As you walk through Akihabara and other parts of Tokyo, you may see females in maid or other costumes advertising one of maid cafes. These cafes offer a unique opportunity for tourists to indulge in a different part of Japanese culture. While there has been some controversy over them, maid cafes are a safe and enjoyable experience. There are a few ground rules and tips you should know before visiting a maid cafe in Japan.
Where to Find a Maid Cafe
You can find maid cafes scattered all around Akihabara. Just by walking the main and side streets you may stumble upon a few. You may see advertisements or even an employee of a maid cafe inviting people to come inside.
The Master, Princess, and Maid Theme
When you enter a maid cafe, you will become known as a Master (male customer) or Princess (female customer). The main goal of a maid is to ensure you have a pleasant experience. You will either be paired with a maid or can sometimes choose one.
Rules of Behavior
There are strict rules in place to ensure the safety and respect of the employees. You are not allowed to have physical contact or ask for personal information. As seen in the picture below, cafes may have other rules such as purchase minimums, limitations on photography, and time limits.
Food and Drink Offerings
One of the fun parts of visiting a maid cafe is the interesting food art and drinks served. You can order dishes that are formed in a fun image or object. Japan is known for creative culinary presentations. Even drink offerings can be colorful and interesting. For example, a cappuccino may have a cute image on the top. Ordering a set, or packaged option, will usually save you money rather than ordering each item separately.
Beside serving food and drinks, maid cafes offer various entertainment options. During your stay, you may have the option to play a game or take a photo with a maid. Other forms of entertainment may include a maid singing a song, doing a skit, or other interactions with customers.
Cover Charges and Wait Times
Maid cafes can be expensive. You should expect a cover charge in addition to food, drink, and other purchases. Even when purchasing a set, you can easily spend $25 to $30 for a short stay. Another issue is the chance of a wait list to be seated. Like many restaurants and bars in Japan, maid cafes have limited seating. Be mindful of a long wait during peak hours.
For more information on @home cafe, visit their website here.
@home cafe Akihabara Cafe inside Don Quixote 5F
Ueno Park in the heart of Tokyo offers many activities and attractions for locals and tourists. It is home to a number of museums, temples, and even a zoo. Here are a few reasons to visit Ueno Park during your next stay to Tokyo.
Cherry Blossom Viewing
One of the best places to view cherry blossoms in full bloom is in Ueno Park. It is very common for people to have picnics and gatherings under the beautiful trees. It can also get quite crowded during this time of the year. The cherry blossoms are a great excuse to visit the park along with its other offerings.
The oldest zoo in Japan, Ueno Zoo is a great destination for families and tourists. One of the zoo's biggest attractions is seeing the giant panda bears. The admission rate is very affordable and free for children. Families traveling to Tokyo should definitely mark Ueno Zoo as a possible activity in Tokyo.
Tokyo National Museum
As the largest art museum in Japan, Tokyo National Museum is a prime opportunity to peek inside Japan's rich history. One of the interesting parts of the museum is its outdoor garden that has multiple buildings representing different periods of history. They have been moved to the museum to show the various architecture and cultural significance of the past. In addition, the museum houses many National Treasures and Important Cultural Properties. If you have played any of the Final Fantasy games and recognize the name Masamune or Yoshimitsu, then you should definitely visit the sword and weapons exhibit.
You may have heard from a friend, online article, or through social media about animal cafes in Japan. Across Japan, you can visit a cafe that has different types of animals to see, hold, or even play with for a period of time. These cafes typically charge an entry fee and an additional amount of money per hour. One of the reasons animal cafes are popular in Japan is because it can be expense to own a pet; especially, living in a big city. Here are a few different types of animal cafes to expect during your next trip.
One of the more common animal cafes contain multiple breeds of cats. Cats are scattered across the cafe sleeping, playing with each other, and visiting guests. You can usually pet and play with them. People will also go to the cafes for a drink, to read, chat with friends, and use the Wi-Fi. Definitely consider visiting one scattered across Tokyo or in another city if you are a cat lover.
Dog cafes are available in Japan for people to visit. One unique twist of dog cafes is that you may have the opportunity to take a dog on a walk (for a fee). Living in small quarters in a city makes it challenging to own a dog. These cafes give people the chance to enjoy spending time with dogs around the neighborhood.
