This has nothing to do with Senmomo or translation, but I’m writing this post anyway on request. No pictures, since you’re not allowed to take any inside concept cafes, save for the shitty Polaroids you can pay an arm and a leg for.
Well, now what? I thought to myself as I wandered the streets of Yokohama. The date was October 25th; I’d just checked into my hotel in Sakuragi-cho a couple hours ago before immediately deciding to hit the town. But what was I to do, all on my lonesome? There were some card shops and manga stores nearby, but I’d already hit them earlier (did you know some artists draw 18+ doujins of their own stuff?).
I could try picking up chicks, I guess. “Excuse me-” I began to say to a passing pair of girls who I estimated were about my age.
They turned around and ran away at full speed.
About ready to shrug off this mortal coil, I started to pass over a small passenger bridge when I spotted a girl in a flashy uniform holding a sign that said, “One Hour 1000 Yen.”
I stopped. “An hour of what?” I asked.
She seemed surprised at first to hear a white guy speaking fluent Japanese, but she quickly gathered herself and said, “It’s a concept cafe. We’re doing a special discount for the anniversary of our opening.”
“A concept cafe?” I parroted like the airheaded protagonist of some anime.
“Yeah, it’s like… There’s like a theme we all dress up as, and you can sit there and talk to us as long as you want. And you can pay to play games, and take pictures, and buy us drinks. Our theme is ‘the future.'”
“So it’s like a maid cafe but not maids?”
“Kind of, but the charge system is a little different. What do you think?”
“I think I’ll have to think about it,” I admitted.
“It’s okay, take your time!”
So I walked away and contemplated. I’d be wasting a lot of my evening if I went. But what else was I going to do with it, anyway? I’d be throwing away my chance to forge a real friendship, but I could at least have some stimulating conversation while I was there.
I made my way back to the girl on the bridge. “I have returned,” I announced.
“Oh!” She must have thought she’d lost me. “So does that mean…?”
“Yeah, I’m interested. Where’s your place?”
“I’ll take you there!” This is something I didn’t discover until later, but apparently with concept cafes, if a girl advertising on the street gets you to come in, she goes in with you and is the first person to come chat with you.
She led me to a building I’d passed a few times already. The name of the cafe she belonged to was Navy2, on the fourth floor. According to the signage, there were some cabaret clubs in this building, too.
When the elevator let me off at the fourth floor, the girl I’d been talking to led me to a seat at the bar. After explaining the charge system to me – apparently it was now 1000 yen for all-you-can-drink for forty minutes, since it was a little later in the evening, though I’d known that from the sign she’d been holding outside – she introduced herself as Mirumo.
“I’m Kazoo,” I said in response, though of course using my real name.
“Kazoo-chan,” she repeated, writing my name on the bill.
“For some reason, everybody calls me that,” I remarked. “I wonder why?”
“I dunno,” she mused. “You just kind of look it. And your name’s cute.”
“Yeah. At least, I think so.”
From there, we just shot the shit – me sitting at the counter, her standing behind it – about pretty basic stuff. How I was in Yokohama for a conference starting tomorrow, how I was having trouble making friends in Japan, how I like translation, how I’m apparently God’s gift to Japanese-speaking, entry-level stuff. Fifteen minutes in, she said her time was up, and I’d either have to wait for someone else to come talk to me or buy something to keep her here longer.
Since I was here for the experience, I decided to enjoy what concept cafes had. I added to my bill a few rounds of Smash. She was Dorf, and I was Roy (they didn’t have the DLC characters or Chrom), and we each took one win off each other. If we weren’t using single Joycons, I might’ve been able to do a little better.
I ended up enjoying my experience there so much that I stayed for another forty minutes, continuing to talk to Mirumo by getting a Polaroid with her and sharing a drink (non-alcoholic and unbelievably sweet). My bill when I left was around ten thousand yen. Jesus!
The next day was the first day of my conference, and it was unbelievably boring. It was for people in my position who actually do that position’s job, but my prefecture treats us all like glorified ALTs, so basically nothing applied. Even the lectures on translation were frustratingly basic compared to the excellent textbooks I’ve read. The instant they let us go at five, I raced to Sakuragi-cho Station to head back to Yokohama. This time for sure, I’d enjoy that big city life!
