From Maid Cafes to Butler Cafes: Latest Craze in Japanese-Themed Dining
① Japan’s Butler Café – A Mansion Concept
Maid cafés in Japan are increasingly gaining popularity among tourists. These unique cafés have been a part of Japanese culture for over two decades and have increased nationwide. Visiting a maid café has become a must-do activity for those traveling to Japan.
In addition to maid cafés, Japan also boasts butler cafés, which follow a similar concept but feature butlers instead of maids. The inaugural butler café in Japan opened its doors in March 2006 in Ikebukuro, Tokyo. Known as “Swallowtail” (SWALLOWTAIL Butlers Cafe), this establishment offers patrons a unique experience of Japanese aristocratic culture.
Within butler cafés, the butlers assume various roles, including house stewards responsible for overseeing the mansion staff, second stewards, and doorkeepers. Upon customers arriving at the café, they are warmly greeted with a welcoming “Welcome, Miss.”
These cafés offer customers professionally crafted desserts and teas prepared by a pastry chef with skills akin to those in upscale hotels. The ambiance within the café, reminiscent of an old-fashioned mansion, allows guests to immerse themselves in a unique experience. However, it’s worth noting that prices at these establishments tend to be higher, ranging from approximately 2,800 to 4,500 yen (equivalent to $25 to $40).
Reservations for butler cafés are mandatory and can be made online up to 15 days in advance. Visitors can conveniently check the available time slots for the desired date on the café’s website. Additionally, it’s essential to adhere to the café’s strict policy, which prohibits using electronic devices, including cell phones, while inside the establishment.
② Themed Cafés Land in Korea
The phenomenon of Japan’s maid cafés making their way to Korea has created quite a buzz, and now, even butler cafés have started to emerge, drawing significant attention. The first butler café in Korea opened its doors in Yeonnam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul.
The café’s popularity was immediately evident, with most reservations for the first month being fully booked shortly after its opening. It primarily captured the interest of female customers in their twenties and thirties. A video on the Butler café’s social media account garnered over 340,000 views, proving its growing popularity. The many comments and many ‘likes’ on the video further underscore its appeal.
In the video, a butler adheres to the café’s unique concept, stating, “The lady of the house has scheduled a midterm evaluation this week, so you must study hard,” as part of the customer interaction. Like their counterparts in Japan, customers in Korea’s butler cafés are greeted with the phrase, “Have you returned, Miss?”.
The butler café meticulously designs its interior and utensils to align with the ambiance of a grand mansion. Like the protocol observed in Japan’s butler cafés, customers are advised not to lift heavy items independently. To summon a butler’s assistance, customers must ring the bell conveniently placed on their table.
The café’s primary offering is afternoon tea, allowing guests to savor delectable desserts and tea. Operating on a reservation-only basis, the café charges an entrance fee of $9, while the afternoon tea set is priced at approximately $16. Additionally, there is an option for a Polaroid photo shoot, available for roughly $9.
The café’s spokesperson articulated their vision: “Every individual was once addressed as ‘prince’ or ‘princess’ upon their birth, but as they age and integrate into society, such romantic notions often wane.” Elaborating on the café’s motive, they explained, “We aspired to provide a fresh experience where people, even if just for a day, could be treated and esteemed as ‘ladies’ and ‘gentlemen,’ transcending the mere designation of ‘individuals with their narratives.'”
The café predominantly attracts female customers in their twenties and thirties, with many patrons visiting alone. On social media platforms, there are numerous reviews from visitors to the Butler café, with the majority expressing positive feedback and overall satisfaction with their experience.
③ Fully Booked As Soon As It Opened
Similar to the initial reactions when maid cafés first arrived in Korea, there has been a mixed response, including concerns about the potential sexualization of the concept. Some individuals have voiced disapproval regarding the operation of Japan’s unique cafés in Korea, while experts have also raised apprehensions about maid cafés.
Professor Lee Young Ae, from the Consumer Studies Department at Incheon National University, provided insights into the phenomenon, stating, “For the younger generation, maid cafés appear to serve as a means to satisfy their craving for recognition by participating in and sharing experiences on social media.” However, she also highlighted a significant issue, explaining, “The content’s origin, which revolves around the concept of maids, often focuses on sexualization, potentially leading people to imagine inappropriate scenarios in reality.”
Professor Lee went on to express her concerns, particularly regarding the potential impact on teenagers, stating, “There are worries, particularly about instilling distorted sexual concepts in young individuals.”
By. Min Jae Kim