Thursday, January 21, 2010

Review: Filles

Filles is a games and conversation space that doubles as a cafe, and its approach is fairly unique. It is a fun place to hang out for a while, but it can get expensive quickly if you let it. Filles is located just west of Chuu-ou Dori, at the north end, across the street from Usagi Jinja, on the 4th floor of the building that has Mai Dreamin' 1.

The room is spacious by Akihabara standards, and well-lit, with 3 four-person tables and about 10 spaces at the counter. There's a dart board at one end, wood and glass cases holding coffee cups and board games behind the counter, and anime figures scattered around the shelves along the walls. It looks like an odd cross between a tea room and someone's living room.

The system is simple. You pay 1500 yen to enter. This let's you stay for 90 minutes, and gives you 1 free soft drink and one maid game. Additional soft drinks are between 300 and 400 yen, and more maid games are 1000 yen each for 3 rounds. Maid photos are 1000 yen each. They do serve food, which includes the standard curries, pastas and hamburg steaks, at 600-700 yen, but no one was eating while I was there. I ordered an ice coffee. Because I really didn't know how the system would work, I held off on getting food, and since no one else was eating either, I can't comment on the entries. In any event, any food you do order will be on top of the 1500 yen entry fee.

There's the standard "welcome home, master" greeting when you enter, and they have an English rules card to explain the system. Once you agree to it, they'll lead you to an empty chair at the counter (or to a table for groups of 3 or 4) and take out a hot towel to clean your hands for you. When seated, you can get an English menu and place your drink order. For ice or hot coffee, one of the maids will pour in the sugar and cream and stir the cup for you. Fortunately, they don't go so far as to actually drink the coffee for you, but I expect that they could if you ask politely.

There were about 6-7 customers when I arrived, all male, and most of them dressed up as young salarymen, with one or two in plain street clothes. One group of three guys played a version of "leaning tower" with circular wooden disks. I've never seen this game before so I don't know what it's called. Each disk has a hole near the rim, and the numbers 1-6 printed on one side. Each player rolls a die, then takes the top disk from the stack and lines the hole up with the number rolled for the next disk of the tower. This makes for a very unstable tower and the loser is the one that makes it collapse. Down at the other end of the counter, someone else was playing UNO. The maids kept winning, so I don't know the the prize was for the customers.

There were 3 maids in the cafe at any one time, with one more outside handing out fliers. The inside maids were all very friendly and spent time moving around and carrying on conversations with everyone. For my part, we talked about anime and manga, learning English and where to visit in the U.S. My maid was planning a trip to New York in March, and continuing on to London, and wanted to know about interesting places to see in the States. She's also a cosplayer and a big fan of Soul Eater. When I told her I like Soul Eater, she squealed and ran to get this one book. Turns out that at events like Comic Market, cosplayers can pose for a professional photographer to have their photo included in an annual catalog. She and two other maids had dressed up as Medusa, Chronos and Eruka in hand-made costumes that were very impressive. She looked just like Eruka.

Some of the maids can speak a little English, but they're much happier with Japanese. They told me that they get groups of westerners fairly regularly, and don't really know what to do with them for conversations. So, they're happy if you visit, but you're going to get the most out of your stay if you can speak Japanese.

Since I had to get to work, after 45 minutes I stood up to leave, and one of the other maids discovered that there was still a poker chip inside the jacket holding my bill, meaning that I hadn't collected yet on my free game. I said that I still had a couple of minutes, so she ran to get what I think is called "wani wane" (alligator trap). This is the one where you press down on the teeth of the alligator and the loser is the one that makes it's mouth close. I won the first round but lost the remaining 2. Being the loser, I had to wear a pair of cat ears for the rest of my stay, which happily wasn't that long. The maids are willing to take your photo for you with your own camera.

I was trying to keep my costs down this time (plus 1000 yen for a maid photo is too pricey for me) so I didn't get a separate maid photo. The total came to 1500 yen for just the initial entry fee. There is a points card; 1 point per visit, but I can't see anything saying what you get for a filled card.

