Hey An Update! Shots From Tokyo Including…The Maid Cafe
August 21, 2010
Thus begins the series of entries where I catch up on what I’ve been doing for the past month. First stop…Tokyo.
Spending four days in Tokyo didn’t lead to any shocking new realizations about the sprawling metropolis as much as buffing up the views I already had. Tokyo, like New York City, seems so massive and crowded that it’s like an entirely different planet altogether. As many friends living out here in the country say, Tokyo isn’t really Japan…it’s on its own trip. That’s both a negative (way too many people, people thinking the ONLY place to see in Japan is Tokyo which couldn’t be more wrong) and a positive (a lot to do, very different than anywhere else in the country).
One benefit is being able to jump from district to district within the city and feel like you’ve ended up in a new town altogether. Case in point – Akihabara. Whereas Shibuya caters to the hip young things and Shinjuku offers nighttime thrills, Akihabara stands as Tokyo’s proud nerd center. The streets might as well be lined with manga, seeing as the buildings housing video game stores and other traditionally “geeky” hobbies already had more than enough anime characters painted on the side. After exiting the train station, we were greeted by a large gathering of people watching a nerdy spectacle. Various maids from the area’s numerous “maid cafes” gathered for some sort of competition/ritual that involved throwing water on the ground while chanting something. A rash of otakus armed with cameras stood in front of them, snapping photos of them. Some Imperial Stormtroopers also must have gotten lost, as they were just hanging out.
The allure of the maid cafe was one of the main reasons we zig-zagged on the Tokyo subway system to Akihabara. A maid cafe is, simply summed up, an establishment where you pay to be waited on by a “maid,” often dressed as a stereotypical French variety. Some places introduce themes…we saw a “Gundam Cafe” which raised many questions and I know one place in Tokyo is zombie themed – but the majority of Akihabara’s offerings stick to the traditional template. We found a two-story joint that looked as good as any. Up the elevator we went.
The doors slid open and there they were…maids. Most wearing the garb you’d expect, some clad in yukatas. We were led to a table against the wall and seated, punctuated by the word “master.” Despite the phrasing, the maid cafe didn’t seem nearly as creepy as I’d anticipated. I’d be willing to bet my salary more sexually depraved types exist in the places foreigners rarely end up, as we were certainly in a tourist maid cafe. They even had foreigner girls working as maids, speaking in English or Portuguese or whatever language was called for. For $15 we could have had an “anime voice acting session” and come out with a DVD gift. We opted instead to order the overpriced food, wherein one maid created this design on Eri’s meal:
After the maid let us in some incantation that “makes the food taste better” and involved saying the word “moe” twice and then screeching “CUEEEE,” we ate. Then we paid and bolted out. Though the maid cafe wasn’t nearly as creepy as I expected, it still managed to creep me out in ways I’m not sure of. It’s a strange experience I’d urge everyone to do once in there lives. We got out of Akihabara.
The rest of Tokyo wouldn’t be nearly as interesting to write about…just read the Lonely Planet…so I’ll post some pictures. We did meet one of Japan’s greatest heroes, though.
We also went to Yokohama. It’s the New Jersey to Tokyo’s New York. Take with that what you will. It did have a very nice Chinatown.
More to come….