For some reason, my host mom got it into her head that I had my heart set on going to a maid café, though why I don’t have a clue, and she was determined that the three of us to go. When we got off at Ueno, my luck struck again and we were just in time for the last song in a special performance of those Urhu instruments (is that what they’re called? Those things like sitars/guitars with 3 strings). A teacher and his teenage students, all decked out in their old-timey outfits, played a quite long song, which was nice, and then we set out again. I found out that the Ueno station is monstrously large, quite intimidating, and that at the Akihabara station, it’s almost impossible to find your way out. It also became readily apparent that my host mom has never been to Akihabara, as she got us lost three times just in the station. Luckily for us, there were maid waiting on the street when we got outside (in the drizzly weather), handing out flyers for their various cafes (Japan lives on their flyers). We took the first one handed to us and tried to figure out directions from the tiny map on the back of the flyer, but failing that, we walked another block and found a different maid from a different store handing out flyers for her shop. Tired of walking around aimlessly, my host mom asked if it was okay for women to go into a maid café (they are typically for otaku [gaming and anime nerds, guys], but she assured us in her cutesy voice that women also go and that we will become princesses when we walk inside. So, with that reassurance and feeling a little silly, we asked her to lead the way, following behind her cat ears and the little costume cat tail that wagged behind her from underneath her maid skirt. Along the way we saw almost nothing but pachinko parlors and electronics stores. I counted more than one shop that exclusively sold cables/wires, with spools of them hanging from the ceiling. I suppose you could find anything you needed there, if you knew what you were looking for. Surprisingly, we saw few anime stores, though I’m sure that’s simply because we either weren’t looking, or weren’t in the right area of Akihabara. And, much to my surprise, the shoppers we passed weren’t as nerdy, ‘live-in-my-parents’-basement’ as I thought they would be.
Our maid took us up a few flights of stairs (every floor of that building had a different maid café in it), and while the shop itself wasn’t quite what I’d expected (having seen Akihabara@deep), it was still cutesy and seemed to fit. It was quite small really, the size of our kitchen perhaps. In the middle was a bar shaped like a thin U, with open space in the middle for the waitresses to move in and out to the kitchen, and around the U were red, sparkly stools; hanging above were pink, frilly curtains. Toward the window was a mock stage and a few raised, small tables, which is where we sat, with adds plastered on the walls and windows listing off the maids working their with their names and pictures (which you could buy for $3.00). Also hanging were ads for their various services and events (you can pay $5 to have them play a card game with you), and an ad for their CD (oh yes, everyone here has a CD). Unfortunately, you aren’t allowed to take pictures in the shop of anything except your food, but I suppose they don’t want a lot of creepos taking their pictures, and I can respect that. When we were seated, they set a time ($6 for 1 hr.), and our maid took us to our table and blew magic into the clear candleholder she was holding, and the candle instantly came alight, whereafter she assured us that we had just become princesses and that we no longer had to worry about the troubles of the outside world. We promptly ordered our drinks (I got a cutesy parfait while my host mom and her friend got iced coffee), and looked around at the few tenants within. There was a fairly otaku looking fellow in one corner, a very young, sleek businessman minding his own business and reading something on his cell phone at the bar, and then beside us, a group of four teenage boys. When the drinks came, we all had to sing a song with our maid, making a heart shape with our hands, chanting ‘moe’ (means cute/sexy/cool in nerd-speak), then shooting off an imaginary gun and blowing on the imaginary smoking barrel. Of course, this was all done amid laughter. The maid were very nice and quite inquisitive about me, asking questions and chatting in their cutest baby-voice. When asked why the menu was in ‘riimin’ instead of ‘yen’ for the currency, it was explained to stand for dreamin, as the shop was called MaiDreamin’. That also, gave us a good laugh. When we were done with our drinks (mine looked better than it tasted), my host mom encouraged me to foot over another $5 to take a photo with a maid and after getting a promise that we would all do it together, I agreed. As I mentioned, on the wall is a chart of all the maids with their pictures (two dressed as Ikemen boys [Takarazuka strikes again!]), and you can choose which you want to take a picture with. Not being a guy, I couldn’t care less which girl it was, and so when our maid/waitress asked who I wanted (she wasn’t quite so pretty as the other two), she was both surprised and elated when I designated her. We all got together in a group on the stage while the girl dressed as a young man got the camera ready, and we were told to pose making kitty paws and instead of saying cheese, to say ‘nya nya’ which is ‘meow meow’ in Japanese. More laughter ensued while she took the Polaroid and drew cutesy stuff around the edges and the four boys beside us got up, adorned Pooh hats and bunny ears and took a picture with their maid as well. After we got our photo, we felt it was time to leave, and so our maid took up the candle, told us that it was now time to leave our safe haven and go back out into the real world, and then magically blew the candle out. As we left the bubblegum pink room, we passed a guy going in who was dressed like a wannabe Yakuza, with a long leather jacket and hair done up like a guy from Grease. The maid didn’t bat an eyelash as she ushered him warmly inside. The impression I took away from the maid café was more or less of it being a cheaper, more innocent version of a hostess club. Here's the link for the one we went to: http://maidreamin.com/