Saturday, November 5, 2011

Den-den Town/Maid Cafe!

Our group at the maid cafe 'ai-ai'
My friend Lia(the middle maid in the picture) and I are doing a project on the culture of Akihabara and Den-Den town. Sooooo we decided the best way to research would be to actually experience it. FIELD TRIP ADVENTURE TIME!!! Akihabara is in Tokyo, which is pretty flippin far away and expensive, so we opted for Den-den town, or Nipponbashi, in Osaka.
Ok so here's a briefing on the subject: Akihabara is the birthplace of otaku culture. In other words, crazed fans of anime and idols flock here, as well as technologically-obsessed people in search of electronic parts. Maid cafes are also popular; usually frequented by older men, here you pay for a meal or a drink and are served and entertained by cutesy young girls dressed up in maid costumes. Nipponbashi, colloquially known as Den-Den town(or electronic town) is basically the Akihabara of Osaka. Here you will find cheap electronics, retro video-games, anime, manga, porn, idol memorabilia, and (of course!) maid cafes.
Today we explored Den-Den town and came to the conclusion that: 1. maid cafes are pretty awesome, 2. it's a cool district, but after a while you end up looking at the same stuff for hours and hours, and 3. you can find USB flash-drive phone-charms which can store 2GB for 100 yen each(roughly $1.30).
I think we all agreed that the maid cafe was by far the best experience of the whole trip. At the place we picked, 'ai-ai', the staff consisted of several young girls and 1 male all dressed as maids. The walls are plastered with 'moe' anime posters which they encourage you to look at. While you wait for your food(which is pretty delicious--fried rice, spaghetti, ice cream sundaes, heart-shaped waffles, and tapioca milk tea all grace the menu), the maids engage you in conversation, teach you how to make balloon animals, and even let you choose which anime to play. And once your food finally arrives, they ask you what you would like them to draw on it(in ketchup for savory dishes or chocolate for sweets). I asked for '愛', or 'love'. After we ate, they asked if we would like to dress up as a maid for 500 yen, which  I felt was too expensive, although my friend Lia really wanted to do it. We then took a picture with a few of the maids with Lia dressed as one. Then they brought out a 'balance-testing' skateboard with a ball underneath. The idea is to center the ball from one side to the middle whilst standing on the skateboard. Everyone tried and did pretty well. And then my turn came. This is when things got pretty funny. I stepped on the skateboard, and literally 2 seconds later I fell on the floor. The male maid who was standing behind me attempted to catch me, but ended up falling on top of me instead. It was pretty epic. And pretty fail. But we laughed it off, and now everyone knows exactly how clumsy I am >__> My friend video-taped the disaster, so there's probably some embarrassing video floating around facebook or youtube by now...
Unfortunately, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the maids(aside from our group picture, which doesn't make much sense at all), so I have no photographic evidence of this amazing cross-dresser.
My initial impression was that maid cafes are basically a place for old perverted men to fawn over girls who are way to young for them. Perhaps this is mostly true. Indeed, even the bathroom(there was only one) had several 'moe' posters, some of them borderline hentai(perverted).  Besides us, most of the clients were men, but the ages ranged from college-aged to middle-aged. This surprised me, but it was refreshing to see younger people going there to hang out in a group. 
In short, I now feel that as long as you're not a lonely old man looking to fantasize over barely legal(if even) girls, the maid cafe culture is not a bad thing. The environment is fun and relaxed! I would highly recommend visiting one, especially if you're here in Japan =). 

Side note*** Sorry if I throw in random Japanese words often without translating them properly. Some things are used so commonly here that I can't really think of how to define them exactly in English. Such is true for 'moe'. Honestly, it's hard to explain, so if you're interested, I'd suggest wikipedia-ing it, as I'm not sure if I'm allowed to post links like that here. ^^

1 comment:

  1. Oh wow, I'm actually studying in Osaka too, and have wanted to check one out. Ai-Ai sounds pretty cool. I don't know if it would be considered odd for a girl to go to one on her own, and heard it may but I'm not really sure. I'm a nerd though so I guess I'm used to doing things that may be a bit odd. I really do want to try one some time while here.