of otaku culture, these cosplay cafés are designed to satisfy the fantasies of manga, anime, and video game fans, providing them with the opportunity to interact with waitresses dressed in maid costumes. These outfits usually include a petticoat, pinafore, frill, garter, and stockings. Upon entering a maid café, the maids will greet you by calling you “master” or “mistress”.
Maid cafés typically charge an admission fee or a table charge that allows you to stay for a designated timeframe. After you have been seated, you can start ordering food and drinks, which you can always expect to be more expensive than normal cafés, but the maids will make up for this discrepancy by doing cute things like drawing pictures or performing charms on the food. In addition, you can also play mini-games with them or watch a live performance of song and dance.
While all the maids are very friendly and easy-going, there are strict rules that all guests must observe. You cannot ask the maids for their real name or personal information, engage in any physical contact, or initiate any sexual advances. Without further ado, here are the top four places around Akihabara to experience stellar service and dip your toes into the culture.
Having begun its business in 2001, Cure Maid Café is the pioneer of maid cafés. Unlike the fun and energetic vibe that other cafés carry, it offers a calming and tranquil experience, with the waitresses dressed in classic Victorian-style maid costumes. So if you are not feeling too chatty but want to see what a maid café is like, Cure Maid Café would be a top choice. Recognised by the Japanese Tea Association as a ‘Tasty Tea Shop‘, the café serves an original herbal tea blend that is continuously fine-tuned throughout the year based on the changing seasons. In terms of food, you can either order the famous omelette rice, or choose from a selection of pasta, curry rice, finger food, and pastries.
Cure Maid Café, 6/F, Gee Store Akiba, 3-15-5, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo | (+81) 03 3258 3161
With seven stores in Akihabara, Maidreamin is known for its cheerful and cutesy atmosphere. The maids there will be found in one of the following four types of uniforms, including Kiralis, Dream, Regular, and Trainee. The café stages a live performance show every two hours and offers a variety of combo packages that allow you to have a souvenir photo taken with the maids. If you can’t stay for the show, you can always order from the menu that comes with an at-the-table performance.
Maidreamin: Akihabara the Head Store, 6/F, Sumiyoshi Building, 3-16-17 Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo | (+81) 01 2022 9348
Mononopu is a Sengoku era-themed maid café that is going to be a lot of fun if you are interested in something that involves a mix of history and tradition. The Sengoku period is also referred to as the “Age of Warring States”, which was a time when warriors and feudal lords were fighting for control over the country. The armoured maids are supposed to be the daughters of famous warriors and they will threaten to behead or banish guests who dare to break their rules. While the waitresses are dressed up in Kimono-style tops, guests will be invited to don a princess or nobleman costume. Aside from traditional Japanese dishes, the café also serves pasta, sandwiches, and a vast variety of alcoholic drinks.
Mononopu, 5/F, Isuzu Building, 4-6-2, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo | (+81) 03 5296 9199
You can easily spot the huge pink bow at the entrance of @home Café, even from a great distance. The four-floor café is particularly well-known for upholding high standards in its creation of the ultimate maid café experience. Aside from offering good food and exhibiting a high level of professionalism, the café has made it a rule not to hand out flyers in the streets, so that it can maintain a high-end image and be environmentally friendly. Including its Osaka branch, @home Café has hired around 350 maids and has trained them in singing, dancing, and speaking in English. It is worth noting that some of the maids have actually gone on to pursue a performing career and have become members of girl groups such as SKE48 and CY8ER.
@home Café Akihabara, 3/F–7/F, Mitsuwa Building, 1-11-4, Sotokanda, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo | (+81) 03 5207 9779