Meido kissa: Behind the doors of Japan’s maid cafe industry

Sherilyn Smith is a student at Maryville College who enjoys Traveling and learning about new destinations. Photo by Clair Scott.
Sherilyn Smith is a student at Maryville College who enjoys Traveling and learning about new destinations. Photo by Clair Scott.

The meido kissa, also referred to as meido kafe or the westernized “maid cafe”, is a subcategory of cosplay restaurants predominantly found in Japan. In meido kissas, foreigners will find waitresses dressed in maid costumes who act as servants and treat customers as masters or mistresses in their own private home instead of a customer at a restaurant.

Cure Maid Cafe was the first permanent maid cafe. It was established in Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan in March 2001. Meido kissas are becoming increasingly popular and have even expanded to China, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Australia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Mexico, Canada and the United States.

The maid costume varies from cafe to cafe, though most are based on the French maid costume, consisting of a dress, a petticoat, a pinafore, a matching hair accessory (frill or bow) and stockings. Some employees even cosplay as anime characters or wear animal ears with their outfits.

Maids are usually chosen based on appearance, and most maids will likely be young, attractive and innocent-looking. Typically, they are between the ages of 16 to 25. They earn about 900 yen an hour, a standard rate for any Japanese restaurant industry.

Youtube’s intlschoolnet sent two girls into a maid cafe and recorded the experience.

First, the girls entered the meido kissa and were enthusiastically greeted by three maids. The maids spoke to the girls as if they were returning home instead of entering a restaurant by saying, “Welcome back, mademoiselles!”

The maids showed the girls to a table and pulled out their chairs for them, then greeted them again–in a manner that suggested the girls had been gone from home for a long time, and the maids had anxiously awaited their return.

As one maid presented the menu page by page and explained all the possible orders, the other two maids and the two patrons watched and listened.

The menu was shaped like a large butterfly. The maids performed hand motions and gestures to accompany the introduction of a specialty order item; the maids also offered to draw or write on the foam toppings of lattes, and the patrons could request what the drawing or writing was. Maids could also draw on the food with ketchup as per the patron’s request.

After explaining the drink menu, the maids all bowed and left to fulfill the patrons’ requests and returned shortly to prepare the drinks in front of the girls. The making of the mixed drink involved special hand gestures, dancing and singing; the maids had the girls sing along with them. Then one maid poured the mixed drink and drew a cat on the other girl’s latte with chocolate.

Buzzfeed reporter Ryan Broderick had a similar experience at a different meido kissa, though all meido kissas differ in what they offer in the same way Cook Out differs from Bojangles.

Broderick states that “The point of a maid cafe is to be as cute as possible.”

So, what do you think? Will you brave the strange wonders of a meido kissa anytime soon?

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