Name: Filles
Location: Across the street from Usagi no Jinja, on the 4th floor of the same building as Mai Dreamin' 1, at the north end of Chuu-ou Dori.
Price: Moderate to high, depending on how many games you play.
Cover: 1500 lets you stay 90 minutes, and gives you one soft drink and one maid game.
Food: Standard curries, pastas and hamburg steaks for 600 yen. Additional soft drinks for 300, and cakes for 300 yen.
"Love": Standard greetings when you arrive and leave. Maids add sugar and cream to your coffee and stir it for you. No added flavor chants.
Outfits: Black dress with white apron and lace frills.
Photos: 1000 yen.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: Mini games and conversation. The maids try to spend equal time talking to everyone. You get three rounds of some game (first game is free, subsequent games are 1000 yen each), such as wani wane and UNO.
Recommendation: Although Filles can get expensive fast, if you're just there to talk, play one game and have something to drink, it's not that bad. And, it is a fun space to hang out for 90 minutes for only 1500 yen. Recommended.


  1. Interesting review!

    I'm planning a trip to Akiba(maybe during the next year),and I'm sure it's one of the places I'll go.

    I know it's not about maids,but I'm really curious about it:

    I've read in your profile that you worked as a game programmer for some time,and I've been thinking if would be a good idea to try to work in this area in Japan(by the way,I'm studying System Analysis at the college,and I'm going to specialize in game development).
    Anyway, is it really complicated for a gaijin to be accepted in the japanese game industry?

  2. I've got a number of posts on shopping in Tokyo, and one or two on life in Akihabara, on my main blog - ThreeStepsOverJapan. I also have a series on finding work in Japan, if you go to the Year 1 Index.

    Basically, a lot depends on what country you're from. Having a British, Canadian, Australian or New Zealand passport lets you work in Japan for 6 months on a working holiday visa, renewable up to 1 or 2 times. Japanese companies love hiring people with these visas because of the simplified paperwork. Otherwise, you need either a spouse visa, or a company to sponsor a work visa. For the work visa, you really need to hustle and show that it's worth hiring you, and if you're working for a Japanese company, then you should have at least passed the JLPT level 2 test. Meaning that your portfolio should be REALLY GOOD, and you need to be fluent in Japanese.

    One option is to sign up with a few of the recruiting companies and try to line up some interviews before coming here; or, come here as a student, get into a video game course at a university and then try to intern at a game company; or, join an American branch of a Japanese game company and try to convince them to relocate you. Either way, good luck. The job market here is tighter than in the U.S., and you're really going to have to work hard to break into it.

  3. Thank you for all the information!
    I really appreciate it.
    I'll check out your main blog for more info.

    It's going to be complicated,but I'll definitely do it.Joining an American branch of a japanese company looks like the best option.I'll have a lot time to study and get the JLPT level 2 before going to Japan,because I'm just beginning to learn japanese.

    But the main reason to go first to an American game company is the possibility of getting a lot of experience in the area before trying to go to japanese industry.By the way,I'm from Brazil,and here the game industry is almost nonexistent,because the lack of interest of people about games.Most people think games are only useless pass time for kids(and unfortunately, the same thing happens to anime and manga).That's why I want to go work in Japan,where more people like,or at least,understand there's no specific age to like and work with games,anime and manga.

  4. Depending on where you are in Brazil, there's a possibility that you may be able to find a community of Japanese students attending university there. They may be able to help you with speaking practice. Good luck.

  5. It's a good idea!
    I'll check out to see if I find someone.
    I'm going to finish college soon,then I'll have free time to attend japanese classes after work.

    Another alternative is to get an japanese online game with voice-chat support,so I can practice anytime(I did it when I was studying english,playing SOCOM: U.S Navy Seals).

  6. Filles is very cute and pretty new, I believe. They (used to?) have some specials for female customers and (boy-girl?) couples that made it a bit cheaper. The flier had the discount information.

    An interesting selling point if you're a girl is that they also allow female customers to dress up in one of their maid costumes and take pictures if they want to. The 'service' is free, and I had a lot of fun doing it. You may have to ask about wearing the costumes.

    They don't have any male costumes and boys aren't allowed to dress up in the maid outfits, so cosplay curious dudes are out of luck.