The Japanese Anime Asylum and Japan Club co-hosted their second annual “Maid Café” in the Multipurpose Room on Nov. 15 to showcase the cosplay restaurant culture in Japan. While being served authentic Japanese cuisine, every diner had its personal maids and butlers.
The maid and butler cafes, where servers dress up elegantly, provide an interactive and unique dining experience for the customers. The themes originate from anime subculture, which is very popular in Japan. In these restaurants, the servers treat the customers as their masters and mistresses — as if they were in a private home — rather than as mere cafe customers.
The popularity of the cosplay restaurant culture has spread to other countries such as Canada, Mexico, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and the Philippines.
This year’s “Maid Café” served Japanese snacks and desserts, including chicken onigiri, yakisoba, ebi and yakitori to share the authentic taste of Japanese cuisine with Baruch College students.
To give attendees the opportunity to socialize with the maids and butlers, there were also games and prizes. For example, audience members were given a crossword puzzle while their server brought out the food and they had an option to complete all the food stations to win a photo-op with their favorite server.
Members from both JAA and Japan Club dressed up as maids and butlers and some even wore wigs, which gave them more confidence. President of Japan Club Jessica Ruiz explained that the idea of all the ladies dressing up as maids could be considered monotonous but the members did enjoy dressing up and wanted to try something different.
“Everyone got creative with the way which they can cosplay so I wore a wig; a lot of other people also wore wigs so they wore their hair in a way they couldn’t dare to do usually but they felt confident enough in their outfits as maids to try something different and be able to cosplay at Baruch in a professional and still accepting setting,” Ruiz said. “We were very happy with the turnout and we were super excited.”
Ruiz emphasized that the purpose of the maid cafe was to bring cosplay into a more normal setting where it could be publicly accepted in the Western culture.
“Anime is definitely a subculture, not only in Japan but also in the Western culture here in the United States,” said Christopher Nova, alumnus and former president of JAA.
“So maid cafes have been reflected in the Japanese animation so that idea of being at a crossroad of actual Japanese culture and anime subculture, was just on point and kind of creating that experience for them.”
Ruiz said New York City holds a lot of anime conventions but a lot of people are not familiar with the subculture. That’s why the two clubs wanted to create an atmosphere where everyone could experience this interactive dining, just like in Japan.
“They don’t really get this kind of experience, especially at Baruch because it is very business-focused and we want to bring the Japanese culture of the ‘Maid Café’ to Baruch because people don’t get to experience that and events at Multipurpose Room are never this one-on-one,” Ruiz said.
“This is my first time coming to the ‘Maid Café’ and it was a very enjoyable experience,” said senior Cassandra Castelant. “You end up having a personal connection to the person serving you the food versus more informal casual relationship.”
“Honestly, I am just proud of them, just like sensei would be proud of his pupils,” Nova said. “Here in New York I don’t really see any maid cafes at all so it’s kind of nice to get a taste of that.”