Welcome back Mistress/Master! Today I am serving you Part 2: My first Maid Café experience! I have wanted to visit a Maid Café for quite some time now but ofc they are only easily accessible in Japan T_T, so sad! Thankfully we have many Japan/Otaku-enthusiasts here in the UK, so many of these people have joined together to create their very own Maid Cafés for people like you and me to visit and experience what it might be like if we were to one day visit a real one in Japan!
I have already briefly described my first Maid Café experience in my most recent Hyper Japan post here but today I’ll be talking about my experience and thoughts on the whole thing in more detail! I briefly mentioned the Maid Café in that post but let’s give them a proper introduction:
AI MY MAID
So the name of this Maid Café is ‘Ai My Maid’ and they describe themselves on their Facebook page as a ‘traditional Japanese themed pop-up Maid Café’:
“Welcome to Ai My Maid, where you can experience a more traditional take on the Japanese concept of a Maid Café. Our Maids and Butlers are dedicated to serving you delicious food and drink while making sure you have as much fun as possible during your stay.”
Thanks to ‘Extraordinary League of Cosplayers’ interview with Ai My Maid, we learn that they formed in 2013 through friends who had previously worked together at another Maid Café. Their theme is more traditional Japanese and Miko-inspired which is a less common theme to find in a Maid Café as from what I have seen, it is usually your traditional ‘home French maid/servant’ style. ‘Miko’ translates as ‘Shrine Maiden’ or ‘Supplementary Priestess’ in English and their traditional clothing consists of red hakama (long trousers) or a long, red, slightly pleated skirt tied with a bow, and a white haori (kimono jacket); they often accessorise their hair with red or white ribbons. Ai My Maid’s custom-designed maid uniform clearly represents this inspiration with the added pop of pastel pink and large hair bows for that kawaii flair.
They claim to hire people who already have great personalities and skills so that they don’t appear to be fake and risk confusing the customers; they believe it is important to allow people to be themselves which will therefore make them more comfortable, as well as making the customers and other staff members more comfortable. They believe that having a slightly over-exaggerated version of their own personality is more approachable than acting out a character or persona.
They claim to take all of the best aspects of Japanese Maid Cafés and add their own twist, and that the atmosphere stays true to the idea of ‘moe’ but in a more natural way so that it doesn’t seem OTT and unrealistic. The popular aspects of a Japanese Maid Café would be:
- Welcoming the ‘Master’ or ‘Mistress’ home
- Having a café atmosphere and venue
- Providing kawaii themed food and drink (often with syrup/sauce art)
- Always being available for service
- Options to play games with the maids
- To request performances or talents from the maids
- To dress up/cosplay with provided items of clothing
- To have a cheki photo with a maid of your choice
If you want to know more in detail about Maid Cafés, then please check out Part 1: Maid Cafés in Japan which takes a look at Japanese Maid Cafés in general!
So starting with the first point, I hear it is common for maids to ‘welcome’ home their ‘Masters’ and ‘Mistresses’, Ai My Maid use the correct Japanese terms, despite not being Japanese, which is ‘goshujin-sama’ and ‘ojou-sama’ but I never once heard these terms being used when I was at their event, nor did I hear them welcome anyone however if they did then I might not have heard it because the venue wasn’t suitable for the pop-up café since it was so loud and overcrowded!
This takes me onto the next point of the atmosphere and venue; this wasn’t possible as the location was within a small concert hall on the second floor. It was a rather dark place with a scruffy nightclub feel and a bar, and any café atmosphere was completely ruined by the live show going on down below, and as we all know and wish, a café’s atmosphere should be calm, quiet and relaxing. We had to share a seating area with at least 3 other parties because the booths, for a better description, were rather large and in order to keep customers happy and the queue moving, strangers had to sit together. Again this dampened the café atmosphere because it felt rather impersonal being sat next to strangers when you were already unable to properly converse with the people you had arrived with; this however was not their fault but the fault of the venue they were placed in.
When we had been seated a maid arrived with the menu and explained that we were to order food and drink from different sides of the bar; she explained that we could ask for performances, talents and game-play from the maids but that singing would not be possible due to the ongoing live performance downstairs. I have read other blog posts with regards to this Maid Café’s system and so far it has been the same, that you order at the desk of whatever venue they are hosting their pop-up Maid Café at and then they bring it to you rather than they take your personal order.
With regards to the food, they only had food options of Dorayaki (Japanese pancake with filling) and ice cream; there were drinks available from the bar but I’m guessing these weren’t purchased from the Maid Café set-up since they weren’t on the menu. I won’t lie that I was seriously hoping that the pop-up would be more…like an actual café; I at least hoped we would be able to buy sandwiches, perhaps at the very most some Omurice (popular dish available at Maid Cafés – fried ketchup rice folded in an omelette and decorated with ketchup sauce art). I had high hopes and I know that is asking a lot from a little Maid Café, especially a pop-up at a convention, but I honestly thought Hyper Japan would be more considerate of their service and that they would be near the food court with their own dining section and at least selling more than just pre-packet pancakes and ice-cream, so I was pretty disappointed with regards to that.