To hopefully nobody’s surprise, I ended up in Navy2 again. I didn’t talk to Mirumo this time, but she was there with other patrons, and we said hi as we walked past each other.
Day two of the conference was equally boring. A guy I work with a lot, who’s placed in a nearby village, went up to the mic once and asked, “So what do you do if your village tells you not to make foreigners want to go there?” I felt his pain.
For the third evening in a row, I drowned my sorrows in Navy2. I should mention by now I’d gotten the hang of keeping your spending reasonable at a concept cafe. Even if you don’t pay to keep talking to the same person, another one will come by soon enough. You only need to buy a Polaroid or a game or a drink to share if you really want to keep chatting with the same person. On this third day, I was able to keep my spending down to just a couple thousand yen.
Day three of the conference, the final one, was a half-day; I’d checked out of my hotel in the morning and left my luggage with the conference’s staff, and once we were let out around noon, I picked it up and headed to the station. My destination? Akihabara Station; I had a reservation at Hotel Mets Akihabara, which is right next to it.
I don’t know if every Mets is like this, but this one at least was very nice. The room was spacious and pretty, and everything was designed beautifully. I thought back to the Shibuya hotel I’d once stayed in for the same price. By comparison, that room was a lot smaller, and the hotel was a lot farther from the fun stuff.
That evening, I wandered the streets of Akihabara I was now so familiar with. I double-checked the app for my favorite maid cafe, @home. A maid I was particularly close to was scheduled to go on shift that night, though it was a little unclear exactly when. In the meantime, I got some shopping taken care of, such as TCG singles, doujinshi, and merch from the Yuzusoft store.
Eventually, around seven, the maid in question showed up on shift. Great, I thought. Let’s go!
But just then, a girl in an outfit reminiscent of Little Red Riding Hood called out to me. “How about a concept cafe?”
I stopped. I didn’t usually wander Akiba after dark, but come to think of it, this was around when the concept cafe employees came out of the woodwork.
“I dunno,” I said. “There’s a maid at @home I was hoping to see.”
“When’d she go on shift?” asked the girl. She was in a skirt, without even so much as tights. She had to be freezing.
“Just a second ago, I think.”
“Oh, I know their shifts. She’ll be there all night. You’ve got plenty of time! How about it?”
“Well… Alright, I guess,” I conceded. “I did have a lot of fun at a concept cafe in Yokohama.”
“Awesome, let’s go!” And so she led me to Queen’s Court, a concept cafe tucked away in an alley near Lashinbang.
It’d been dark outside, but once we got inside, I noticed something: this girl – Miruku, I came to find out – was plastered. “God, I’m so drunk,” she laughed. “I can’t believe how well I was holding myself together out there.”
I laughed and sipped my Coke. This place advertised itself as “the cafe where you can talk to girls the longest.” At nine hundred yen an hour, I supposed they were right. And the staff certainly seemed to enjoy their job; one of Miruku’s friends frequently joined in on our conversation.
But one big difference between concept cafes and maid cafes is that the employees have a lot more freedom to cut loose. With me being a foreigner and Miruku being drunk off her ass, she inevitably wanted to test her amazing English skills on me.
“<You… are… MAN!>” she boomed.
Trying not to laugh too openly, I replied, “Yes! That’s correct! I am a man!”
“<I… am… GIRL!>” she continued.
Again, holding back the laughter, I said, “Yeah, I can see that.”
“No you can’t!” she blurted. “For all you know, I’ve got me a schlong under here!” She gestured to her skirt.
This time the dam burst, and we all had a good laugh.
Eventually, she said, “Hey, I’m thirsty. Can I get a drink?”
“Hmm, I dunno,” I waffled. “That’s a thousand yen, right? That’s kinda expensive.”
“Look, the puppy-dog eyes aren’t gonna get you any-“
“(stares in Japanese)”
“(stares harder in Japanese)”
“Alright, fine! But only one.”
Since all I’d paid for was the entry fee and Miruku’s drink, I left with my bill coming out to a rather reasonable 1900 yen.
After I left, I went to @home cafe; specifically, the fifth floor of their main building. That’s where I’m a regular (this would be my 71st point), and that’s where the maid I’m close to, Tsuno, works.
