“Okaerinasaimase goshujin-sama!” (“Welcome home, my lords!”)
One evening last week, Chilean college student Margarita Jimenez joyfully greeted her first “lords” — a group of American tourists — at a maid cafe in Akihabara, Tokyo’s mecca of otaku culture.
After taking their orders, Jimenez, wearing a frilly dress and meticulously coiffed hair, carried a tray of drinks to the guests with a careful gait.
She made a heart shape with her hands and, much to the amazement of her customers, uttered a spell that supposedly infused the beverages with her love.
“Moe moe kyun,” the 21-year-old Jimenez said, a phrase typically used to express one’s fascination with adorable things.
Jimenez’s one-day experience as a rookie maid waitress in Akihabara, organized by Tokyo-based tour operator Akibaland Tours, was one of the prizes she received for winning an audition during the annual Anime Expo in Santiago in July.
Jimenez beat 40 other contestants to win a trip to Japan, where, in addition to working at the cafe, she visited numerous Tokyo sightseeing spots.
Jimenez said her interest in maid cafes was ignited by a scene in a TV anime she watched a long time ago, and she began to fantasize about working in one.
“A maid cafe is a place where you can feel relaxed and forget about your problems,” said Jimenez, who went by the nickname “Mayu” during her apprenticeship at the @home cafe.
“If you’re hungry, you can go to a restaurant, but it won’t be the same as going to a maid cafe. . . . The interaction you have with your maids is what people really look forward to and what makes a maid cafe unique.”
Having studied up on maid cafes before visiting Japan, Jimenez said she thought she already knew everything about them. She was wrong.
“Everything has its order and own rules. These little steps and details — I really love them, and it was a new discovery,” she said.
For example, whenever a new customer comes in, a maid rings a bell to inform her colleagues of the person’s arrival, so they can welcome the guest with a sprightly chorus of “Welcome home, my lord,” or in the case of a female customer, ojo-sama, “my lady.”
Under no circumstances are they allowed to use vulgar language, according to Hitomi, president of Infinia Co., which operates several @home cafes in Akihabara. Hitomi goes only by her first name.
The maids are also under a “spell” that makes them all 17 years old forever, and no matter how admirable their “lords” may be, the employees are not allowed to get into a relationship with them.
Despite the long list of rules, Jimenez said she loved the experience.
“(When I’m back in Chile,) I want to tell (my friends) everything. To come here was like a dream come true,” she said.