Today I visited the maid cafe Schatzkiste. Their main claim to fame is the annual horror events that they do on Halloween, which is reported over at bigger venues like Kotaku and, well, any site that writes about maid cafes on any semi-regular basis. What’s actually interesting about Schatzkiste is how it’s one of the more unusual maid cafes in Japan, given how it’s not about calling out at their masters “welcome home” and it’s more about the basic and more “classic” fares involving maids just working in a cafe.
In some ways, it’s really just a counter-cultural maid cafe, I think. The fact that some of their furniture was hand-made or that they bake their own sweets are just the little things which makes it an attraction in a market that is full of other entries offering the usual cafe or izakaya fare, or the stereotypical moe omelette thing. But, really? Maid-made furniture sounds kind of boring. Respectable, but “doujin furniture” inspires as much confidence as what that phrase sounds. It’s not exactly what I am looking for in a maid cafe, anyway.
What they do add is the intangible aspects. There’s this hyper-artificiality about maid cafes as presented by the gallery of leafletting maid army that lines Akihabara’s nerd shopping district, or the massive Maidreamin banners that hang on top of building corners. And if you ask me, walking down Chuo-dori from the south, it’s the immortal Dejiko that makes me feel at home, not the images of hair-shaving army of idols and maids, as “pure” as they may also be.
But Dejiko can’t serve me tea, where as the lovely maids of Schatzkiste can sure pure a pretty good one. For 500 yen per 30 minutes, you can get as much tea as you can drink, and you can help yourself to one of their books, magazines, board games, or purchase some additional refreshment like a soup of the day. There are also events that go on periodically, which I presume are posted on their website.
It seems that the owner of the establishment produces a doujinshi of some sort for the cafe periodically and in it, explains what the story is all about. It feels kind of the same way when you sit down at the cafe, going through their menu and “concept” about how the maids at Schatzkiste were originally working for a master of unknown origin and is far away from home. In the “house” that they were in (which is Schatzkiste’s old location), they turned the “attic” into a cafe.
That is all well and good and serves little practical purpose, but it’s pretty thick in a vanity purpose sort of way. In a weird post-modern kind of way, it’s exactly that in which adds warmth, and value, to the maid cafe fantasy. Well, what isn’t vain was the scones; I had some and it tasted pretty good. It feels exactly as home made food should.
It’s the kind of maid cafe that you bring people who want a cafe experience, not a maid experience, so to speak. I think there’s a lot to be said about people who enjoy going to this sort of a place, and I also think Schatzkiste is not really what most tourists want out of a maid cafe. In a way, what makes Schatzkiste interesting is exactly how it isn’t rooted in the shallow kind of vanity that outsiders see Akihabara as, but the pure emotions that makes people spend countless waking hours and even more money on AKB48 events or the motivation behind the existence of such a thing, like Schatzkiste.
PS. I dig Schatzkiste’s boardgame angle. Check out their live streams.