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In the anime world maid cafes have been featured in numerous series including Haruhi Suzimiya and Lucky Star, just to name a couple.  But are these just created from the manga-kas imagination or do they really exist?  On my journey to Tokyo in December 2007, I was about to find out!

On the 31st December 2007 I took my first steps into Tokyo's anime mecca Akiharbara.  One of the first sights to be seen outside the train station is the girls dressed in their maid costumes holding up boards or giving out flyers to advertise their local maid / cosplay cafe.  From there the choice is yours as there are so many different types of maid cafes you can go to.  Below is a list of Maid Cafes I went to and my own personal recommendations.
 

The Cafe With Cat maid outfits, purrrfect!

  1. Cafe with Cat

This is pretty much like any normal restaurant with the only difference being that the girls are dressed in a cat maid outfit (see picture, left).  It is not over the top cuteness and you wont be able to play any maid games with them either.  There is though a really nice selection of food such as curries (with the rice moulded into a heart shape), snacks and desserts.

2. Maiko Cafe.

Yes this is a cafe where all the girls dress up in traditional maiko uniforms.  The settings in which you sit and eat are also very traditional in feel, so much so that you are expected to take off your shoes at the door.  Here the cuteness factor has gone up another level...as the maids will present you with all the food and drink that you have eaten.  An example of this

is when I ordered a coffee I was expected to say "ichi mo, ni mo" to describe how many sugars I wished to have, and when I wanted no more sugar I had to reply with "Nyan Nyan" (sound of a cat).

As part of the service you can also pay extra to play a game with a maid.  This is something I was quite happy to do.  While I was there I was offered to play one of three games.  The first was Mahjong, which I had no clue how to play, the second was a game of picking up beans and placing them in another bowl in three minutes, and lets face it I wasn't going to win that.  The final game was a game of Connect Four which was the choice that I made.  I somehow won the game (I'm not sure if she let me) and I was able to claim a prize out of the gashapon machine which was a cute mobile phone charm in which the lovely maid signed.

Before we left we asked for our photos to be taken with a maid.  It is standard etiquette for you not to be allowed to take photos of the maids at work, however, if you pay extra (only 2.50) you will be allowed to have a photo with them.  In this particular maid cafe you were allowed to choose traditional items in which to use within the photo.  We choose a samurai sword and a giant fan.
 

3. Traditional Maid Cafe

This was in fact the first cafe we visited in Tokyo and its cute factor was simply off the scale.  The girls were all dressed up in pretty, frilly pink and brown maid outfits.  As you walked in you are welcomed in chorus by all the maids in the cafe, you are then showed your seat and shown the menus of the all the extremely cute food that you can buy.  You may ask how can food be cute?  But if you saw my Usagi (rabbit) cheesecake with chocolate eyes, cream ears and strawberry coulee mouth you would know what I mean.  It was almost sad to eat and ruin the lovely artwork that had been created on my plate!  I washed this down with some lovely melon soda (why isn't this available in the UK?).  Of course during this time we were looked after by our maid who ensured that we were happy with our food and give thanks for it.  This involved making a love heart shape with our hand and saying really loudly "Mo Mo Kyu!!!!".  You were also entertained by the light and fluffy J-pop being played in the room.

 


Overall, maid cafes can be great fun and I would recommend to people to try it at least once to experience it.  I have put these descriptions, so that anyone going to Japan have an idea of what to expect and also what would best suit them if they decide to visit one.  These are the tips I would give if your considering to go to one:

1.  Akiharbara is a massive area of Tokyo which has many maid cafes, some of these are down isolated alleys.  Try and avoid these, all of the ones mention above were pretty much on the main street where most of the anime shops are located.

2.  Don't worry if you do not know any Japanese.  They often accommodate for this with English menus and instructions on how the maid cafe works.  Furthermore, one of the girls tends to know a little bit of English to help you along.  However, if you know Japanese it can be quite fun as they will often try to have mini conversations with you!

3.  Do NOT take pictures of the girls.  This is against most maid cafes' rules.  If you do you will most likely be asked to leave.

And finally, here are some pictures of maids around Akihabara train station!

       
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