~~~ *** Welcome to the sparkly sparkly pink bubble world of the Exalted Salvation Maid Cafe! We’re so overjoyed that you’ve decided to return home! *** ~~~
If you take a seat, you’ll quickly have a waitress dressed in a French maid costume serving you with a menu, asking you politely what you want to eat. Within the menu are sweet desserts and drinks, with some typical Western main courses like spaghetti bolognese. The food will be ready in about ten minutes (because most of them are readymades and just involve putting into the oven or taking out from the refrigerator anyway). If you look rich or are a solitary guy, a maid may sit down and talk to you about your interests, feigning interest and knowledge. In the end you won’t be able to resist taking a photograph with one or a group of maids, costing you another $5 aside from the already overpriced food. But the service is indeed one of a kind and definitely worth the payment!
Unless, of course, you’re outside Japan. I was supposed to go to a maid cafe yesterday but didn’t, and I really didn’t hold high expectations of the ladies’ appearance anyway. Somehow non-Japanese maids simply don’t capture the maid effect that we want. I’ve been to a maid cafe in Anime Fest Asia and I really didn’t want to go there again. Some of the girls obviously did not even know Japanese and their voices and gestures weren’t cute enough. One must act the part.
Is it something about the Japanese and their ability to act much better than Singaporeans? It’s true that the Japanese cute culture is very defined and developed, and they appreciate cuteness in everything, not just in girls. Figurines are especially cute over there, they’ve got the cutest little boxes to store things in. And of course not to mention that in the modern day era, 80% of pop songs sung by females have to be so high-pitched they sound like a 5-year-old sang them. So cuteness is natural to them, an innate reflex honed in girls from young.
Another reason, I think, is that the Japanese are a bit on the extremist side when it comes to passion. Cosplay only became a thing when hordes of Japanese anime fans decided to try to imagine what it was like to be an anime character, and did so well in their roles. Many Japanese TV shows I’ve seen involve people believing themselves to be some divine god and being able to kill all who stand in their path (try working that storyline into American high schools and see what people think of you). The fact that hikikomoris and otakus exist goes to show how far fantasy has penetrated the lives of Japanese society, that they can be so engrossed in their own world that they shut out the reality around them. Maid cafes are an embodiment of this fantasy, letting customers think that they’re wealthy masters with French maids dying to do their bidding.
Did that sound like it had sexual undertones to you? Japan has plenty of that too. In a country where sexual harassment and discrimination at work is still legal and common (and yet ironically Tokyo is supposed to be one of the most technologically advanced cities too), one does not regard a lady without thinking of some kind of sexual fetish. In fact, when I was holidaying in Taiwan, I heard from the tour guide that the prostitutes there hated Japanese clients the most. The Japanese made them do all manner of strange actions, but they did pay well. That must be conceded. The more innocent a lady looked, the more exploitable she was in the minds of lecherous men. And this is why maid cafes are such a hit. No matter how you think about it, the purpose of maid cafes is to proliferate the sexual superiority of males.
But I do long to visit a good proper maid cafe, or even a ninja cafe that I heard existed in Tokyo. Someday when I visit Akihabara again, I shall geek out at all the fun places.