She was quite surprised to see me. “Kazoo-chan-goshujin-sama! I thought you weren’t coming back to Tokyo until December!” We’d last spoken in August.
“Yeah, I got lucky. I had a conference in Yokohama, and I’m staying here in Akiba over the weekend before I head back down.”
“Wow, that’s really cool,” she replied. “Is it just a coincidence you came here on my shift, or…?”
“I actually checked your Twitter,” I admitted. “I know that’s kinda creepy, but I wanted to poke my head in while I was up here, and-“
“No, that’s not creepy at all!” she exclaimed. “I’m glad I got to see you!”
To save on costs, I usually just get a drink at this place (with a gold card, that comes out to less than a thousand yen), but this time, I got a Polaroid with Tsuno as well. Maid cafes are more for eating and drinking than talking, and they’re really busy, so you don’t get to keep a maid at your table unless she’s got a lot of time on her hands. They do all the moe moe kyun stuff, of course, and you can get Polaroids with them, but you go to these places for the overall atmosphere. I like @home quite a bit. I’ve actually been wanting to buy the BGM they play in order to remind me of the place while I’m stuck in Buttfuck Nowhere, but the CD is long since sold out, and there’s no download version to my knowledge.
After I left @home, it was getting pretty late, but I stopped in a new concept cafe: Bunny’s Guild. At a relatively steep nine hundred yen per half-hour, you could sit there, sip your drink, and talk to girls in sexy bunnygirl outfits.
Except this weekend, they had their Halloween event, so they were all in other forms of sexy cosplay. The first one I talked to was a race queen, for instance, and there was a nun, a shrine maiden, and plenty of other stuff along those lines.
Something I quickly learned about Bunny’s Guild was that none of the employees or customers gave two fucks. The girls were constantly feeling each other up, talking about how their nipples were chafing, and bantering with the easygoing guy employee (“Senpai”), whose role there hardly needs explaining.
Apparently one thing that sets Bunny’s Guild apart from other places is that you can pay to play card games like Blackjack with the employees, but I didn’t see anyone doing that. The customers there (and there were a lot) were just enjoying talking. And so was I; it was refreshing that the girls were keeping it real.
The next day, Saturday, I mostly went around card shops looking for singles I needed (and people to play against, though I came up empty on that front), but I also got a few more points at @home. In the early evening, I visited Bunny’s Guild again shortly after they opened. Unsurprisingly, it was pretty dead, so I was able to kick back and relax.
But I also had time to reflect. All week, I’d been running away to concept cafes due to my woeful inability to initiate a conversation myself. Once a conversation gets going? I’m fine. But getting one started in the first place is where I struggle. I never managed to do it in my home prefecture, and I hadn’t managed to do it here in Tokyo yet.
“I figure I’ll go to Kabuki-cho and see what happens,” I told the girl I was talking to.
“Yeah, go for it!”
So I did. Long story short? I got approached by some gaijin-hunting ossan and some foreign guy trying to shake my hand. I noped out of both situations. And I didn’t have the balls to go to a soapland or anything, so I ran away with my tail between my legs back to Bunny’s Guild.
It was a bit past eight now. “I’m back,” I said as I walked in the door.
“Oh hey,” one of the employees said. “Weren’t you just here a few hours ago?”
“Yeah,” I said. “I went to Kabuki-cho, but I was too much of a coward to do anything.”
She laughed at me and said, “So you came back here, huh?”
“Yup. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, isn’t Bunny’s Guild doing a special event tonight?'”
That’s right. I’d taken note of this on the blackboard the first two times I’d come, but since tonight was someone’s birthday, everyone was dressed up in kinky bondage outfits, and they had a special menu.
I gave it a look. What caught my eye was that in addition to the regular Polaroid (which is already a whopping 1500 yen), they had a “sexy” Polaroid with “punishment” for 2000. Well, this was a one-time event that might never happen again. I had to see what this was about, right?
I flagged someone down and said, “So I’d like to get this 2000-yen Polaroid…”
She cracked up. “Going ham, huh? Who you want it with?”
“Well, I don’t know her name yet, but-” I pointed to a particularly cute girl I’d talked to briefly before.
