New York’s first maid cafe offers more than just coffee

When you walk into Maid Cafe NY, young women in pink and white frilly maid uniforms bow and say, “Okaerinasai mase, gosyujin sama!” (or “Okaerinasai mase, ojou sama!” if you are a woman). The Japanese phrase means “Welcome home, master!” and this phrase sets the tone at the Moe Maid Cafe event at Maid Cafe NY on Centre Street in Chinatown.

Maid Cafe NY is the first of its kind in New York. Maid cafes are popular in Japan, where they have been around since the early 2000s. Waitresses cosplay as cutesy maids in pinafores and petticoats, and refer to their customers as “master” or “princess.” The idea of a maid cafe is to provide a private home-like experience where maids treat their customers with a personal touch, as if they are serving the masters or mistresses of the cafe.

Typically, the similarities to a traditional Japanese maid cafe end at the uniforms at Maid Cafe NY and the “maids” act like any other server would, greeting customers in English and taking orders for pretty little pastries, bubble tea and a few Japanese comfort dishes like chicken cutlet curry.

Satoshi Yoshimura, the owner of Maid Cafe NY, said he didn’t want to put off customers who weren’t used to traditional maid cafe service. But due to popular demand, Yoshimura decided to hold an event in the cafe where the maids provided traditional “moe” service for $10 an hour. “Moe” is Japanese slang that roughly translates to “adorable” or “cute.”

And the maids certainly act cute. Reiko, an 18-year-old maid from Brooklyn, said Yoshimura had experienced maids from Japan teach the newbies how to act. She talked in a baby voice and ended every sentence by ducking under a menu and giggling. “Every day here is fun!” she squealed. She shuffled around the cafe greeting customers in her white headband, lacy pink and white dress, white tights and pink Doc Martens.

Out of 16 customers at the event, 15 were men. One of them asked his friends, “Can you imagine what every married couple would be like if the husband were the master? Can you imagine how that would change relationships?” His friends shifted uncomfortably and one said, “That would be … bad.” The man then mused, “Or maybe it could be a holiday. Like on one day a year, the wife treats her husband like the master.”

A maid approached a table of customers and greeted them. “How was your day?” she asks each one. One man answered that he was tired.

“Ooh, working too hard?” she asked in a baby voice. He nodded. She made an exaggerated sad face and then offered to play jan-ken-pon with a customer. Jan-ken-pon is like rocks-paper-scissors, but cuter, with bunny ears as one of the gestures. “Ooh, no. I lost again!” she said as she held her fists toward her eyes and pretended to cry. She knelt down at the side of the table, a signature touch at maid cafes, to take orders and bowed as she left the table. Back at the counter, the maids dropped their voices an octave and were all business as they rushed to grab drinks and add orders to checks.

Victor Bernal from Queens is a student at NYU and a regular at Maid Cafe NY. “It’s like a home away from home,” he said. “The waitresses talk to you and ask you how your day is going.” Bernal has been studying Japanese for eight months and has always been intrigued by the culture; he first learned about maid cafes after he saw them featured in anime cartoons. Bernal ordered omurice, a special dish just for the event in which an omelette is served over fried rice.

Reni Mimura, a Japanese pop singer, was hosting the event and moonlighting as a maid for the night. She came over to draw a design on his omurice with ketchup. In Japanese, she wrote to Bernal, “I like you” and drew a heart underneath. The maids also drew bunnies and hearts and wrote messages on menus and plastic bubble tea cups.

Lawrence Asperilla, 25, of Teaneck, N.J., is a seasoned maid cafe tourist. He has been to maid cafes in Tokyo, Sapporo, Osaka and Nagoya. “They’re a really good place to find out about local attractions,” he explained. Asperilla said he found the service at the Moe Maid Cafe very similar to that of maid cafes in Japan. “They talk a lot with you and play games with you like Jenga, Pop A Pirate or Darts,” he said.

John Lewis, 28, of Queens works as a server at another restaurant, but still enjoys spending his off time at the cafe. “They have cute maids here,” he smiled. “That’s all I can say.”

Yoshimura, who also promotes J-pop (Japanese pop music) events and artists, hopes to make his cafe a hub for anime fans all over New York. “We have seen a growing population of Japanese anime fans as well as people who are interested in kawaii (cute) culture from Japan,” he said. “We are planning to have a lot of events to make our venue a mecca of kawaii culture in New York City.” The cafe hosts various cosplay and anime events, as well as monthly Maid Shows where maids dance and sing for customers.

Follow Andrea Park on Twitter: @andreapark


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Florida man charged with murdering son to play…

A Florida man annoyed that his 16-month-old crying son was preventing him from playing video games suffocated the toddler, police said on Friday.

International

Powerful 7.2 magnitude earthquake rattles Mexico

A powerful earthquake struck Mexico Friday, shaking buildings and sending people running into the street, although there were no reports of major damage.

News

OMG! Exercise can make skin (and butt) look…

A moderate exercise regime can turn back time and actually reverse the skin's aging process, according to new research. The study showed that a minimum…

Local

Oval oasis: Summer of fun kicks off this…

A bold partnership between the Fairmount Park Conservancy and the city's Parks and Recreation Department is kicking off this weekend with family activities re-activating this unused public space.

Entertainment

Whoopi Goldberg makes her debut as marijuana columnist

"It helps my head stop hurting, and with glaucoma your eyes ache, and she takes the ache out. It's wonderful," she said.

The Word

Kate Middleton made fun of Prince William's bald…

Kate Middleton and Prince William are in Sydney, Australia, right now, and it sounds like that brash Aussie sense of humor might be rubbing off.

The Word

Is Tom Cruise dating Laura Prepon?

"Mission: Impossible" star Cruise is said to be dating Laura Prepon, star of "Orange is the New Black."

Television

'Scandal' recap: Season 3, Episode 18, 'The Price…

Sally is Jesus, Olivia caused global warming, and Mellie's still drunk. Let's recap the Scandal finale. A church full of Washington insiders is about to…

MLB

Jimmy Rollins is key to Phillies success

When John Kruk was asked about what the Phillies need to contend for a playoff berth, the ESPN analyst said Jimmy Rollins needs to play like a MVP again.

MLB

Ben Revere lifts Phillies to avoid sweep

Ben Revere came through with a two-out RBI single against Atlanta’s tough lefthander Alex Wood.

NBA

Season wrap: 76ers make the grade

The 76ers opened the 2013-14 season with a victory over the Miami Heat. The Sixers closed the season with a win at Miami.

NBA

Fantasy basketball: Finding next year's NBA studs

Before we put the 2013-14 fantasy basketball season to bed, it’s worth thinking about next year’s breakouts while they’re fresh in our mind.

Tech

VIDEO: 'Vein-scanning' may become the future of paying

Designed to make transactions quicker and easier, the technology works by scanning the unique vein patterns in each person's palm.

Tech

#FollowFriday: 10 of the smartest Twitter accounts

Spending lots of time on Twitter? You might as well learn something. Here are some of the smartest accounts to follow.

Style

Light-up nail art syncs with phone

This Japanese technology syncs light-up nail art with your phone.

Wellbeing

Why is dance cardio taking off in NYC?

Instructors at some of the city's hottest classes explain why.