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Monday, November 05, 2012

Schatzkiste -Chapter 2-: MAID OF THE DEAD III

Yes, it was Halloween, my friends.  Great opportunity for maid cafes to throw an event to attract customers.  One of my favorites, Schatzkiste also threw an event..... however..... in a different manner.  It was completely under the taste of the head housemaid.  It was not maids cheerfully trick-or-treating in the interior covered with cute Halloween decorations.  It was..... rather.... terrifying.  Indeed, I am sure some people did not go there on that weekend since they were so terrified by the pictures posted on the web.  It was MAID OF THE DEAD III: real zombie maids squirming and serving in the maid cafe.

It was early October when I saw scary-looking monkey in a cage hanging in the cafe.  It was a mismatch to the peaceful atmosphere of Schatzkiste.  Apparently, the monkey was brought in from a remote island by one of the maids.  This monkey turned ferocious and attacked maids, and......

The official story (sorry it is in Japanese!)

"Infected" maids (day 1) *be careful if you are not used to scary stuff ! X-(

You will be surprised how "real" these maid zombies were.  As day goes by, they decay more.  I went on day 2 and day 3.  They seem to be maids-by-heart, thus even though they are now walking-dead, they still served orders and tried to make you smile by fooling around.  However, I was laughing but shaking all the time, since how they look were seriously terrifying.  I think it was my first time in my life that I experienced fear and laughter at the same time.

The cafe is back to normal and maids are back to humans by the herb found by one of the maids.  However, I am still traumatized and remembers the fear when I see maids who turned into zombies on that day, even though almost a week has passed already.

If you are a hardcore zombie fan, I highly recommend you to keep your eyes on the event announcements of Schatzkiste.  The event was the third time.  I am sure there will be the fourth :-p

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

MILKY POT: Cozy Cafe with Great Coffee

I must admit Nagoya is a new frontier for a maid cafe.  Maileaf that I wrote in my previous post is not the only great cafe that was born in Nagoya in last few years.  MILKY POT is another one.  It is cozy, tiny cafe with a counter and sofa, but with a sophisticated classical atmosphere and great coffee.

A few blocks north from Osu area where all other maid cafes gather, MILKY POT is located on 6th floor of tiny building.  You'll be surprised how tiny the cafe is.  I don't think more than 10 people can be in that cafe including maids.  However, the size helps cafe to build up cozy atmosphere.  Two cute maids are inside the bar counter welcoming you and you can enjoy having a chat with them.  Usually, counter style cafes are more geared toward so-called "Maid Cafe" style (I call them Akihabara-style), but this cafe maintains classical atmosphere.  They are dressed in calm black & white classical style maid outfits, and will prepare & serve freshly-ground coffee in front of you.  Behind wooden hinged doors, there is a record player playing game music performed by orchestra.

Everything is quiet and calm, yet funny and entertaining also.  Maids are all unique.  I remember one elder maid told younger maid to saute onions for hamburger, but the younger one completely ruined it by overcooking it.  The elder one panicked and scolding the younger one first, but she soon started apologizing for not giving a right cooking utensils.  It was funny how she shifted from scolding to apologizing.  On another day, I saw a maid who was always goofing up. who was with another maid who wore glasses and completely appeared mature to me.  However, the mature one told me with sigh how she is the one who is goofy back in her home town, but she needs to behave mature since her colleague is too goofy.  Again, it was funny how she said that.

I believe maid cafes are definitely shifting from a craze to culture, and Nagoya is definitely playing an important role for this culture to grow.  If you are otaku who is passing by Nagoya, make sure you stop by and experience some of the latest and greatest form of maid cafes in the world.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maileaf: Legitimate Successor of Maid Cafes

More than 10 years have passed since the first maid cafe was born in Akihabara... Maid cafe enthusiasts around me says that a maid cafe is no longer a craze but has reached a realm of culture.... If you see various maid cafes from cultural standpoint, you see unique or sometime unexpected lineage between them. Yes, maid cafes are not randomly generated entities, but rather evolving into new forms as new cafes open. I believe Maileaf, which is a young maid cafe that has been open only for an year or so, can be entitled as a legitimate successor of maid cafes.

