This is an old blog post from 2009.
My friend Rob, from the way-back Anime Con days of mine, was visiting Japan for a bit. This was around the 8-year mark of my time here. He knows a few people here so I was going to meet up with Rob and his friend Colt for…lunch. Creepy Lunch.
They chose Akihabara (Akiba). I dislike the electronics district. It makes my skin crawl. My only good memory of Akiba has been sitting in the massage chairs with my former classmate and co-worker Warning-san after a long day of walking. Akiba is hyperactively geeky and creepy. All the electronics you need…got em! Latest ultra-small technology for photographing girls in on toilets…got it! UBS attachable penile-stimulating sleeve in the shape of a tentacle in order to fully experience on-line anime-porn games…probably*….but Rob and Colt had some Macross thing to go to later in the day in Akiba so Akiba it was.
Part of the treat of having visiting friends is seeing Japan through fresh eyes. You also get to go do touristy/strange stuff you’d never do alone/with other foriegners/Japanese friends…for me that meant suggesting a maid cafe…which apparently was already in the day’s plans. Colt, Rob’s friend who is studying here in Japan, already had one in mind. I’ve been to a cat cafe alone (where I played with cats, not people dressed up like cats) but I’d never go to a maid cafe by myself.
What’s a maid cafe?: The waitresses are cute young looking J-girls dressed in maid costumes (or cat maid costumes/ or olden-day maids if olden days meant mini-kimono with snap-on boys and peticoats…) there to serve you. Maid cafes are a fairly recent phenomena. They cater to the cos-play loving Akibake geek boys and men. Colt seemed like anice guy…but also a nice guy with his own maid cafe members card. I did not steal it from him and scan it for you…but I thought about it.
I took the train into Akiba but because I took a metro train instead of a JR one (subways vs JR trains is a complicated topic, trust me, they are different even though they don’t seem different and sometimes work together on certain lines) I had problems finding the exit they wanted to meet me at. I ended up texting them.
They suggested that I find the “Sega center” which implied I know where the fuck anything was in Akiba. They eventually set off to find me, which they did.
Colt is a smallish, clean-cut, Latino guy. Rob is only a smidgen taller than me. While in Japan, Rob has been questioned by undercover Japanese police who searched his bags…which apparently Colt has also endured multiple times. This is part of Japan I never get to see because no one really bothers smallish dark-haired white girls…unless >WE< go to the police,
When I met them in Akiba they both has special Macross event folders and stuff. Prior to them finding me they'd encountered an Akibake and blew his mind. The young Japanesegeek pointed at the Macross stuff and then began to bounce uncontrollably and lose words at the fact he was seeing FOREIGN geeks with MACROSS stuff who spoke some JAPANESE. It was for this reason that I felt very uncomfortable carrying any of their Macross stuff for them, I felt it would be false advertising and lead to geek heartbreak.
We got crap food and headed to the cafe. Colt said we'd be going to the "traditional" floor…and indeed there were four floors of maid cafes in the building he took us to. We'd be getting the fake-oldtimey maids instead of french maids or maids with cat ears.
In the elevator I started getting itchy.
“Maids are supposed to make things clean, so why do I feel so diiiiirty?”
We entered the maid cafe and the head maid (with orangey hair, a small tiara, a tiny kimono with 80’s peticoats under the mini-skirt, and stockings) frantically looking for the English explanation sheet even though I kept telling her a Japanese one would do.
If I speak Japanese by myself, most people will listen to me. If I speak Japanese to a store-person but am with other gaijin…sometimes gaijin shock makes them unable to hear my words.
- 700 yen sitting charge
- You can’t touch the maids.
- No photos.
- You can pay for a photo with a maid in the photo room.
It was a small cafe with many customers seated around a slightly raised tatami stage (where maids would kneel to make tea, or play games with customers. Games were mostly childish in nature including plastic “rock’em’sockem robots” and things with oversized dice) and side booths. We had a nearby booth. Games with your maid was an item on the menu, but we did not order any. Thanks guys.
The head maid brought us English and Japanese menus. We all groaned our displeasure on learning that they were out of the sweet pancakes decorated like kitty faces. Then she left and we went over out menus. A Japanese menu would have sufficed, as there were huge pictures next to everything, but we would have missed out on the one amusing English commentary for “Tsukimi Cake” :
Oh my god, there’s a moon on your cake!
Colt ordered a frothy tea (which apparently wasn’t high grade enough to get us the table-side maid tea ceremony) I ordered the Mr. Turtle cake (green tea cake with whipped creme feet and smiling head) and Rob got some ice cream and jelly thing.
