Matt invited me to meet them in Akihabara (秋葉原), which is the discount electronics district, and also centre of sleaze in Tokyo, with a wide variety of dodgy anime and manga-related shops and things in that vein.
We met outside the station and wandered around looking for a suitable place. I didn't really know how to feel about going to a maid cafe. The basic premise is that you pay a set amount per hour to go in (Y500 in our case), and then pay for food and drinks on top of that. But the different thing is that they are brought to you by cute Japanese girls dressed in maid outfits. It sounds very sleazy, particularly from a Western point of view, so I really wasn't sure what to expect, but it's quite a Japanese experience so I wanted to give it a go with an open mind.
We passed lots of maids on the street who were giving out flyers for their respective cafes, but all of us were too embarrassed to actually go up and take one!
But we actually came across one that James went to last time he visited Tokyo on our wanderings, so we went into that one. James said it wasn't at all sleazy, so we trusted his judgement. We were met by a maid at the door, who spoke in an unnaturally high voice as she guided us to our table. I was relieved to see that it wasn't all desperate old men, but there were some couples, and even a married couple with a child there!
It was all super-cute, with plastic furniture and fake Western things dotted around the pink and yellow room. There were about six maids working there, and they all used the same high, cute voices. We took our seats and looked over the menu. They gave us an English menu, which had the most hilarious bad English translations I've ever seen. I wish I'd written some of them down!
A maid came up to us and knelt down by the table, bringing out a "magic lamp", which was a plastic candle in a plastic holder. She showed it to each of us, proclaiming "it's a magic lamp!", before blowing on it, making it light up. We all clapped, and she looked very happy.
We ordered some food and drinks, and then just watched the general life in a maid cafe. It was very amusing when a salaryman ordered a cocktail, and the maid took him up to a mini-stage they had in the corner and called for everyone's attention while she sang and shook the cocktail shaker. No room for embarrassment here!
I wish I could have taken photos inside, but unfortunately they're banned in all maid cafes. I can understand the reasoning behind that.
Our food came, and we went through a very interesting ritual, guided by our maid, to make the food more delicious. It involved making a heart shape with our hands and then chanting something like "Motto oishiku naru! Moe, moe, kyuu!" as we pointed with our "hearts" to the food in front of us. Once we'd done it, the girl clapped and called "Hai! Oishiku natta!" (Yay! It's delicious now!) We obviously did a very good job.
Our hour was quickly up, but we asked if we could have a photo taken with one the maids (the only way you can have a photo). It cost Y500 per print, so we just took the one. Here's the result -
Our maid was definitely the most attractive one in the cafe.
After leaving the cafe, we went to meet some other friends from Kobe who were in Tokyo in Odaiba, which was also a lot of fun.
So now I can say that I have experienced a real Japanese maid cafe! And it definitely wasn't as sleazy as I thought it might be. The emphasis was clearly placed on cuteness, rather than sexiness. It also helps to keep an open mind with these types of things!