“Hey, Ren-chan! This guy wants the sexy Polaroid with you!”
“What?” Ren looked like, as the Japanese say, a pigeon who just met the business end of a peashooter. “Oh shit! I don’t know what to do!” She apparently wasn’t opposed to taking the photo in the first place; she just hadn’t assumed she’d be picked for it.
We stood in the corner where they take their Polaroids. “Uh, what should we do?” Ren asked me.
“I dunno,” I replied.
“Okay, uh, how about we play up that SM shit,” she began. “Here, you squat down – lower – okay, that’s good – and I’ll just do this…” She rested her knee on my shoulder and brandished a flogger in her hands. “There we go!”
When she came by my seat later to draw on the picture, as is customary at maid cafes and concept cafes, she was in high spirits. Apparently she’d had fun doing that, since hardly anybody was ordering the sexy Polaroid. I guess everyone was too chicken?
I also got a regular Polaroid with the first girl I’d talked to at Bunny’s Guild the previous day, but by the time it came back, it was getting pretty late, so with a slightly heftier bill than usual, I retreated to my hotel room.
The next day, Sunday, would be my last full day in Tokyo; Monday morning, I needed to catch a plane back to Buttfuck. This time, I had some decent card games. I got to strike the fear of Woody/Buzz into the heart of this one guy. (“And it just says, ‘put them into your clock,'” his friend was telling him, “so it’s not damage. So there’s nothing you can do about it.”) There was one funny moment where every game going on at the table, including my own, had someone using the eight-bounce Date A Live deck at the same time. One time, it was my Nino deck against another guy’s Nino deck. I was using the new combo (to test it; I’d never used it before), and he was using the old one. “Ah, see, I knew he’d be using the 1/1,” he told his friend. “Traitors must be purged.” I still need some more practice with it, but I think I’m seeing the limitations of the 1/1 compared to the older combo.
But you’re not here to listen to me ramble about degenerate anime trading card games. That day, I visited a couple more concept cafes. One of them was small and military-themed. Another, Chick Panic, was another bunnygirl one, though a smidge more wholesome than Bunny’s Guild. They also have a jailbird-themed branch, but that day, they were both operating in the same location.
“I get that the sexiness is kinda the point of the bunnygirl outfits, but I still never know where to look,” I confessed to one of Chick Panic’s employees. They were in their standard uniforms.
“Nah, I get it,” she laughed. “It’s cool, you can stare if you want. We don’t mind.” At least they’re good sports. Though I suppose they’d have to be, or they wouldn’t be working the job for very long.
I rounded out my stay in Akiba with one last trip to Queen’s Court, where they were now evidently having their Halloween event. The girl I talked to there was dressed up as an inmate.
“People always go crazy for the cop costumes,” she said, “but you know what? I think prisoners are just as cute.”
I nodded in agreement. Policewoman outfits certainly stimulate that masochism we all hold deep in our hearts, but there’s something to be said for the sadism the prisoner get-up elicits.
“My friend’s dressed as a cop, though,” she continued. “We’re kind of a pair. But she’s on break right now.”
As the conversation went on, she “arrested” me by cuffing my wrist to hers for a minute (never mind that that’s the cop’s job), and I noticed that she was quite animated.
“Apparently I’m really popular with foreigners,” she said.
“I can see it,” I replied. “You’re really cheerful and energetic and expressive.”
I thought for a second.
“Wait a minute, you get foreigners in here?” I was flabbergasted. “But you kinda get the feeling most foreigners can’t speak Japanese well. And speaking is kinda the point in a concept cafe…”
“Yeah,” she replied. “But you know, with a little broken English and a lot of energy, I get by.”
I only barely scratched the surface of Akiba’s concept cafes in my few days there, but I had a blast the whole time. Next time, I wanna try out even more. They’re relaxing in a different sort of way from maid cafes, so if you know Japanese, I encourage you to give one a try if you ever get the chance.
I’ll be in Akiba next on New Year’s weekend, for Winter Comiket. But until then? I’mma be sitting here in Buttfuck, working on Senmomo and Yui. I hope you enjoyed this little peek into my life, and I’ll see you in a day or two with another Yui post! Probably. Later!