COVID-19 has taken away a lot of experiences that used to be “normal,” not least of all dining in restaurants. Japan is no exception, and while at the time of publishing this article there was no actual ban on the practise, many restaurants have still adapted to new social distancing norms. Along with usual cafes and restaurants that have been affected by Coronavirus, maid cafes have also suffered! Luckily for otaku, they also have a new solution.
If you can’t go to the maid cafe, why not have the maid cafe come to you? That’s exactly what at-home cafe is doing - bringing kawaii maids right to the comfort (and safety!) of your home! And the best part? Now you can experience a maid cafe from anywhere in the world!
Check out the official website here - https://virtual.cafe-athome.com/ (Japanese only)
Give Us the Details!
The virtual at-home cafe is a new application accessible on mobile or PCs that has been created by one of the leading maid cafes in Japan - at-home cafe from Akihabara, Tokyo. The cafe has been around for over twenty years now, known until just last month as @home cafe (the recent name change was announced at the same time as this virtual cafe). The virtual at-home cafe will let people visit a maid cafe from the comfort of their own home, rendering the space in a 3D environment using cute graphics rather than actual cameras. Masters and mistresses will create an avatar to represent themselves at the cafe, and the maids will do the same with a maid avatar.
Once in the virtual maid cafe (represented as your avatar’s “home”), customers can do most of the usual things one expects at a maid cafe - have fun conversations, play games, watch musical performances, and even take photos with any of the available maids that they choose. Really, the only thing missing is the food and drinks. While the final programme is still under development, it’s been announced so far that the service will be a paid subscription. Customers can also use in-game currency to buy gifts for the maids like new outfits and accessories, and there are benefits like elevated status and new features for regular visitors.
And for otaku, one of the best parts is that every maid is represented in an adorable anime style to make your maid cafe dreams come true!
You can check out the promotional video here!
What are the Benefits?
The virtual at-home cafe has a lot of benefits that an in-person maid cafe can’t boast. In these trying times, first and foremost a virtual cafe is considerably safer. People around the world are being encouraged to stay home and practise social distancing, and restaurants are one of the most dangerous places to be at the moment. Not only does the virtual at-home cafe protect the customers, it also protects the employees! Maids can still earn their living without putting their health at risk.
Even outside of COVID-19 times, though, the virtual at-home cafe offers some other benefits. A lot of people are too shy to be themselves at maid cafes, and they can’t find the words they want to say. In a virtual environment where they make their own avatar that looks how they want to, customers can feel more free to be themselves. They’re free to create their own appearance, altering your name, birthday, hobbies, and more as they please. No one has to see their real face. It’s the same for the maids! While most maids are not shy, they also can feel even more free when represented by an avatar in a virtual space.
Finally, one of the biggest benefits of the at-home virtual cafe is that otaku around the world can experience it. Maid cafes can be found all over cities in Japan, but they’re very rare in any other country. Through the virtual at-home cafe, anyone can join in on the fun. That makes maid cafes extremely accessible to people in rural Japan - and of course, around the rest of the world! Because people from anywhere in Japan could also apply to be maids when they were recruiting, it also gave a new opportunity for women who wanted to try out being a maid but didn’t live close enough to a cafe or feel safer behind a computer. Added accessibility for workers and customers is always a huge plus!
We are all feeling a bit down about what we have lost in the time before COVID-19 but humans are doing their best to adapt to the new situation we have found ourselves in. A virtual maid cafe is an awesome idea that makes maid cafes accessible to anyone, be it people just trying to stay home to people who are disabled, live far away, or are just too nervous to go to an actual maid cafe. This opens a whole lot of new doors for otaku all around the globe, and we are excited to hear about how it is received!
Are you going to try the at-home cafe virtual app yourself? What do you think about this experiment? What other part of otaku culture in Japan do you wish was more accessible to you for whatever reason? Drop us a comment below!