Maileaf is located in Osu, close to Nagoya which is a capital of Aichi prefecture. Yes, it is not in Akihabara, or even in Tokyo. Akihabara is where the fist maid cafe was born. Ikebukuro is also famous for maid and butler cafes. Some of you might know Nippon-bashi in Osaka, which is another famous otaku district in west. Why Osu? Well, Osu is actually another relatively large otaku district in Japan. Located in between Tokyo and Osaka, it is building up its unique otaku culture. It is recently gaining popularity by international cosplay summit which takes place in summer. Also, Osu has played an important role in a history of maid cafes. According to what I heard from other maid cafe enthusiasts, “Okaerinasaimase Goshujin-sama”, or “Welcome back, my master.” which is the most popular and widely used greeting in maid cafes, was first used in M's Melody, the oldest maid cafe in Osu.

So, why do I call Maileaf as a legitimate successor of maid cafes? Well, this cafe has ALL. It is basically a classical style maid cafe, green but long skirt maid outfit with calm interiors. Wide variety of tea selections and excellent sweets. Excellent for classical maid lovers who enjoy calm environment. Well, then those of you who smokes and enjoys alcohol shall not go here? No. There is a smoking area upstairs where there is a bar counter and there is a maid working inside the counter. Yes, this cafe has both characteristics of classical maid cafes and moe-style maid cafes. You can enjoy tea and sweets like in classical maid cafes, but also enjoy alcohol and have chat and take pictures with maids like moe-style maid cafes. Usually, it is difficult to combine both characteristics into one cafe, but this cafe has succeeded to combine them under excellent balance.

How was it possible? As far as I know, one of the “keepers” (4 head maids are called “house keepers”) who was also a founding member of this cafe, was a HARDCORE MAID CAFE ENTHUSIAST. Worked as a maid herself, she has gone to not only Osu maid cafes, but also to the maid cafes in Nipponbashi and Akihabara. With her counterparts, she wanted to combine good parts of different maid cafes into this new maid cafe. So far, I should say they have COMPLETELY SUCCEEDED. Maileaf is now the most evolved maid cafe that has combined blood of various maid cafes in three otaku districts in Japan.

If you are over in Japan and passing by Nagoya, I highly recommend you to stop by Osu and visit Maileaf and other maid cafes. It is a definitely new frontier for maid might encounter another new evolution of maid cafe culture.


Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Schatzkiste -Chapter 2-: Wunderkiste

One of my favorite maid cafes in Akihabara, Schatzkiste -Chapter 2-, is currently holding a collaboration exhibition with Haruna Ikezawa.  She is a famous voice actress who played a role in Mariasama-ga Miteru as Yoshino Shimazu, Keroro Gunso as Momoka Nishizawa, and so on.  Indeed, she is the first voice actress whom I became a fan of.

It is a promotional event of her new music album, fantamujika.  You get to see panels of the lyrics and comments of lyric writers/composers (sorry, they are all in Japanese!).  Also, you get to know her visions through her own selection of private books that she generously made them available in one of the bookshelves in Schatzkiste, entitled as "Ikeawa's Bookshelf".  There are special teas and sweets that are only available during this event.

It was rather awkward experience for me being there.....  I became Haruna-san's fan almost decade ago before I go to US for a college.  I became Schatzkiste's fan after I came back to Japan.  Absolutely no link between these two within myself, but they came together to hold a collaborative exhibition.  I felt like I was standing on the crossroad of two streets that I used to live on but never imagined they would cross somewhere far down the road.

Also, it was rather sentimental moment.  I was talking about my memories of Haruna-san back when I was one of her fans with one of the maids.  I almost cried.  Do you want to know what the story was?  Well..... I guess I will just keep it in my heart as one of my precious memories of the youth :-p

The exhibition goes on till 7/29 Sun., so if you are around, don't miss it.  Even if you don't know who Haruna Ikezawa is, it is worth visiting just to have wonderful teas that she selected ;-)

Haruna Ikezawa x Schatzkiste
Exhibition "Wunderkiste -A Box of Wonders-"
blog (Japanese)

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

JAM AKIHABARA: They'll be back.

