Water’s in my instant ramen, so while dinner’s cooking let’s blog on shall we.
Today was my friend’s 24th birthday. Due to some tradition we heard on a trip to Kyoto, because he’s turning 24 it’s not a lucky year for him, especially for marriage. Whether or not he’s planning stuff like that is something I don’t know, but I’m definately glad to be turning 25 this year. Not that I’ve not had many sporadic luck moments as well as kicks in the gooch.
The plan was to meet in Umeda with some other friends and head to a maid cafe. Yes folks after cutting yesterday’s blog short …
… we decided to celebrate my friend’s birthday in style.
However, doing a quick Google search indicated that there seem to maid cafes in Umeda, which was a bit of a pain. I don’t want to go on record by saying for definate that there are none at all, but we couldn’t find any. With that in mind we made a change of plan and decided to head back to Nippombashi.
I left the dorm first in order to make a trip to Softmap to buy my friend’s birthday present, unbeknownst to him of course. The DS game I intended to buy for him was ASH: Archaic Sealed Heat, which appeared to be a simple RPG, of course in Japanese. However I never made it to Softmap.
Following my usual routine of walking to Umeda in a new way, at a traffic light I, like everyone else, was approached by various people in vary elaborate Chinese clothing. She, and several colleagues, were handing out flyers for a traditional Chinese dance show that was happening in Umeda. She then took this as an opportunity to practice her Japanese skills as it appears we were on roughly the same level. As time passed and various elements of English and Chinese slipped into the conversation as well as us being joined by one of her friends, I had to try to break from the conversation so I wouldn’t be late to meet the others. I wouldn’t have time to go to Softmap.
Arriving at Umeda station I was a bit annoyed to see that only two of the other four were on time. After waiting for almost an hour, we were soon joined by everyone and on our way.
Arriving in Namba (after deciding to walk to the ‘maid area’ from there), I swiftly led the group of 5 (myself included) men from 5 different countries on a mini walking tour of the area, as I followed my own footstepsfrom yesterday. After doubting myself on a couple of corners and knowling walking in a circle, we found ourselves in the area where maids were handing out leaflets for their respective businesses.
This is where our day of complete confusion began. None of us, including our Japanese friend (for the record we were from England, Japan, America, Germany and Colombia) had been to a maid cafe before and had no clue how to spot ‘a good one’. After a little bit of fannying around I eventually went to go and ask one of the maids. It turns out that not all the people giving out leaflets for the area were from cafes, as the one I’d asked worked for a ‘maid massage parlour’ instead.
Meanwhile, one of the group was also enquiring with another maid, this time one who did work for a cafe. With a smile on her face and full of enthusiasm she took us down an alley and into a lift. When the doors opened we were greeted warmly by two maids who were already bowing. After being shown into the main room we could see various maids with various groups keeping up the enthusiam.
This is where we hit a stump. My group of friends and I clearly had no idea of what to do and what was going on as some of the girls did a short song and dance routine for us before joining us in our seating area. Added was the fact that none of us had ‘maid cafe experience’, and only one of us spoke Japanese to a fluent level; he also struggled to explain what was going on in English at times, but kudos to him for giving it his all.
From what we could all work out it basically comes down to this. When you’re there, you can buy a range of food and drinks (hence the ‘cafe’ part), but you can also pay for certain extras. Fella’s pull your eyes back into their sockets and pick your tongues off the floor. Services included them sitting with you for conversation, playing games (of which Uno seemed to be the popular choice) and having a photograph with them. Obviously for their own protection taking photos of the girls is forbidden.
Not really wanting to spend too much money we settled for a photograph, the cheapest service on the menu (yes, there was a menu for services on the back of the cakes menu). Unfortunately this led to another problem, and one that I don’t really know the outcome of. The cost of a photo was 800 yen (£6.04) for one polaroid. However, depending on how many maids you wanted in the photo the price went up. I’m not certain but I think it was also more expensive depending on your group size. We ended up with a photo with two maids and our whole group.
After drinking up my ‘Melonade’ (officially called Melon Soda, but Melonade sounds better don’t you think?) and casually distributing my cake to my friends (it was made of cream >_<), we let the girls know our intention to leave. Before being allowed to make our exit (after paying the bill), we were given another performance of singing and dancing. The atmosphere of the maid cafe that we visited seemed to be very welcoming, but at the same time kind of tense. It could well have been down to the fact we were all first timers, the language barrier (good ol' scapegoat), and the fact most of the group towered over the girls height-wise, but it could also be that because we didn't fully understand what maid cafes were all about, the girls may have had trouble communicating in the subtle ways that they might have done with their regular customers. I wouldn't chock this down as a bad experience, but I won't say that it was a great one either. I think once the girls had left us to our own devices after the photo we were able to relax a little more. Ironically it did feel at one point like we were the one’s ‘on show’. Walking back we did pass another style of maid cafe (which time forbade us to stop in), where it seemed to be a typically normal cafe, where it just so happened that the staff members wore maid outfits. Maybe next time.
On the walk back I wanted to make a detour. For you see I got in touch with home last night and I was right in that I was asked to bring back a Japanese version of Monopoly. So after heading back to the table top store I mentioned yesterday, which it turns out was a part of the huge toy shop it was in front of, I parted with 4500 yen in exchange for the Osaka version of the game.
Looking on the back Osaka Monopoly has a lot of the features I’ve come to associate with the city I love (obviously), such as the Glico Man replacing Mayfair as the most expensive land, £220 Fleet Street being replaced with the HEP Five at 220 “man-yen” (£16,588), and the ever faithful Old Kent Road swapping ironically with the Osaka Business Innovation Centre. Old favourites just as Free Parking and Go To Jail are still there in their original forms, and we were having a bit of a joke about how Jail should have been Kamishinjou.
After arriving back in Umeda I took a quick trip over to Softmap to pick up my friends birthday present. I have no idea if the game’s any good, but if it is I might grab one for myself at a later date.