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Inside Tokyo’s weird and wonderful themed cafes

written by James Getgood April 10, 2017

All around the world, Japan’s chaotic capital is famous for its unique sights that simply can’t be found anywhere else. From veggie vending machines to capsule hotels, a visit to Tokyo is like no other place on Earth. And one particular way it excels is in its impressive range of themed cafes and restaurants. With hundreds of establishments around the city, the sheer choice can be overwhelming. We’ve explored the length and breadth of Tokyo to find the very best themed cafes that this bustling metropolis has to offer. You can find our top 5 selection below.

Maid and Butler Cafes

The oldest type of themed cafe, maid cafes are especially popular in the gaming and anime mecca of Akihabara. Here, girls in French maid outfits mingle with tourists, gamers and teenage otaku in anime cosplay. Upon entering the café, you will be asked to pick your waitress from a bulletin board full of Polaroid photos before being taken to your table. Common drinks include coffee, tea and milkshakes adorned with cute decorations such as smiley faces and animals.

Most maid cafes serve a variety of different dishes, such as pancakes, ice cream and omurice (a peculiar western-inspired dish of omelette and tomato ketchup). There are several maid cafes in Akihabara, but the oldest and most well-known is Cure Maid Café. Maidreamin, @home and Pinafore are also worth a visit.

More recently, several butler cafes have opened, allowing women to indulge their own fantasies. Most butler cafes, such as Swallowtail, feature charming Japanese men in snappy suits. Shibuya’s Butler’s Café, however, is unique in having an all-Western staff. Tokyo truly has something for everyone.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BSPiGEvBIPb/?tagged=maidreamin

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N3331

This small café is just a short walk from the bright lights of Akihabara, but culturally, it is in another world entirely. Built on the former sight of Tokyo’s Manseibashi Station, N3331 is a narrow café squeezed between two working train lines. It’s a far more family-friendly experience than a maid café with the clientele mostly consisting of train geeks and young children.

N3331 serves a variety of common dishes, including Japanese curry, sandwiches and cheesecake; the café is also known for its top of the range sake. But nothing beats the simple pleasure of watching the trains of the Chuo Line whoosh past while you enjoy your lunch.

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Cuddle Cafés

In many big cities, an offer to sleep with an attractive stranger for less than 30 dollars would have customers on red alert. But in Japan’s “cuddle cafes”, sexual activity is totally off limits. Instead, customers can spend time snuggling up to a female in their own private booth. Starting at 3000 yen ($27) for a 20-minute cuddle, customers can also choose a variety of other add-ons, such patting the girl’s head for three minutes (!), a foot massage or one minute of gazing into each other’s eyes for as little as $13. There are several cuddle cafes in Tokyo, many of which are located in the Akihabara area e.g. Soineya.

Kawaii Monster Café

In business since 2015, the Kawaii Monster Café offers a monstrous experience of a different kind. Designed by modern artist Sebastian Masuda, guests enter the gaudy, brightly-lit establishment through the mouth of a kawaii (cute) monster. Once inside, one of five monster girls take the customers to their table, where they explain some of the items on the wacky menu. Some of the top dishes include seven-color pasta (which resembles a tangled mess of rubber bands), chicken in chocolate sauce, and the cutesy but ominously named splatter poison cake.

After dinner, guests can check out the other parts of the cafe. These include Mushroom Disco, which features giant fungi that towers above guests, Milk Stand, where twisted figures of animals drink from milk bottles and Bar Experiment, where drinkers are surrounded by glowing florescent jellyfish. As of March 2017, the café also offers an adult burlesque night on Thursdays, which run from 6pm to midnight.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BR7FcvOArw4/?taken-by=kawaiimonstercafe

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Vampire Café

Located in the upscale neighborhood of Ginza, the Vampire Café is the establishment of choice for fans of the macabre. With deep red curtains, coffin shaped menus and blood smeared mirrors, the café serves up a variety of Gothic-themed dishes with eerie authenticity. Patrons are even waited on by their very own ‘vampire’, complete with Transylvanian accent.  One of the waiters, Vampire Rose, even fronts his own metal band.

The café has an impressive variety of food and drink available, including salmon mousse served on pastry crucifixes and devil-cut chicken fillet. Possibly thanks to the fact they don’t contain any (real) blood, the cocktails are also delicious. The Bloody Rose, a scarlet cocktail decorated with rosebuds, is a particular favorite. Unlike most cafes (and in keeping with its spooky character), the Vampire Café is only open in the evenings.

Ready to go explore Tokyo’s insanity for yourself? Check out this mind-blowing 14-day trip around Japan.

Hero image c/o Kawaii Monster Cafe Facebook page.

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