Today, me and Richard went back to Akihabara one more time before leaving for Sendai. I neglected to take any pictures of all the little electronics stores earlier, so I took a quick snapshot as I left the station. It really doesn’t do it justice, though. Someday I’ll have to go through and take pictures of all the vendors inside with a nice wide-angle lens. It’s really quite impressive and I’m willing to bet nothing like it exists in the US.
On this particular trip, me and Richard decided to hit up a maid cafe. Many of the other people in the program had already done so and it was pretty much a unanimous “yeah, it’s a bit expensive, but you’ve gotta do it once.” So we spent an hour or so walking around Akihabara looking for a place to try. Maid cafes, for the uninitiated, are essentially slightly expensive restaurants staffed by younger girls dressed up in maid-style outfits who are required to smile and act happy and energetic while serving the customers. There is quite a bit more information on the phenomenon over on Wikipedia for those interested.
We finally decided on a place called the Pinky Cafe (ピンキーカフェ), primarily because it wasn’t the MaiDreamin (めいどりーみん) cafe chain that has four locations in Akihabara alone. The cafe was up on the 3rd floor of a building a little ways off Chuo Dori (中央通り), the main street in Akiba. The interior was primarily decorated in pink and white with various cute-sy posters on the walls, a small stage in one corner, and a bar along the opposite wall.
In maid cafes, people aren’t allowed to take pictures of the maids. It’s one of the ways they make their money; customers can pay to have a polaroid taken with one or more maids but they aren’t allowed to use their own camera. Also, in most cafes, patrons pay by the hour.
Before we got a chance to order, the maids put on a karaoke show called Pinky Live that they do a few times during the day. They lowered the lights and turned on a couple of disco lights, then three different maids got up on the little stage one at a time and sang along to a karaoke track. And apparently it was also one of the maids birthdays. Unfortunately that didn’t mean we got to eat any birthday cake.
After the karaoke, we both ended up ordering a ‘new customer special’ that included a drink, a rice omelet, a picture, and an hour in the cafe. We both got the excellent (and next to impossible to find outside of restaurants, might I add) Fanta melon soda. If you have never tried melon soda (メロンソーダ or スイカソーダ) before, well, you’re missing out. When our waitress brought over the drinks, she made us perform a little, ah, ritual before she let us drink them. The ritual consisted of saying 「おいしくなれラブラブピンキー」 (oishikunare rabu rabu pinkii be delicious love love pinky) and making some corresponding hand gestures (twirling our fingers and making heart shapes) toward the glasses. It must have helped a bit since that was some of the best melon soda I’ve had in Akiba.
A few minutes later she brought over our rice omelets. Another thing the maids do is draw on the food. Depending on what it is, they’ll use syrup or ketchup to draw pictures after the food is brought to the table. Fortunately, the no photos rule doesn’t apply to the food, so I present a super cute ketchup cat:
As one might expect, she had us perform the same ritual before we could eat. And I must say, that rice omelet was not half bad. Afterwards, another maid snapped pictures of us with a polaroid camera. Yes, I am kneeling next to the maid in the picture. When I stepped up onto the stage for the picture, my head was just about touching the ceiling.
Finally, a quick note about the Japanese word for delicious, oishii. Most of the time it’s written in hiragana as おいしい, but it can also be written with kanji as 美味しい. The kanji 美 means ‘beautiful’ and 味 means ‘flavor,’ hence a very fitting literal translation ‘beautiful flavor.’