Countries Japan Trends

Why Tokyo’s Maid Cafe’s Should Be Avoided!

school girls for sale in tokyos maid cafes

Did you know that there are countless cafes in Tokyo’s Akihabara district where school girls are paid to serve and perform in flirtatious french maid costumes? I didn’t. Feeling inquisitive, astonished and awkward as hell, heres what happened when I visited one of Tokyo’s most popular Maid Cafes @Home Cafe and the disturbing reality why you should avoid them.

What Is A Maid Cafe? 

Young Girl dressed in French Maid costume.

Naively, at first, I thought that the experience might be similar to that of the subculture practices of the “Sweet Lolita” girls from Harajuku. I pondered whether maybe a Maid Cafe was a place where teenage girls hung out dressed up as french maids for fun (who knows? It’s Japan after all), but alas it turns out that I was wrong. Maid cafes are in fact restaurants that employ teenage girls to dress up as French maids, thus to provide entertainment and service to their customers.

What Happens In A Maid Cafe? Watch this video to see the full experience.

Role Play
Upon arriving at @Home Cafe you can expect to be cheerfully greeted by pretty polished young girls looking around the age of 16 wearing frilly mini pinafore dresses, lace petticoats, knee high socks and pigtail hair.

Yes Master
You sign into a register to receive your membership card, where from then on the young girls now refer to you as their “Master” (No I’m not joking). The maids take you to your table and give you a menu of kawaii style fast food, drinks and deserts designed to look like adorable bears, kittens, love hearts and stars. When you are ready, your maid will kneel down onto her knees and take your order (WTF?).

Magic Moe
When your order is ready the maids will come over, kneel down and ask you to participate in casting magical spells over the food to help make it taste better. This includes chanting some words in Japanese whilst making love heart hand gestures and nodding your head from side to side. All innocent fun to the 5 year old and her mum sat on the table next to me, but slightly unnerving to observe the 2 solo men in their mid 40s enjoying the exact same experience on the tables opposite.

Playfull Photos
After lunch you are invited to play dress up with your maid by selecting from a variety of props such as bunny ears, love heart glasses and top hats etc, before taking a polaroid style photo together. It is forbidden to take your own photos of the maids by yourself at any time.

Me with my maid Ann, here I’m going along with the flow wondering what the hell was going to happen next, smiling on the surface but secretly gritting my teeth trying to hold back the awkwardness inside.

Cafe Cabaret
Depending on the time of your arrival you might be lucky enough to witness the cafe’s cabaret style show. Maids distribute flashing glow-in-the-dark love hearts for everyone to wave around in the air whilst the whole staff sing and dance too what I can only describe as teeny princess macarena-esque pop songs on the in-house stage.  As they joyfully bounce and bow their heads in synchronization their tiny mini skirts and petticoats flash what appears to be innocent glimpses of the top of their thighs and knickers.


@Home Cafe girls’s wearing extremely short French Maid costumes

Isn’t It All Just Innocent Fun? #Spoileralert = NO.

Was the question I asked. On the surface yes, the young girls appear to be having fun, being cute and living out their daydreams, singing, dancing and drinking rainbow colored lemonade for albeit a brief living (until they look 18 that is). The only thing that makes the whole experience not so innocent whilst also being extremely downgrading and misogynistic is the fact that their hemlines are at least FIVE INCHES TOO SHORT AND THE MAJORITY OF THESE GIRLS ARE UNDER 18. Under the shiny surface of all that candy colored, cutesy kitten crap these girls are in fact being inappropriately exploited and sexualised for adult entertainment, regardless of whether the cafe has a “no touch” policy or not.

“Under the shiny surface of all that candy coloured, cutesy kitten crap these girls are in fact being inappropriately exploited and sexualised for adult entertainment, regardless of whether the cafe has a “no touch” policy or not.”

Although I was assured by my tour guide at Akibaland tours that @Home Cafe is “One of the better ones”, looking around it quickly became apparent to me that the novelty of such service was not for tourism purposes, but that it was primarily a wildly popular venue for single middle aged men at lunch time. Now, I am not that naive (this time around) to think that they are there for the debatably delicious food and high brow entertainment. No. I’m going to make a balls to the wall statement here and say that they are simply just f**king perverts.  

