I have no personal interest in Maid Cafés, just to be clear. I find them slightly creepy to be honest; seeing lots of young sexualised women pretend to like you. It’s like a hostess club with more singing and role-play. I’m told that it’s nothing more than fun entertainment without any adult tastes, and maybe that’s true, but for the time being I feel the need to protect myself from these very innocent establishments. However, I did study these businesses at university so I have developed an academic interest in them.
More than just the services being offered, I’ve heard that customers choose to arrive in cosplay and that it’s a popular site for couples to dress up and role-play for fun. Personally, this would seem like an amazing thing to do in public as soon as my real life nose dives into a ditch. What is the appeal? What kinds of customers frequent these businesses? I wanted to take notes and prove what I had studied, so on a Saturday morning I took the train up to Tokyo.
Akihabara is packed with these places but I chose to visit Nakano broadway instead. It’s quieter for a start and some of these places have windows, unlike in Akihabara where they’re all on the 4th floor and every window is blacked out in cute propaganda. It’s like entering a dystopia run by hello-kitty; you will be happy, you will find this cute, and you will not leave. No natural sunlight for you. In Nakano, with less crowds and more windows, I felt like I had a better chance of escape if they tried to imprison me for my thought crimes. But more importantly, those windows meant I could observe without having to participate.
Notebook ready in my breast pocket and camera in my bag in case I needed shots of the building, I approached the Maid Café at an angle to avoid being seen by the catcher maids who hung down the street. If they saw me, I’d be frog marched inside to be entertained. Luckily their posing, outfits and screeching squeaky voices made it easy to spot them in a crowd. People say they put on those squeaky voices to appear more cute but I know the true reason; it’s subliminal messaging to brainwash the public as they pass, luring them all in until they reign with soft power. Thank goodness there are freedom fighters like myself, willing to put myself at risk to gather intelligence, right beneath their fluffy cat ears. I once interviewed one of these ladies who I met at YNU when she was off work, and asked if it was painful to put on the voice all day at work. She replied, oh so innocently, ‘what squeaky voice’? This is how it begins, I warn you now.
It was a very sunny day and the glare off the glass of the Café made it impossible for me to see inside. I only need a brief look just to see if the customers were dressed up and if the Maids were doing any of these performances I’d read about. I would have poked my head through the door, if I didn’t believe the secret police would descend upon me with glitter and sinister smiles. So to shield against the reflection off the glass, I cupped my hands around my eyes, and put my head to the glass, and instantly the café was revealed to me.
I had only a moment to observe however. Unbeknownst to me, I had peered in just behind the counter and the Maid who worked at the cashier, was no more than a foot away, only a thin sheet of glass between us. My shadow fell on her as she dug inside the cashier, and it made her freeze. Very slowly, she rose and turned her head to face me, our eyes meeting with barely any distance away. Then she screamed. She stepped back and tripped in her shiny heels, knocking the cashier down with her, coins spraying across the floor. She hit the floor, the cashier narrowly missing her as it crashed down after her. The rest of the Maids froze in horror, turning to me at the window. The customers too went silent, mouths wide in shock. A sensible man would have come inside, apologised, helped the poor lady back onto her feet and then explained his very innocent intention to have a look in true tourist fashion. Instead, I ran.
Running from the scene of a crime was perhaps not my proudest moment but the instinct to flee was too great. I haven’t returned to that street in over 3 years now and I probably never will. If you ever come across one of these cafés, always keep George Orwell in mind.
Vanity is Poverty. Cuteness is Terror. Pseudo friendship is Creepy.