Maid cafes are not a new concept but they are certainly a quirky one. Since the first Maid café opened in 2001 in Akihabara in Tokyo, the cafes have proved to be so popular that there are now over 2,000 Maid cafes in Tokyo alone and the idea has been adopted throughout Europe, Asia and the U.S.
So, what exactly is a Maid café (Meido kafe)?
In Maid cafes cute, young waitresses dress in maid costumes and treat customers as if they are their masters in a private home. Their costumes are typically based on the idea of a French maid, with short, puffy skirts, frilly pinafores, stockings and hair accessories; but are generally closer in appearance to cosplay outfits rather than a genuine French maid look.
Originally designed to appeal to male clients (particularly those who love the bug-eyed young heroines that feature strongly in anime, manga and video games), Maid cafes quickly became popular with all types of clientele, including couples and women, who are happy to overlook the obvious fetish element of each café and simply enjoy being waited on by eager-to-please pretty young maids.
Maid cafes serve coffee, tea and light meals at regular prices and are a big hit with tourists as well as locals. While the café fare is much like the food you would find in an ordinary café, Maid cafes also have a special menu where you can order meals that feature a special ‘personalised’ touch, such as an omelet with the maid’s writing or a picture drawn on it in tomato sauce.
While you can ask to take photographs of your experience, photographing the maids is generally not allowed and your request may not be understood without first pointing to your camera. English is not widely spoken at Maid cafes so it will definitely be helpful if you learn a few Japanese phrases before visiting – especially if you want to be clear about what food you’ve ordered!
Most Maid cafes can be found in the Akihabara (Electric Town) area of Tokyo.