The Accidental Gaijin #5: Eclectic Electric Town, Part 2
Electric Town! Z. Gallant
“My God, it’s full of stars!”…and with that, I plunged into the madness of Akihabara. With a main expressway, overshadowed by towering skyscrapers, a walk along Electric Town’s “main drag” conjures up visions of Luke, hurtling along the trench of a certain planet destroyer, but in place of an exhaust port, my target is food!
After the sickly sweet world of AKB48, I hungered for more savoury fare. With a thousand stores at my disposal, stacked on upon each other, I scanned the immediate area for a likely eatery that will sustain me for the eagerly anticipated audio extravaganza. A seemingly endless array of gaming stores, phone shops and book depositories were to hand, but nowhere to eat! Just when I was about to relegate myself to the closest Family Mart, an impossibly bright and cheery voice beckoned me forth.
Stacks, upon stacks of stores! Z. Gallant
Staring right in front of me is a maid. Blinking like a madman to make sure this vision of unbridled happiness was real, I offer a smile of recognition and accept the brightly colored leaflet advertising a Maid Cafe. Well, I am hungry! Nodding my acquiescence, I follow the now ecstatic tout to her cafe.
お帰りなさいませ、ご主人様！ Flickr/MIKI Yoshihito
Maid cafés (メイド喫茶 / メイドカフェ Meido kissa / Meido kafe) are relative newcomers to Electric Town. Originating in Akihabara as “Cosplay Restaurants” around the turn of the millennium, Maid Cafes are a blend of eatery and fantasy, with clientele treated as “Master” (ご主人様 goshujinsama) and Mistress” (お嬢様 ojōsama). It wasn’t long until Japan’s second city, Osaka soon grasped onto the potential of Maid Cafes, setting up their own and similar establishments soon setting up business in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Mexico, Canada, and the Philippines.
Into the unknown…Flickr/Andrew Currie
Quite literally arm in arm, I’m led down a corridor to the elevator, where my maid bids me farewell with the customary girly giggle behind her hand. The doors slowly open and I’m thrust into a “world of imagination”! If you’ve seen the 1971, hallucinogenic tour de force that is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, then times it by a 1000. The walls, ceiling, tables and bar are a riot of pastel excess. You would be forgiven for trying to take a bite out of the cash register, with everything looking deliciously edible!
Breaking me out of this type 2 diabetic coma, is the shrill voice of my personal maid. “Welcome home, Master” (お帰りなさいませ、ご主人様！ Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama) she shouts with glee, taking my arm (seriously, I’m starting to feel like a geriatric!) and placing me at my table. I’m offered a towel and shown the menu. With hopes of roast meats, ramen or sushi quickly evaporating, I gaze at the sugary offerings at my disposal as my maid looks on, expectantly awaiting my order. Well, I’ve got this far, so choosing a chocolate sundae and a beer, my maid claps her hands and skips away to what I presume is the kitchen (my active imagination showing me a vision of umpalumpas, busying away at the stove).
Not the place if you’re on a diet! Z. Gallant
My “food” arrives, just as my stomach is about to stage a full on revolt. Spoon at the ready and eyes on the prize, I’m just about to plunge into a chocolaty mountain of calories when my maid slaps my hand away.
“No, no, no” she admonishes, ”you must first say the spell!”
“Spell?” I quizzically ask.
“oishiku nare, moe moe kyun!” She sings, while waving her heart shaped fingers over my sundae.
“Oishiku nare” roughly translates as “make this food tasty”, but “moe moe kyun!” needs a little more digging. Originating from the anime series K-On!, the phrase “moe moe kyun!” was worked into a popular meme by steadfast otaku’s and the internet doing the rest. With many references to otaku culture, including Mais Cafes, in K-On!,, “moe moe kyun!” soon found its way into the “spell” in these temples to otaku culture around the world.
I look around and see the entire restaurant undertaking this ritual. Well, when in Akihabara…
“oishiku nare, moe moe kyun!” I yell.
This seems to placate her. Clapping at my heroic effort, my maid skips away, no doubt to think up other dastardly and humiliating deeds for her next victim.
Kawaii Attack! Flickr/Carter McKendry
After coming close to sugar overdose, I scrape up the last remains of melted sundae and wash it down with the dregs of my beer. Closing my eyes in an effort to focus on my next move, I overhear a couple of tourists on the next table exclaiming the joy of finding a rare, Japanese edition vinyl in a sale to end all sales! What am I doing here?! I must get to that sale!
Slowly, very slowly, I amble my way to the cash register where I’m offered the chance of a photo with my now visibly dejected maid – what can I say, I’m a tough crowd. I politely decline the offer, pay the somewhat reasonable bill and squeeze myself into the elevator.
Stay on target, Chris! Z. Gallant
The tempting Sirens of Akihabara’s maid cafe are indeed a sight to behold, with their sweet songs beckoning the weariest of travelers to the sugary depths (or heights) of Kawaii-ness. But like the stout, wily Odysseus, my eyes must stay firmly fixed on the prize and as tempting as it is, to stretch out this particular Akihabara experience, the more tempting cries of discounted records wins the day. Stay on target Chris!
Tune in next for the thrilling finale!!