In my last article, I mentioned that JAM AKIHABARA is going to close.  Indeed, they closed on 6/17.  Good news is..... they'll be back!

On their official twitter account, they announced that there is a new owner who is willing to take over the tradition of JAM AKIHABARA.  On the day the announcement was made, twitter was flooded by the hash tag "#JAMが大好きだ" or "I love JAM".  I can only imagine how joyful news it was for all JAM regulars known as JAM-min (JAM-tribe).

Let's look forward to the rebirth of JAM.  I cannot wait to write another article about JAM.  Probably the title will be "JAM AKIHABARA: Rebirth of the Monumental Cafe" ;-p


Monday, June 04, 2012

JAM AKIHABARA: End of the Monumental Cafe

In my room, there are maid figures from “Maid Cafe Collection”. It is a series of character figures which was released in year 2006, and these characters are wearing the uniforms of the maid cafes that actually existed back then. One of them is JAM Akihabara. It is one of the older maid cafes that existed since 2004. If you know Akihabara maid cafes well, you should have heard about it at least once. It is one of the historical maid cafe that surely has contributed to the maid cafe culture.

What makes JAM Akihabara unique? I think the answer is its regulars. There are regular customers who call themselves JAM-min or “JAM-tribe”. They are very close to each other, and they hang out even outside the cafe. They have tight bond, yet they do not build up the unwelcoming atmosphere to the newcomers, thus you will not feel exiled even if you are not part of the tribe. As a maid fan who believes one of the important function of the maid cafe is hang-out place of otakus yet it is important not to build up the atmosphere that is tough for newcomers to come in, I think JAM Akihabara was one of the ideal case of the maid cafe.

JAM was also very “handy”. The price was reasonable, and it is open until 5AM before weekends. If you feel like you want to stop by somewhere to have a glass of beer, JAM was always the place to go.

Unfortunately, the place is closing down mid of this month. I can only imagine how heart-broken Jam-mins were. When the announcement was made, twitter was filled with the memories of JAM. I am also one of “Schatzers” or regular customers of Schatzkiste, and I am certain how shocked I will be if I loose Schatzkiste.

Until the day it close, I am sure the place will be filled with JAM-mins and maid cafe enthusiasts. However, if you are in Japan and have a chance to stop by Akihabara, I highly recommend you to stop by this place, and remember one of the greatest historical monument of the maid cafe culture.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Royal/T Café: Beyond the Realm of Otaku

Looks like a maid cafe is not unique to Japan any longer.  Along with growing attention to Japanese pop culture, maid cafes are emerging around the world.  Royal/T Café is one of them.  It is located in Los Angels.  Yes, United States of America, my friends :-)

Last month when I was in LA for business, I visited there for the first time.  It was my very first experience visiting a maid cafe outside Japan.  How was it?  Well.......  it was nothing like any maid cafes that I have seen in Japan.  Indeed, I am not sure if I should call this place maid cafe, or pop culture cafe.

The bright interior with a tall bare wood roofing provides fresh atmosphere to the cafe.  Walls are decorated with modern art pieces, and there is a small shop area where they sell cool fashion & pop culture items.  There is a DJ booth where actual DJ was playing club music as BGM.  Customers were all couples or families: I think I was the only one who was there alone.  Yes, waitresses were all dressed in maid costumes and there were Japanese style foods and drinks on the menu, but I did not feel any sense of "otaku" that I feel in many maid cafes. :-p

I think Royal/T has evolved maid cafe out from realm of otaku, and took it to the completely different level where anybody can visit and enjoy.  I think it is an interesting case to study when we talk about evolution of the maid cafes.  While I don't think this will be the final form of the maid cafes, it will surely be one of the future forms.

Royal/T Café