After a a very fishy morning, we meet up with our new friends Kenta and Ayaka for a night out in Tokyo. We met Kenta one night on a beach in South Korea, and he graciously invited us out while we were in town.
We meet in Akihabara, known as Tokyo’s “Electric Town” for its many arcades, camera stores, computer parts, robotics, and anime. Electronic retailing began in Akihabara just after World War II when a large demand for radios spurred the growth of a black market.
Aside from the ubiquitous arcades and electronics, the area is also known for its “maid cafés”. These establishments are home to Japanese women dressed up as maids who provide conversation, play games, and serve food and drinks. There are over two hundred maid cafés in Japan, employing not only the traditional french maids, but chubby maids, some dressed as nuns, cross-dressing maids, and those who will offer more “personalized” services – use your imagination here. Upon entering a café they’ll cheerfully call out “Okaerinasai goshujin sama!” – “Welcome home, master!”.
Given how many maids work in Akihabara, they are extremely elusive. They don’t like to have their photos taken unless you’re a client, so it’s next to impossible to photograph them on the street.
Kenta knows of a good café so we go in and play some games with a new maid friend. Before long Ayaka and I are encouraged to try on our own maid outfits. We’re shuffled back into a small room with various costumes, none of which seem to be large enough for my western body. I squeeze on a little pink number but the poor girl who’s helping me get dressed can’t zip it up past my ribcage.
I must be turning red because they start reassuring me: “Good body“, they say. “Nice body.” I finally find a costume that fits but it’s more reminiscent of The Wizard of Oz than sexy French maid. Ayaka pulls this off so much better than I do. This is embarrassing.
To make myself feel better I make the guys dress up too.
After our maid time expires we wander around some of the many arcades and computer stores. We also find a huge, multistory sex shop that’s chock-full of fun things.
There’s an extensive clothing selection, and they’ll give you a discount if you agree to try on your new knickers and pose for the camera. Photos of scantily clad penny-wise ladies can be found throughout the shop, illustrating that this tactic really does work.
Next we meet up with some more friends to watch the fireworks. During the summer there are fireworks around Tokyo every single weekend, but this show is supposed to the biggest and best of the whole year. Unfortunately it rains and the show is canceled after only a few minutes. Undeterred, we find a nearby izakaya and sample Japanese shochu (rice liquor) and tapas.
To end our very long, hilarious day, we venture into a karaoke establishment. Unlike karaoke (pronounced kah-rah-oh-kay) in the states, Japanese bokkusu provide small rooms for your party instead of making you sing on a stage in front of the whole bar. To say their music selection is impressive would be an understatement.
They have every song we can think of! Kenta gets us started with “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin soundtrack, and from there we sing Maroon 5, John Denver, Garth Brooks, Bon Jovi, and even Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen. None of us will be trying out for Idol any time soon. Our final song, of course, is Don’t Stop Believing by Journey. Because there is no better way to end a drunken karaoke session.Many thanks to Ayaka and Kenta for showing us around Tokyo. We look forward to returning the kindness in the States someday!