With Japan Olympic Games on radar sharing a flash-back of 2010 Japan trip, an intoxicating and illuminating adventure of a lifetime.
THE WHOLE OF JAPAN IS A PURE INVENTION. THERE IS NO SUCH COUNTRY, THERE ARE NO SUCH PEOPLE…. THE JAPANESE PEOPLE ARE… SIMPLY A MODE OF STYLE, AN EXQUISITE FANCY OF ART.” – OSCAR WILDE
To agree or disagree with Oscar Wilde is personal choice but one thing is sure that Japan is a touristy magnet, esoteric, exotic, quirky of natural splendours from Mt.Fuji, Cherry blossoms, bamboo forests, amazing Islands and beaches, parks and gardens, to man-made wonders such as ryokans, bullet trains, animated toilets, galleries, shrines and architecture, to the sublime of ancient cities and palaces and the quirky of cos-play, manga, fictionalised fantasy.
Tokyo 2010: One more entry on my must see list… a ‘Maid cafe’ or ‘Maidu‘ cafe, the ‘pinafore’ take-off on age-old Geisha culture. Maid cafes were introduced in 2001 in the Akihabara, the ‘otaku’ capital of Japan to cater to the ‘fantasies of male otaku and fans of anime, manga and video games‘. At present there are around 200 or more and increased competition ismaking them much, much crazier in presentation, unconventional costumes, stylized take on fiction, manga, anime, fantasy, tokusatsu, hentai all rolled into customer care and promotion.
Evenings are bling times when the area is abuzz for Anime and Manga culture aficionados and tourists looking for unusual distractions. Neon lights illuminate stores overflowing with electronic products, the tiny cafes and bars inspired by manga and anime, and excitement seekers, including our group, walk on the streets and along pavements absorbing the whacky.
We enter the den, the ‘@home cafe’, to be welcomed by a pretty pink cheeked Maid in French maid style frilly can-caned dress of petticoat, a pinafore, with matching hair accessories, black stockings, a lacy maid-cap perched seductively on frazzled curls, iridescent baubles, trinkets and bows around neck and hand, smiling ‘Welcome home, master’ and ‘Welcome home, mistress’. (@home cafe: Moe maid heaven)
It was an ‘Aladins Cave’, a magical world, and instead of genies there were the pretty maids with names rhyming with Swarovski or whatever ready to serve. Mesmerized we just gawked as ten multi-designed ‘nail extensions’ fingertips make heart shapes in sync with the chant Moe Moe Kyu pretending to weave a spell over the drinks or love potions accompanied by a squeaky intonation ‘good, does it taste better’. We nod in unison, dumbstruck …impatient to take a sip of the ‘love’ potion. I don’t remember what we ate as it was more of filtering in the drama and the make believe.
I look around the crowded cafe with no windows–the quirky curly-haired youngish patron, sitting a few tables away and swaying to an imaginary beat, the group of executives probably looking for some excitement in their tediously long day, the young and old, waiting to be pampered with special ‘Moe Moe Rice Omelet’ with the maid using ketchup to write a simple message or draw a picture according to request. There were couples, a group of young women chatting animatedly in a corner even lone warriors engrossed in their loneliness. It was a mixed crowd, geeks and non-geeks. Drinks are mandatory if one wants a return gift of a photograph with a ‘maid’ with the in-house camera. Two from our group got themselves photographed. I had managed to sneak a picture at the entrance, photography is discouraged, only to find dozen images posted on the Net. Conversations are interrupted by song and dance items.
The time limit is Two hours maximum, to give others a chance to revel in make-believe. We step out in the cold and glared at by an impatient queue, grateful for vacant spots. I learn we have to reserve in advance.
My visit was courtesy Japan National Tourism Organization (JNTO),2010