According to my guide being a maid isn’t all its cracked up to be (#NOSHIT), maids are to some extent seen by the public as a modern day Geisha and therefore most girls would be ashamed if their families knew that they were working in a place like this. After a lengthy discussion it transpires that in many similar establishments girls are often groped, harassed and propositioned by adult male customers both in and outside of the work place, Which leaves me thinking #WHYAMIHERE #HITSHEADAGAINSTWALL !

(Me, dying inside. Get me outta here)

After further investigation into this disturbing fantasy my suspicions were confirmed with Vice Magazine’s shocking documentary  School Girls For Sale. WATCH HERE.

Why Do Maid Cafe’s Even Exist?

Akihabara district is known as Tokyo’s capitol of Otaku culture. Otaku is a negative term used to describe someone that has a unhealthy obsession with anime and manga material, usually to the detriment of their real life social skills.  Walking around Akihabara, my guide from Akibaland informs me that in Japan people work extremely hard, rarely taking days off or holidays, because of this it is widely accepted that many Japanese people develop strong and sometime unusual interests in virtual/alternative reality merchandise and characters.

Akihabara is a area over saturated with shopping malls that are crammed with corridor after corridor of Otaku related hobbies, such as anime, cosplay, computer games, gadgets, collections and cheap electronics. Maid Cafe’s appeared in the early 1990s as a place of respite for male Otaku’s in the area by providing them with a opportunity to bring their cosplay fantasies closer to real life.

The serious problem is, this was around the same time Japan developed a overwhelmingly unhealthy obsession with JK (School Girl) culture resulting in the employment young girls to fulfill these roles.

Unnerving But Relevant Facts About Japans Sex Laws

  1. The legal age of sexual consent in Japan is only 13.
  2. Japan only banned child photographic pornography in 2014.
  3. It is not illegal to illustrate child pornography or sexually abusive images of children in anime or manga.

Should You Visit A Maid Cafe?

After reviewing the available information I would say NO. I am the first person to put my hand up and admit that 9 times of of 10 I am as much a tourist as the next person, often emerging in experiences first and asking questions later. When I discovered that there was a part of Tokyo where it was common place for young girls to dress up as french maids I was naively intrigued, but never for once considered that these “girls” would actually be “girls” under the age of 18.

I believe that tour companies offering these services to visit Maid Cafe’s are perpetuating a demand which leads to the further exploitation, sexualisation and potential abuse of vulnerable young girls in Japan.

Akibaland provided me with a fun, interesting, insightful experience in Akihabara’s streets and shopping malls, in exchange for this review, but I would advise readers to opt out of visiting a Maid Cafe for the reasons listed above.

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school girls for sale tokyos maid cafes

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  • Tatiana
    February 13, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Wow, I didn’t know these even existed! So weird and I totally agree with you that it doesn’t sound like “innocent fun”. But I’m wondering because of the public you encountered there : you said that the majority of customers are middle-aged men and that they are seen as some kind of “modern geisha”. So, what about the mum that brought her 5-year old daughter ? Wouldn’t it be like bringing your daughter to Hooters in the USA ?

    • donna
      February 13, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Yes I think that’s the innocent part, the women and her daughter might not have been Japanese, I don’t know. The girls are seen as hostesses and because nobody ever tells anybody what they think in Japan the whole issue is ignored.

  • Marta
    February 13, 2017 at 5:51 am

    Hats off to you for for writing this honest review! The more I find out how crooked this world is the more I get scared what direction are we all heading? I am glad someone is bringing this out to light and saying how it is! This is definitely not ok. But this doesn’t happen only in Japan, I feel like the chain Hooters in the US is not too far off!

    • donna
      February 13, 2017 at 4:15 pm

      If girls in hooters are 18 and over its ok, those girls have more emotional maternity to know what they are getting into when the have their cleavage on show, wet t-shirt comps and all that. Maid girls probably don’t really realize that their skirts are that short for a reason and are to vulnerable to recognize and deal with inappropriate behavior.

