Monday, June 28, 2010

Maid Contest

I stumbled across a postcard for this event entirely by accident. It's for a contest to determine Akihabara's top maid for 2010. The contest started in June, and the winner should be selected on Sept. 1. Top place wins 100,000 yen ($1,000 USD) and a Disney Hotel Passport, and will represent Akiba as a PR rep for the next year. Second place is 50,000 yen ($500) and third is 30,000 yen ($300).

Go, maids!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Review: Gundam Cafe

Ok, you may say that the new Gundam cafe in Akihabara doesn't belong on Maid Runner because it's not a maid cafe. To this I say "Piffle! Piffle to you dear sir and your outmoded ways!" Actually, I just say piffle because it's fun.

(Opening day.)

The Gundam cafe is a a theme restaurant, much like Hard Rock and Planet Hollywood. Initially, it was also a cosplay cafe, with the female staff dressed up in character uniforms (I like a woman in uniform and jack boots... Mmm, jack boots...) However, while early newspaper reviews stated that you could get your photo taken with the staff, that seems to have been only as part of the opening celebrations. As of this date the standard outfit is dark jeans and dark polo shirts with the Gundam logo where the alligator would be, and no mentions of maid photos in the menus.

I asked one of the staff (the serving staff and bartenders are all female) if it was ok to take pictures of the cafe interior and was told it was fine, but I decided to not use the camera flash. Most of the shots turned out well, but a few were really blurry. The decor is kind of a cross between the interior of a giant robot and the interior of a space colony military base set 10,000 year from now. Lots of white shiny plastic, geometric corners, and black stenciled warnings of "fast opening hatches". A scale model of a Gundam robot stands near the ceiling at the top of one wall, there's a projection screen playing ads for Jaburo coffee and highlights of some of the anime DVDs a little further to the left, and a display case of robot miniatures along the far back wall. The smoking room is walled off to look like a futuristic airport waiting area.

The lines to get inside have thinned out considerably over the last month, but a few people still line up for the 9 AM opening on Sunday mornings to get in for breakfast. One reason why the lines were so long before is that the cafe can only seat 60 people, and everyone does tend to linger after they get inside. When I went at 6 PM on a Monday, there were 5 people ahead of me and the wait was about 10 minutes. Turned out that there were a number of empty seats inside and the staff were just trying to keep the volume of people at a manageable level.

Some of the staff do speak a little English, but the menus are all in Japanese (lots of pictures to point to for placing your order, though). The system's a little different from what I'm used to. Once you have your table, you go up to the cash register next to the door to place your order and pay for it at that time. You're given a number, and if you ordered a coffee drink then you're told to stand at the bar to wait for your drink to be made. Then you take your drink back to your table, and wait until the staff brings your food out to you. You don't have to bus your own dishes afterward, but if you feel like it you can toss your paper or plastic drink cup on your way out. Soft drinks are served in disposable cups so you can take them outside with you and finish them on the way to a DVD shop if you like.

The menu is divided up for lunch (11:30-5:00), "bar time" (after 5 PM) and dinner (after 5 PM). The dinner entrees include hamburg steaks, omelet rice and curries in the 800 to 900 yen range. Beer and cocktails between 450 and 500 yen. Soft drinks and coffees around 350 yen, and ice cream desserts between 300 and 600 yen. There's no cover charge or maid photos, so the prices come out kind of reasonably for a restaurant in Tokyo.

I got a "Haro Latte" and a "Char Aznable beef curry". The latte was gussied up with a picture of the floating beach ball robot from the series in bitter dark chocolate powder. The coffee is supplied by Jaburo estates, and is a good, strong dark roast. Bags of roasted whole beans can be purchased at the goods shop next door for 980 yen for 200 grams. The beef curry was heavily spiced and was closer to a thick Indian-style red beef stew. Very tasty and a decent portion size, but the bed of rice was rather mushy and over-cooked.

(Goods shop and Gundam-yaki counter.)

The staff isn't overly talkative and spend most of their time running between tables and the kitchen bringing out orders or busing used dishes. Interestingly, it was the cashier at the souvenir shop next door who was more interested in talking with me, primarily after seeing the Japanese kanji study book I was carrying around. The goods shop has badges and coffee mugs, wall ornaments and themed snack food packs. Most of the items are over-priced, and will appeal only to fans of the series. There is a "Gundam-yaki" stand near the door where you can buy 2 stuffed Japanese-style tai-yaki pancakes in the shape of the giant robot for 400 yen (one type of filling is red bean paste, and the other is mayonnaise, cheese and bacon).

The cafe is pretty easy to find. Just go to the Akihabara JR station and take the exit to Electric Town on the west/north side of the station building. Stand facing the UDX building, and the cafe will be on your right on the other side of the taxi circle.

There is a points card, of sorts. When you pay for your order, the cashier will give you some "lucky cards". These are scratch-offs. Only scratch off one of the 3 spots (doing more than 1 invalidates the card. Cards are worth 0, 1, 2 or 5 points. Bringing in a total of 5 points gets you a free drink worth under 400 yen. 20 is a "wing commander" card; and 40 is a "colonel's" card. My coffee and curry came to 1350 yen, giving me 4 cards, which then gave me 5 points. Assuming a relation between the meal price and the number of cards received, I could have gotten a free coffee the next time I went (if it hadn't been for the fact that I scratched all the numbers off to be able to look at the artwork underneath, thus invalidating them).

