Cure Maid: The Japanese Maid Cafe that Started it All
Posted by Elizabeth Alton on Thursday, September 20th, 2012
In order to understand the phenomenon of the Japanese maid cafe, you need to know a little terminology first. Here’s your very condensed lesson in relevant Japanese slang. Otaku is a Japanese word for which the best equivalent in English is“nerd.” But there’s a little more nuance to it. Whereas in the US nerds tend to be associated with science geeks or role playing games, otaku is used to describe fans obsessed with anime, the closely related manga comic books and cartoons, and anime-style video games. The other relevant term is moe. Although this word is constantly evolving, it means the obsession with or love of fictional anime characters and their features.
To review your super short course in Japanese slang in the context of maid cafes, if you’re an otaku with a bad case of maid moe, you’ll likely be found patronizing one of Japan’s many maid cafes. Why? Because you’ll be pampered and served dinner by staff dressed in anime style maid costumes, of course. You might even get to play cards or a video game with one of them if you’re really lucky (and willing to pay extra.)
The trend is highly popular throughout Japan, and the theme has developed into its own brand of high end experiential dining. There are more than 200 maid cafes in Japan, with dozens in Tokyo’s Akihabara district, a neighborhood that caters to all things electronic, anime and otaku. Maid cafes offer a unique twist that allow restaurants to stand out with a theme that complements the electronic focus of the area’s commerce and culture.
The very first one to pop up was the Cure Maid Cafe back in 2001. It’s a bit more formal than most, with its maids dressed in elegant Victorian-era maid costumes rather than the usual frilly French approach. Unlike most establishments where the maids engage visitors with playful banter and perhaps even a card or board game, the maids at Cure Maid maintain a mostly silent and distant relationship with their patrons. Also unlike most other maid cafes, you can take photos of your food as long as you ask permission first and allow the photo to be checked afterwards. The cafes charge extra for photos with the staff.
While at first glance maid cafes can seem a little strange, the role they play in Japanese pop culture is real. Fans of anime from around the world go out of their way to visit maid cafes, especially Cure Maid. The food isn’t the focus so much as the experience of interacting with characters brought to life in a setting that celebrates a love of all things gaming. If you’re looking to visit a maid cafe, Cure offers a classy atmosphere and better than average menu.
Image sources: akibamaid.net, ascii.jp, statewideguide.com, tokyoezine.com