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Anime Aunties Visit Japan
Can A Maid's Kindness Save the World?

by Lynzee Loveridge,

When Kim Morrissy visited the at-home café in Akihabara last year, I was intrigued. There is something about maid culture that was enticing to me; the optimism seemed infectious. It was hard to wrap my brain around as a cynical (and clinically depressed) 36-year-old. Many of us lean on cynicism like a crutch. It's easier to assume that happy people are play-acting than to look inward. Coupled with stereotypes about maid cafe's clientele, I wasn't sure what to expect when I arrived in the lobby, but over the next few hours, my assumptions were proven wrong time and again.

Like last year, at-home café patrons are predominantly women. I was told roughly 60% of visitors are girls and women, and many recently relocated from rural areas to Tokyo. They visit with maids and develop a sister-like relationship, asking for make-up advice and trends to help them acclimate to the city. From that perspective, maids can be mentors just as much as they can be friends.

Super Premium Maids Chimu and Yuyumelo greeted us at the entryway, an extravagant hallway adorned with chandeliers. On the wall, framed photos of the maids looked on happily. Notably, the first photo is of one of the founding maids, Hitomi. Hitomi breaks the mold in what is expected of a maid; she's over 30 and a mother. I thought to myself that maybe even I could be a maid under different life circumstances (first, I'd need to be able to dance). According to Chimu and Yuyumelo, the three important things for a maid to have is a smile, strength, and a maid headpiece. A maid really could be anyone.

Chimu and Yuyumelo brought us to our table, and I was immediately swept up in their performance. When you visit at-home café, you become a "Master" or "Princess." I received a bronze-level membership card declaring me as such, with my name handwritten by Chimu. My skepticism was already wearing thin as I gave myself over to the experience. Why not let myself enjoy something, even if it may seem superficial at first? I wear a crown every time a set foot in Disneyland, so why not be a princess at a maid café?

Both girls had distinctive approaches to their service and interactions. Chimu had an older sister energy, where she wasn't shy about teasing me a bit or taking on a deeper, silly voice while talking to me. Yuyumelo radiated positivity and told me with a smile that her motivation for being a maid is world peace. That idea swirled in my head as Chimu and Yuyumelo used "maid magic" to power up our drinks with moe. They then brought out an array of gorgeous desserts and classic omurice. It was the largest chocolate parfait I had ever seen, and Yuyumelo's ketchup-drawing skills were nothing short of impressive. It was obvious both maids were entertaining conversationalists, even with a language barrier, and it's not like I could write anything resembling kanji (or English) on a chicken nugget.

Photo by Jacki Jing

I got way too full of food by the time the performance segment started. I was curious about what the whole production would look like. It was barely three months since Akiba Maid War wrapped up, and while that show pokes a lot of fun at maid culture, it too includes a stage performance as part of the opening credits. The at-home café performance has similarities, but it's much more sparkling in person. I was impressed by how all the girls stayed in sync during the dance routine, and Chimu was a decent singer, too.

Not pictured is me in the back waving a wand light off-beat to the performance. After the routine wrapped up, Chimu and Yuyumelo came back to our table. Chimu told me, in English, that while I'm in Japan, the café is my home. This was the point where the puzzle pieces snapped together in my head, and I came to the surprisingly obvious revelation that, in its own way, a place like a maid café could bring peace, in a sense. Once all cynicism and skepticism are dropped, the whole point of a place like this is simple: kindness.

Of course, we should all try to be kind to one another, and I like to think that I show consideration for others as much as possible. My cynicism was centered around the idea that the maids couldn't genuinely be nice to me or have an honest motivation to see me happy. When Chimu told me at-home café was my home in Japan, I legitimately got emotional. I was thousands of miles away from my family, but I did feel welcome here in this "magic mansion" in Akihabara, and I think you would too.

Welcome Home.

Want to visit at-home cafe in Akihabara? Visit their website here for more information.

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