  • Izzy
    February 13, 2017 at 8:19 am

    I knew that japan’s school girl obsession and obsession with underage girls was fucked but I didn’t know maid cafe girls were under 18. That’s so wrong, I’d have less of an issue with the whole thing if they were all over 18 but that is exploitation. Gross.

    The Quirky Queer

  • Emily
    February 14, 2017 at 12:21 am

    I watched that Vice documentary a few weeks ago and genuinely couldn’t believe that this went on – your fast facts on Japanese sex law go some way to explaining it. We all consider the Japanese to be so technologically advanced, it is shocking that child exploitation and potentially abuse, are so readily accepted.

    • donna
      February 18, 2017 at 5:23 am

      Yeah its really unnerving for me to come across that documentary after being there and seeing those older men in the cafe. I think tourist should know all the information before going. I think next time round il go to a ninja cafe instead! LOL! Thanks for your comment 🙂

  • Sandra
    February 14, 2017 at 7:13 am

    I was as disturbed reading this story as when I watched teen girls and boys gladly following middle aged white men to perform whatever “service” in Bangkok, in broad day light.

  • ThriftyTrails
    February 17, 2017 at 4:14 pm

    I am curious how you found out their age? Most Asians look younger than they are so going off looks isn’t very accurate. To quote someone else who went to a maid cafe: “There are misconceptions about what a maid café is in Japan. Many think the women who work there are doing some kind of sex work. But in truth, it’s all really innocent. It’s just about being cute and have a fun time.”. To quote a girl who actually worked in a maid cafe: “The maid cafe culture definitely isn’t sexualized,” she said. “If people see it as a sexual thing, it’s not our problem. It’s not intended to be that, it’s more a novelty thing.”. I can see how many people can think this is a step backwards for women or that it’s exploitation but some girls want to work at a maid cafe. Some girls like being cutesy (I knew some in college) so why not make money while you’re at it. I honestly rather go to to a Maid Cafe than an Owl Cafe in Japan because the Owls are cooped up and have no choice, the maids do. No Cat Cafe for me, I’m allergic >.<

    • donna
      February 18, 2017 at 5:13 am

      Hi Thrifty Trails, Thank you for your questions. I have no hard proof that the girls in the cafe were under 18, I asked my guide who told me so when I asked. You are right that many Asian women look very young, but I work as a college teacher in Vietnam and would say that I have a pretty good age gage for these things, that combine with watching the Vice documentary and doing further research into underage sex in Japan was enough encouragement for me to raise my concerns by writing this article. I have no problem earning money being cutesy, but if maid cafes culture definately wasn’t sexualising the girls and young women that work there then their skirts would not be so short. It becomes a problem when the owners of places market the attraction to adult Japanese men (who were there) which in turn can and doesn result in employees getting groped and harassed (depending on the venue). As a tourist visiting Akihibara you might not know one reputable Maid cafe from the next, the whole thing is extremely shady in my opinion. In contrast to this I have wrote a article about Lolita culture and how this is simply a innocent trend in fashion enjoyed by young girls. I don’t visit owl, cat, whatever animal cafes either because that too exploits animals. Let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

  • True
    February 21, 2017 at 9:21 am

    I loved Japan and Akihabara in general. My sister wanted to visit a maid cafe, because she too was under the impression that it was more of a cutesy thing. There were girls on the street handing out flyers all over the place for them so she picked one at random and dragged me along with her. It was honestly the only time in Japan where I felt awkward and uncomfortable. It was on the upper floor of a building and we had to go behind the building into a dingy elevator to get there. We got out at the top, saw it was filled with middle aged men smoking and girls in teeny outfits and it felt so seedy and wrong that we turned around and left straight away. We should have gone to the robot cafe instead!

    • Donna
      February 21, 2017 at 1:35 pm

      Thank you for taking the time to explain your experience to others, so many tourists get pulled in off the streets without knowing what it might be like. At home cafe was a nice venue but the concerns are still the same.

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