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An iconic cafe and show venue that symbolizes Japan’s kawaii pop culture, and is beloved by tourists and celebrities, has shut its doors in Tokyo after business dried up as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A funky aesthetic of outlandish colors and designs made Kawaii Monster Cafe in the youth culture hotspot of Harajuku a hit, drawing overseas A-listers, such as reality star Kim Kardashian, singer Dua Lipa and Jenny of K-pop group Blackpink.

But its five-year run ended on Sunday, in part after overseas clientele disappeared because of border curbs against the pandemic.

“I’m glad that I could come on the final day. I’m really moved,” said Misuzu Kida, 24.

Kida was among the fans who flocked for a last chance to see their favorite cosplay-inspired “Monster Girls” staff and soak up the atmosphere in quirkily themed areas such as the Mushroom Disco and Mel-Tea Room.

Kawaii Monster Cafe was popular for its army of brightly outfitted staff members, known as
Kawaii Monster Cafe was popular for its army of brightly outfitted staff members, known as “Monster Girls.” | REUTERS

The cafe had hoped to capitalize on strong demand during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but with the outlook still uncertain after the virus forced a year’s delay in the games, a decision was made to let the lease expire and shut down.

“I feel it is very hard to keep the business going, without knowing how long the current situation will last,” cafe manager Keisuke Yamada said. “It is difficult for overseas customers to come to Japan, and it is also difficult for customers in Japan to go out.”

The cafe had kept shorter hours, shutting by 7 p.m., since a temporary closure last spring for about 2½ months after Japan declared a state of emergency over the virus.

While Sebastian Masuda, the artist who designed the sprawling cafe, said he was sad to see it close, he remained upbeat on the future of the trend-setting district.

“In Harajuku, regardless of age and era, the younger generations will always create new cultures. So I believe that the young generation will make something interesting again.”

Crazy Sa-ya, a member of staff at Kawaii Monster Cafe, stuck to modern social norms and kept a face mask on as the cafe opened for the final time. | REUTERS
Crazy Sa-ya, a member of staff at Kawaii Monster Cafe, stuck to modern social norms and kept a face mask on as the cafe opened for the final time. | REUTERS

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