Recently this phenomena has sprung up all over Akihabara. With slight success, attempts have been made to establish them in other parts of Tokyo, which has meant that they have in a sense found their spiritual home amongst the other fantasy-inspired, anime-related outlets there. They also provide a compliment to the cold, inhuman technologies that the place is famous for- what could be more opposite to computer chips rated for their increasing speed and power than the lovely young ladies to be found there? Also, of course, those who know a lot about the aforementioned computer chips may find the female mind a much more complex territory to navigate, so providing the initial customers. As news of the cafes spread, many other types of people have started coming to Akiba just to see what the whole fuss is about.
The stereotype of the maid café is of somewhere where you can be served by young ladies or ‘Moe girls’, known for being innocent and sweet, so therefore arousing the sympathies of the mostly male patrons. Since ‘Moe girls’ are supposed to be in their late teens, the slightly older girls to be found there are in a sense actresses (some seem to be more so than others)- yet being in their early 20’s, the personality type is not so far off. Moe girls represent the perfection of cuteness and sweetness that Japan is famous for. They aren’t just pretty faces, either, they make efforts in the contemporary arts- singing songs and dancing, drawing ‘manga’ comics and making drinks or cakes. They wish to be appreciated for doing this, so their fans show this with applause, with kind words, or just by turning up.
Supposedly, the type of guys who go to these establishments are ‘otaku’- in western parlance, ‘geeks’- who have addictions to technology and the world of anime, so much so that they simply don’t get out much. Having little experience with real girls, they want an idealized version who will look after them, with no risk of getting hurt- greeting them as they enter, taking their coat and bowing down to acknowledge them as ‘master’ in the traditional Japanese custom. Not only they, but other men are supposed to be attracted to this who may even be married, the modernized Japanese lady being unwilling to provide the submissive behaviour that their psyche not just wants, but needs. Days spent submitting to the whims of bosses need the reward of being appreciated, almost worshipped, at home. Such is the stereotype.
In reality, most of the customers at the cafés I went to were ‘normal’ people, many of them in groups. I did see the occasional ‘classic otaku’, even sometimes what looked to me to be a super-otaku- and no, I wasn’t looking in the mirror, either. In fact, as the phenomena becomes more widely known, a lot of females are to be seen there. I in fact saw much more appreciation being paid to the girls there than they showed to the customers. There are a few regulars (the super-otaku), who they warmly greet and take their coats, giving them their regular drink. But most of the patrons seem to be just as much a tourist as me, Japanese people coming to see for themselves what the whole thing is like and to enjoy the spectacle- especially groups of girls who also like to be ‘kawaii’ and can learn tips from these girls, who have taken the concept to a whole new level. Undoubtedly, other places exist, in which other ‘services’ can be had from the girls, such as massage and even more, who wear much sexier, revealing outfits. In fact, these are often the places that advertise outside the station, simply because they make enough profit to do so. I don’t know so much about them, but they do seem to be more like massage parlours that have jumped on the bandwagon of maid attire, rather than being entertaining cafes. In the next article on this subject, I’ll say a bit more about the cafes that are out there…