Meet the Entrepreneur Behind New York’s First Japanese ‘Maid Cafe’

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A couple months ago, the first Japanese Maid Cafe opened in New York’s Chinatown. These cafes are known in Japan to have girls dressed in maid outfits and greet all customers that enter with “Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!”, meaning “welcome home, master!” in a baby-like voice.

According to Metro:

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.

To get an idea of how service works in Maid Cafes, check out the video below:

The owner of the cafe is a Japanese businessman named Satoshi Yoshimura. We recently had the chance to catch up with him via email. In this interview, Yoshimura talks about why Maid Cafe’s are such a hit in Japan, addresses accusations that his business is demeaning to women, and what he wants customers to take away after visiting his cafe.

Tell us a little bit about your background and how you came up with the idea of wanting to start a Japanese Maid Cafe in NYC.

Our company has been promoting J-pop culture for almost 5 years now by managing singers, dancers and artists, and we have seen the recent growth of Japanese Animation fans as well as people who are interested in the Kawaii (cute) culture from Japan. We opened Maid Cafe NY hoping not only to serve casual Japanese food and sweets, but to also offer the entertainment and pop setting that comes with it. We are planning to have a lot of events to make our venue become a mecca of Kawaii culture in NYC.

Did you get any negative feedback from friends or family when you told them that you wanted to start such a cafe?

Not at all, I have been in the industry for long enough that there has been a lot of demand and voices saying that if we open the first maid cafe in NY, it would be successful. But the question was, who is going to really do it? People help gave us ideas to start the maid cafe, but have not really taken the initiative to actually make one especially when there was the fact that no one has done it before. Believe me, it took and is still taking a lot of guts for me to carry out something new. Now, back to your question. I have never received any negative feedback from family or friends, rather they were kind of curious about it and now they are starting to believe it can happen.

How has the feedback been for customers coming to your cafe for the first time?

“Oh, so cute!”
That’s what we always hear when our guests enter our cafe.
We are very happy to find that the cute pop setting of our cafe has been attracting female customers much more than we anticipated. Thank you so much!

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Why do you think cafes like these are so successful in Japanese Culture?

In my opinion, demand for a place with hospitality in a busy society is huge. People need a place to relax and be treated nicely, also a bit of fantasy makes it easier for us to escape from our daily lives. Maid Cafe offers both hospitality and fantasy.

In addition, I think it has a lot to do with internet evolution. People’s everyday lives revolve around the use of technology which has limited social interactions. Since 1990′s, more people have been staying home playing games and surfing the internet, and in 2001, maid cafes started attracting those heavy internet users, also known as ‘otaku’, in Japan. Maid cafes began to be the talk over the internet due to the popularity among Japanese people and the popularity began to be noticed by international tourists and became a form of attraction. Now there are maid cafes around the world including China, Taiwan, Thai, Australia and France. How did maid cafes start attracting tourists in the first place? Again, the internet has a lot do with it. I was surprised to see how many people in the U.S. knew about maid cafes, and now I see people coming not only from different cities in the U.S., but also from Canada, Europe and South America.

Maids in your genre of cafes are known to greet their customers with “Okaerinasaimase, goshujinsama!” meaning “welcome home, my master!”, in an interview with New York Daily News, you said that Americans take that as a sexual thing, but Japanese don’t see it like that. Can you elaborate in regards to how Japanese people see that phrase?

When some people hear the term maid, many people seem to get the wrong impression of our place. Maid Cafe is a genuine cafe with service, and we hold entertainment events where the maids and customers can interact and enjoy their stay here. Maid Cafe is a fantasy themed world cafe where maids will welcome the customers that walk in by saying, “Okaerinasaimase goshujinsama!” (Welcome home my master!) or “Okaerinasaimase ojousama!” (Welcome home my princess!) Japanese people see the Maid Cafe as a fun place where they can take their mind off of things and enjoy being served by maids. It’s somewhat similar to Disneyland amusement attractions, Disney characters would interact and keep their customers happy which is what we are doing but instead of Disney characters we have maids.

What do you look for when you hire girls to work for your cafe?

I look for responsibility, attentiveness and a positive attitude- also cooking experience is a plus.

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What do you say to people who believe that your cafe objectifies and is demeaning to women?

The maids here are very social and easy to talk with when ordering and enjoying their food. Please do not believe what the media says because it can be very misleading. Please feel free to come to the cafe and see how it is for yourself.

Aside from providing great food and services, what is something you’d like for people to take away after visiting your cafe?

We would like the customers to put their daily life aside for a while and enjoy a different world with delicious food and comforting sweets. Then, after they are done with their time here, I hope they feel relieved and can get right back onto their usual routine.

Lastly, what is the number one dish that all new customers should try when they come to your cafe?

Our recommended number one dish is our Japanese curry. It is one of the mildest curries in the world and be sure to order the chicken cutlet as topping. It goes very well together! You probably know, but Japanese people don’t eat sushi everyday.  Curry is actually one of the most popular dishes in Japan, probably more than sushi, and it is loved by all the generations. It is Maid Cafe NY’s mission to introduce Japanese pop culture and curry is definitely a part of it.

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Check out Maid Cafe NY:

Website: Maid Cafe NY

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaidCafeNY

Twitter: @MaidCafeNY

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