There are owl cafes scattered across Japan. Guests can see owls roaming around the cafe while enjoying tea and other beverages. Some cafes will allow guests to hold an owl. You may see an employee holding an owl outside inviting people in for a drink or an experience.
Not to be left out, there are rabbit cafes in Japan as well. Enjoy a nice beverage or dessert surrounded by cute rabbits sleeping and hoping around.
While technically a bar, there are places to visit that have penguins living in a habitat. You can enjoy seeing the penguins having a beverage or meal. A well-known penguin bar is Penguin Bar Ikebukuro in Tokyo.
You may find other cafes and opportunities to see additional animals not mentioned. Japan is full of fun and fascinating animal cafes for locals and tourists to enjoy. Take an opportunity to have a unique experience during your next trip to Japan.
Walking through the streets of larger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, you may have noticed large establishments with vibrantly colored window displays and rows of slot machines. The machines are actually pachinko machines and the place is called a pachinko parlor. Gambling for real money is illegal in Japan. Pachinko parlors are the closest thing to legalized gambling you will find. The way parlors work is similar to earning tickets for prizes at Chuck E. Cheese or a Putt-Putt Fun Center.
Customers at pachinko parlors purchase metal balls that are used to play the machines. The machines vary in style, gameplay, animation, and theme. In general, balls are shot to the top of a machine's play area and fall down hitting metal pins. Balls will change trajectories when they hit the pins and each other. The goal is to get the metal balls into different slots or gates to earn additional attempts and prize payouts. The prize payouts a player earns are in the form of additional metal balls to either use in the machines or exchange for actual prizes.
Customers can exchange the metal balls received as prize payouts for items offered in the pachinko parlor. For example, a customer can exchange a certain amount of balls for a microwave or other item. The parlors cannot give actual money. However, there is usually a place near the parlor that takes prizes won by players and exchanges them for real money. You can think about it as winning a microwave and then selling it to a pawn shop for half of its estimated retail value.
Travelers are welcome to visit and play pachinko in the parlors. However, they are not family friendly as children are typically barred from entering. If you would like to learn more about pachinko, read through Japan Visitor's guide.
While you may see many tourists dressed up in traditional Japanese attire roaming the streets of Kyoto, spotting a real geisha is much harder. Modern day geisha (known as maiko and geiko) can be seen performing at private events, parties, ryokans, and other venues. Hiring a geisha for a private performance can cost a considerable amount of money (starting around $1,000 or 110,000 Yen and higher). However, there are a few ways to see a geisha and even a performance without hurting the wallet.
Kyoto Dining with Maiko (about $200 or 19,000 Yen per person)
One opportunity to see modern geisha perform is by attending a special dinner. Gion Hatanaka offers dinner and drinks with service and performance by maiko. This is a great opportunity for a more personable experience.
Miyako Odori - Each Day of April in Kyoto
The Miyako Odori is a performance put on by many local geisha at The Kyoto Art Theater "Shunjuza." This is a great opportunity to see a large traditional performance for not a lot of money. They offer the same 50 minute show three times each day. Tickets are 3,500 Yen (about $31) or 4,500 Yen (about $40) with a tea ceremony before the show. Get tickets well in advance as these shows will generally sell out.
Kamogawa Odori - May 1 - 24th in Kyoto
The Kamogawa Odori is another large geisha performance held at the Pontochō Kaburenjō Theater in Kyoto. They also offer three showings a day. Ticket prices vary between 2,300 and 4,800 Yen (about $20 to $48). Their website is only in Japanese, but there are plenty of tour group companies that can book tickets for you.
Gion Odori - November 1 - 10th in Kyoto
The Gion Odori is a fall geisha performance held at Gion Kaikan. Tickets are around the same pricing as the other large spring geisha shows. You can buy tickets at the venue before or on the day of the show. Some tour group companies can also reserve tickets for you instead.
Walking along Hanamikoji Dori
The other way to spot geisha in Kyoto is to walk along Hanamikoji Dori south of Shijo Dori. This part of Gion is a main traffic area. You may be able to see a geisha walking between appointments in the evening. It is also a great area to see traditional style houses. Many of them have been converted to fine dining establishments.