Tired of their manga and maid loving male counterparts having all the fun, Japan’s growing number of female otaku (geeks) have decided to hit back – the opening of a ‘butler cafe’ graciously getting things going.
The Swallowtail coffee house in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district is decked out like an English manor house, with customers subserviently greeted with a “Welcome home, Madam.” A concept that may seem a little odd, but it’s one that appears to have a ready-made audience, Emiko Sakamaki, the woman behind the eatery, explaining, “When I visited a ‘maid cafe’ last year, I thought there should be a cafe with a similar concept for women. And I saw people post some messages on the Internet that they wanted such a butler cafe. I thought the cafe could be accepted.” And accepted it has been, with tables being fully booked until May 12, the management asking customers to make reservations online to guarantee themselves a table.
Swallowtail’s vast majority of visitors it seems are women in their 20s and 30s, with Ayako Abe of K-Books – which runs the cafe and has several shops that sell manga depicting love between beautiful youths – explaining the market for such establishments by saying, “Our shops’ prime target customers are not women in their teens and 20s, but those in their 30s and 40s who got used to ‘boys’ love’ comics while they were young, and come to the stores with their daughters.”
Not that any such ‘boy love’ goes on whilst beverages are being served, with Swallowtail’s handpicked group of 20 ‘butlers’ having spent a month studying about various kinds of tea leaves and how to make a good cuppa. A training program however that may need a few minor adjustments, with visitor Noriko Suzuki commenting, “The butlers looked nervous serving tea and cake, but I liked the ambience of the coffee shop. I felt like I was peeking into the world of girls’ manga comics dealing with butlers.”
A focus on the cafe’s decor and atmosphere that Sakamaki-san believes differentiates the likes of Swallowtail from the decidedly less sophisticated places catering for males. “Men would not mind if maid cafes use cheap tables and pipe chairs as long as the waitresses are pretty”
A comment that may,
or may not be true.