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Monday, August 28, 2006

My History with Maid Cafe

My first encounter with “maid” was back in a high school, which was almost 7 years ago. It was a few years before the first maid cafe emerged in Akihabara. When I attended online chat for a dating simulation game, one of the members, whom I now respect as a ‘master’, told me how people were into “maid” and “family restaurants’ waitress” back then. I guess this encounter was a destiny. For some reason, I got very interested in those two categories. In a few hours, my computer was filled with CGs of characters in maid & waitress costumes.

Since I got so interested in waitresses, the master took me to the PiaCarrot Cafe. Since 90’s, there is a series of dating simulation games called “PiaCarrot e youkoso! (Welcome to PiaCarrot!)”. In these games, the player becomes a part-time worker for the family restaurant called PiaCarrot, and falls in love with its waitress. Cospa, the company who sells cosplay costumes and character goods, borrowed a dual space of Gamers, and turned it into a cafe with waitresses dressed in PiaCarrot costumes. It was open for a limited time only when the Japanese schools were in their summer break. I went to PiaCarrot 2 cafe, which turned out to be my first cosplay cafe experience. I remember how I had a hard time getting used to its atmosphere. I felt very shy to even place an order, not to mention when I asked them if I could take their pictures. At the same time, I was fascinated by the cafe, and I believe I ended up going there twice. Unfortunately, I could not visit PiaCarrot 3 cafe which opened a summer after due to a busy schedule.

Apparently, they were both popular enough, that they turned it into a permanent cosplay cafe. However, it was soon proven to be a mistake. I went to this cosplay cafe once, but it was terrible. The girls were dressed in various costumes without a unified concept or theme, that it appeared rather random and cheap. Also, many camera-kozo (otaku guys who are dedicated to take pictures of girls) stayed there forever without ordering much, which drove off other customers and probably did not leave much money to the cafe. Indeed, the cafe was soon closed down.

Despite the mistake, they did not give up. They reopened a new cafe called “Cure Maid Cafe”, the very first maid cafe in Japan. This time, they did not allow anyone to shoot photos inside the cafe. Also, customers were not allowed to stay beyond certain period of time when the cafe was clouded. They took some time for a sophisticated interior, and all waitresses were well trained and professional. I have been to this place several times since high school, but I think this is still one of the most professional maid cafe in Japan. Indeed, these efforts seemed to have paid off, that it still remains as a famous maid cafe in Akihabara.

After I graduated from the high school, I left Japan to study in the university in U.S. During these five years, a number of maid cafe increased rapidly. There was only Cure Maid Cafe when I left, but I think there is twenty or more maid cafes in Akihabara alone, not to mention a lot more spread all over Japan. I was visiting some of them whenever I came home to Tokyo, but I definitely could not cover all of them during such a short visit.

I felt ashamed for not knowing most of these maid cafes despite the fact I am maid-loving otaku. That is why I decided to assemble a team (usually my friend and I) to visit many of them after I graduated from the university and came back to Tokyo. By now, I think I covered more than a half of maid cafes in Akihabara, and others in Ikebukuro, Shinjuku, and other parts of Japan.

So, I think now you know how I’ve seen the birth of the first maid cafe, but how I was left behind during a period when the number of maid cafe increased. I am nothing compared to some of other hard core maid cafe fans, but I hope I am good enough to report about them to non-Japanese speaking populations in the world. Please remember that reports that I will post on this web site will be my personal opinions, and not “a word of the god”. ;-p Anyways, I will explain the reason why I started this web site on my next post!

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