Having never experienced a Maid Café I didn’t know what to expect, and I have since found out that they have used the venue and menu of other places (Boba Jam and Tutti Fruitti are an example of their previous venues), I wondered afterwards why HJ didn’t get them to do that instead considering they had a food court. I did check out some of their photos on their Facebook page and saw that they did do sauce art with chocolate sauce on the pancakes, so I guess I can’t fault them for not doing sauce art just because they were so popular that their pancakes ran out! Since we didn’t buy food, I don’t know whether they put any ‘magic spells’ on your food like Japanese Maid Cafés do.
With regards to their service, the trainee maid was on her own to begin with whilst the café was closed but once re-opened, I believe I saw about 4-5 maids running about (looking at one of their HJ photos there was 8 excluding the trainee maid). They were all very attentive, running about back and forth and flapping (bless them, me and J couldn’t help but laugh); but they all asked us at least 4 times during our stay if there was anything we needed, even when we were already chatting to a maid, so they were very keen on ensuring that everyone was happy!
Since we didn’t buy any food from them, we decided to pay for games instead; we played ‘Hungry Hippos’ (it was more like Hungry Farm Animals lol) with Maid Hasagi for 50p which J won and I lost terribly with nothing. She was a little shy at first but quite competitive once she got going! I think she was cheating because my horse was stiff…haha. The trainee maid, who I discovered is called Maid Eriko, asked if anyone wanted to play Jenga with her; I paid 50p for me and a girl from the other party on our table to play but lost (in my defence I was the third go each time so it was particularly hard for me)!!
Maid Eriko hadn’t even cleared our previous game away when another maid came along and energetically asked if anyone wanted to play a game with her, they were very enthusiastic about interacting with their customers! This is probably a good way for them to build confidence with people and break the ice, and there were other games such as quizzes and Connect 4 that you could play with too. Looking at other blog posts regarding their past events, they would also have game consoles that you could challenge them on; the idea was that if you beat a maid you get a stamp, if you beat them so many times (I think in this case it was 6 because of the lack of challenges/games but at bigger events I have read that you have to beat them 10 times) then you get a free cheki photo with a maid of your choice as a prize. Again, reading from other blog posts I have read that they also do lucky dips and raffles for you to win prizes!
As well as playing games with the maids, you could also request that they perform or entertain you with one of their talents; as listed on the menu, some of these include card readings, palm reading, singing, dancing, drawing and origami. One of the girls who was with us decided to get her cards read by Maid Mei (the very noticeable kitsune maid with white hair) whilst the other got her palm read. We joked a lot beforehand about how we wanted to make them dance for us or put them on the spot by quizzing them really hard questions, but we decided not to be cruel and asked one of the maids what the other maids’ talents were and she kindly told us. I was particularly surprised that the talents available included tarot cards and palm reading but considering Miko are rather spiritual, it’s not surprising that Ai My Maid offer traditional Miko-inspired games and talents to your experience with them.
With regards to dress-up, I have seen photos and videos from those who have visited real Japanese Maid Cafés and quite often have seen them sporting a pair of cute animal ears or some sort of accessory provided to them, I have even seen that people are able to pay extra in order to wear provided cosplay outfits or the Maid Café’s signature maid uniform! Unfortunately this Maid Café had nothing of the sort T_T but it isn’t really a necessary contribution to the Maid Café experience (except maybe the chance to wear their uniform).
Last but not least is the chance to have a cheki photo taken with a maid(s) of your choice; you could pay £2.00 for a standard Polaroid photo or £3.00 for a wide Polaroid photo, and it would cost an extra 50p per additional person besides you and your choice maid. I didn’t mind paying £2.00 to have a photo with a maid as I consider this an essential part of the Maid Café experience since the majority of Japanese Maid Cafés don’t allow you to film or take photos in their café except of your food. I asked Maid Eriko to have a photo with me and after a bit of fuss to get to the backdrop of the photo with decent lighting, we did a heart pose which was cute but unfortunately she doesn’t look that happy in my photo :(; she then took it away to draw on it and add stickers before giving it back to me to take home.
So overall my first Maid Café experience was alright. I got to do 2 out of 3 things that you are expected to do when visiting one of these places, except eat haha. I would very much like to visit a real Maid Café in a proper café, with proper food and proper performances, but Ai My Maid did very well with what they were made to work with considering their venue was pretty crap. I hope you enjoyed hearing about my first Maid Café experience! I wasn’t disappointed overall and was really happy to have had the chance to experience it, I think Ai My Maid did very well and all their staff are so sweet and kind! The photos belong to either myself, their Facebook page, MCMBuzz or Extraordinary League of Cosplayers – I hope they don’t mind me using them, it was very difficult to find photos of the maids in action!
I think I am going to make a post with my inspirations for a Maid Café; say, if I won the lottery and I wanted to make a proper permanent Maid Café in London, what would it be like? Sounds like fun! What kind of Maid Café would you have?~♥