When our maid came we discussed the cuteness of the food with her. Then she explained to Rob that he would have to make cat noises to indicate when she should stop pouring the sweet sauce over his desert. No cat noise, no stopping..this prompted Rob and Colt to sing a cat-noise related song from Macross at her. I then witnessed my friends and my maid geeking out together. Syrup was poured…cat noises were made. Then we had to bless the meal together by all waving our hands and saying (in Japanese) “Shiny shiny!” putting our hands in a heart shape “Heart!” and making a gesture showing that heart shape zipping away from our chests “Ziiiiing!”
If I were an anime character those gestures would have either transformed me into my spirit animal, ripped my clothing off to expose my fighting bikini, or engaged my battle armor..possibly all three.
- As it was, it just made me feel unclean.
Mr. Turtle was tasty.
We did seem to be a source of positive amusement to our maid, but we didn’t tax her too much. Most people go there for maid flirtation. I saw solo men sighing and saying things like “Sister, I am so tired” to be verbally fluffed up about how hard they must work and such… but that just made us feel off. I didn’t want to flirt with a maid…although I did long to snap off one one the snap-on bows they wore but I figured that broke the “no touching” rule.
Sometime in all of this a man a black suit with tails (men’s wear, not animal wear) and white gloves walked in. It was a polyester suit, the shirt was slightly untucked, and he looked a bit disheveled and cheap all around….not unlike our maids with the snap-on obi bows.
“Shit, they’ve got a magician” I said, thinking that because he was in that costume he was part of a maid-show. I briefly explained to Rob and Colt that I have an “irrational” dislike of magicians. I say “irrational” because I am sure some of you like, are married to, or are magicians…but I am sorry….I feel about them the way some of you feel about clowns.
He sat down at one of the stage/seat counters. I had to swivel around in my seat to get a good look at him.
“He’s not a magician! He’s got a music case. He’s a muuuuuuuuusician, not a maaaagician” Rob and Colt informed me.
I wasn’t having any of it. Real musicians dress better for good gigs or dress down more for street busking…he was creepy…and creepy in my book made me lean toward magician.
“That doesn’t mean anything. He could have rabbits in there.” I mumbled.
We ate until Colt, who was sitting across from me and Rob, hissed “Looooook” and stared at the area just behind us. Rob and I turned.
The mystery man, who had ordered something, was now carefully arranging a large, blonde, ball-jointed doll in white lolita-styled outfit to sit on the counter in front of him and eat with him.
The doll looked a lot like this.t.
It took me a while to sit up straight again and giggle “It’s a good thing she fits on the counter, otherwise…700 yen siting fee!”
At least I wasn’t the only female customer anymore.
I realize now I should have just changed sides to sit with Colt and oggle the date as much as I wanted to but I was trying to remain social…and be a “good person.”The three of us discussed how he’s probably a regular and the sad fact that “the guy with the doll” might not refer to just one customer in this area. We went on to tell bad customer stories from our own histories…and tried not to think too much about the doll…but every once in a while I would look, giggle and say something like. “The gloves…that’s why he wears the gloves, because oils from the hands might damage her precious paint…ohhh gooooooooodddddd.” or I’d be reduced to smiling, bouncing, and clapping my hands….not unlike the Akibake who I previously mocked for his reaction to encountering Colt and Rob.
Again Colt gestured for us to look.
The violin case was open on the counter and he was gently lowering his date into it.
Ha! I was RIGHT! Not a musician! Colt could also see the stack of “with maid/with cosplay girls” photos in there with her. I wanted a better look because I’ll bet money he has pictures of the two of them seeing the sights of Japan….but oh well.
I still can’t erase the man in the cheap formal wear and the doll or the loving way he eased her into her carrying crypt. I don’t know if you grasp how erie it was.
As the three of us talked it was a reoccurring motif:
I’d recently had a few, um, unfortunate relationships: “So I’ve learned to ask more questions like ‘do you live alone?’ ‘when you say roommate do you mean…Girlfriend?…or girlfriend of 6 years who moved here to be with you? or wife? and now I have to ask ‘do any of your former or current lovers fit in a violin case?”’
So, thank you Rob and Colt, for taking me someplace I would never go alone and showing me something I would otherwise not have seen. Being haunted by the image of a man on a date with a doll in Akihabara is getting off light when it comes to things you could see in Akiba. My friend Daniel has remarked before, on visitors who want to go into Akiba porn places (and I am paraphrasing). “Yes, you’ll see things in there that will be funny but then you’ll see something you don’t want to see…and you won’t be able to forget it.”
*By my observations Japanese Akiba without the financial needs of girlfriends/wives are still a money spending demographic in these tough times. I’ve also read that interactive computer “dildonics” technology is becoming more feasible and affordable…so who wants to invest with me in finding people to develop the tentacle idea? If you want a lower-budget idea, I’m still pushing for wooden posable tentacles in anime-artist-serving art stores next to the wooden posable figures for figure drawing.