A Truly Japanese Experience
Maid cafes are one of Japan’s well-known attractions amongst many foreigners, and indeed offer a fun and cute atmosphere for everyone. While the idea of a maid cafe is widely known throughout the world as one of those “Japanese things you have to experience while you’re there”, butler cafes are a lot less commonly known. This article will help those who are interested in fully enjoying their time in Japan through fun experiences at different kinds of cafes, and will help you find the best solution to suit your interests.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Maid Cafes and are interested in experiencing what I would call a “Japanese experience”, I highly recommend going to one. Maid Cafes are exactly what they sound like – girls dress up in maid costumes and serve food and drinks to the customers while putting on a cute act for customers to enjoy. Even as someone who speaks the language, their cute language is a bit difficult to understand, but it is all part of the fun. Their interactions with the customers are friendly and cute, and they get the customers involved in their act as well, asking them to say cute phrases with them in order to “make the food more delicious”. At least once during your stay there they even put on a little show, whether it’s singing or dancing. One of the downsides to maid cafés are their prices. Most maid cafes have an entry fee (the one I went to was 500 yen) and a minimum of one item you must order on top of that.
Akihabara’s Well Known Maid Cafe
A parfait, which I believe is one of the cheapest items on the menu from my recollection, is around 1000 yen. Food sets are even more expensive than that, but you are only required to buy at least one item, no matter the cost. They also offer special commemorative items, such as a photo with the maid who was serving you, which tends to up the price of your meal if you want it. One of the most well-known maid cafe is called Maidreamin, which has multiple branches throughout Tokyo and a few in other select cities. Of course, there are different types of maid cafes, especially in Akihabara, so if this one does not suit your taste there are many other options.
Looking for a Maid Cafe for Ladies? Try the Butler Cafe
While maid cafes are still fun for girls, if you are looking for something a little more up your ally, butler cafes might be the place for you. While I was waiting for the Pokémon restaurant (which is covered later in this article), me and my friend stumbled upon a nice English-styled butler cafe in Shibuya. The atmosphere and set up really makes you feel like you are no longer in Tokyo, and the service is true to its name. From the moment you step into the door, you are pampered and waited on by foreign “butlers” from all over the world. Once again, the food is a bit pricey, but they offer a lot of delicious meals that are a little more on the fancy side. When comparing this cafe to the maid café, I would say the maid cafe is definitely more of a fun, cute atmosphere whereas this butler cafe was posh, foreign and elegant. They also offer different services to commemorate your stay, whether it be a specially made drink from your butler based on a few questions, or a picture with them (either side-by-side or bridal style). After living in Japan for 6 months, I must say it was a nice break from the Japanese environment, and who doesn’t like being treated like a princess?
For those who are staying in Japan for only a short period of time, perhaps this style is not what you are particularly interested in. Luckily, there are other butler cafes in Tokyo, one of them being in Ikebukuro, called Swallowtail. I personally have not had the chance to go there (yet), but it has an all Japanese staff rather than the Western staff of the Butler Cafe in Shibuya. It is also a rather busy café, and tends to require a reservation well in advanced, so keep that in mind. If you speak little to no Japanese, it may however be a bit harder to enjoy the experience.
Don’t be Confused: The Difference Between Host Clubs and Maid Cafes
One thing to note on these kinds of cafes, is not to confuse them with Host Clubs, which are more geared towards adults who are looking for paid companionship from good looking men who serve them food and alcoholic drinks for the evening. Similar, but very different.
Themed Cafes in Japan
When you are in Japan for a longer period of time, you have a better chance of being able to experience one of the other great services Japan has to offer: limited time cafes/restaurants. These are themed cafes, usually based on anime or specific Japanese characters, that are only offered for, as the name implies, a limited amount of time. During my year in Japan, I was fortunate enough to be in Tokyo when the Pokémon cafe opened for a month or two, and although the queue was ridiculously long it was well worth it. What is a Pokémon cafe you ask? Well, everything (including the food) in the store was related to Pokémon as the entire restaurant is set-up with Pokémon paraphernalia with the walls decorated to make you feel like you are in the Pokémon world and even the staff are dressed for the part. It was a really fun experience, and well worth the ridiculous line, which tends to be the one drawback to limited time cafés.
If you speak little to no Japanese, making a reservation might be a bit of a challenge but the staff are usually very nice and understanding and will help you in any way they can. I usually heard of limited time cafés through friends. My option might be to ask the staff at the hotel or hostel you are staying at to see if they have heard of any limited time cafes in the area.
Japan offers many options, for all kinds of people and all interests. That is one of the great things I love about Japan. No matter your taste, you can find something that satisfies your dreams. Hopefully this guide will help you find a café that suits your interests, and that you can enjoy all that Japan has to offer. These cafés are only a small taste of what Japan has to offer, but they are definitely worth it.