The Gundam Cafe is worth going to at least once just to take in the experience. If you're a fan of the franchise, you'd already have your colonel's card sitting next to your monitor without having waited for me to write up this entry.

Name: Gundam Cafe
Location: Northwest taxi circle in front of the Akihabara JR station, on the way to the Tokyo Anime Center.
Price: Moderate.
Cover: No cover.
Food: Curries, hamburg steaks and omelet rice around 900 yen, soft drinks between 300 and 400 yen, beer for 500 yen, mixed drinks for 480, and desserts under 400 yen.
"Love": No love.
Outfits: Dark slacks and dark polo shirts with the Gundam logo on them.
Photos: N/A.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: GUNDAM.
Recommendation: Recommended. Get some Gundam yaki's for take-out dessert when you leave.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Maid Room 2

Watabe actually has two little display cases set up showing maids at work and play. I blogged about the first case a few weeks ago, and decided to go back and shoot the other one as well. Only problem is that the store has a sign taped up in front of this case so I can't get a clean shot of it. I think it's representative of Akiba Guild, one of the few maid casinos in Akihabara, on Chuu-ou Dori. Although the coaster is for Jam, which I've also reviewed.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Review: Pinafore #3

Pinafore #3 is the latest edition to the Pinafore chain, having opened in April in the same building as Royal Milk and Kokomaro Milk, on the third floor. The space used to belong to a TCG gaming group. There's no elevator access from the street, so keep in mind that you'll have to climb stairs to get to the cafe.

I haven't been back to #1 or #2 since reviewing them so I can't say if they've changed their decor or menus. In trying to find the URL for the website I stumbled across the review of Pinafore #2 from Akibanana and it didn't seem like they even got the building right (the Akibanana review talks about the cafe being split over floors 7 and 8, while the place I reviewed (and the one mentioned on the Pinafore website) is on floor 4. Anyway, I'll probably go back and double-check #2 when I get the chance.

Regardless, the interior of #3 is very brightly lit and perky, with colored dots on the white walls amidst the posters advertising upcoming events. (No display cases showing maid uniforms on the walls, though.) There's a stamp rally going on at the moment - collect 3 stamps and get a branded item. The room's fairly small, with a few tables on the floor and along one wall, and counter seating with 4-5 big stuffed leather chairs along the wall nearest the kitchen. There's a flat panel screen over the counter which ran a little stage drama produced by the maids, but the sound was off while j-pop played over the sound system. I ended up getting charged a 500 yen table fee, which hadn't happened at the other two locations (I don't know if the fee is new, or is just charged at this cafe.)

I arrived close to 5:30 PM on a Monday, and there were only 4 other customers during that time - a salaryman, a college student regular, and one couple. There were three maids, so the service was good, and one of the maids kept coming back to me to keep talking. My maid went through the rules card with me, took me to the counter and ran through the menus. There are 3 new set menu items that include an entree or dessert, a 500 yen drink and a maid photo (at least this way you don't have to mess with the seemingly-random points card system for getting a maid photo that I'd encountered at #1 and #2 last year) for around 1900 yen. Coupled with the table charge, the total is a little higher than I'd like, but pretty much average for an Akiba maid cafe.

I'd gotten a flier for Pinafore a couple of weeks earlier, which had a coupon for a free soft drink. I wanted to get an ice coffee with it, but was told that it had to be something from the 500 yen drink menu and the coffees and teas are all 600 yen. So I settled for a melon soda. I wanted the maid photo, so I looked the set menus over. The prices for the three sets are the same, including a curry rice, a hot cake dessert set, and something whose name I don't remember. I decided on the "forgotten name" set, and again tried getting an ice coffee with it, only to be told again that it had to be something from the 500 yen menu. This time, I went with the ice oolong tea. My order came out a little later, consisting of a bowl of rice with nori seaweed, smoked salon and sesame seeds on top. The maid poured hot water into the bowl then had me chant with her "made made Kaori" (made made = not yet; Kaori is her stage name) as she stirred up the dish to make it into a kind of smoked salmon and rice soup. The dish was pretty good, and large enough to be filling.

Afterward we walked around the counter to take the maid photo against the kitchen wall. My maid asked me what pose I wanted, and I went with the heart just to be different. The photo touch up was pretty limited, consisting of just the stock Pinafore sticker. However, my maid acted pretty nervous while handing over the photo to me, as if afraid of how I'd react to her touch up work. I'm thinking that her behavior was more related to her appearance in the shot, than to the amount (or lack of) work she put into frillying it up.

The points card has been redesigned. 1000 yen per point, plus 1 point for a rain day and 1 point for staying less than 1 hour. According to the card, 30 points gets you "a present" of some kind.

I didn't see an English menu and none of the maids tried speaking English. So again, you're going to get the most out of the maid cafe experience here if you can carry on a conversation in Japanese. I did enjoy myself a lot, but the cafe felt more like it belonged to Mai Dreamin' or @Home than to Pinafore.

Name: Pinafore #3
Location: 2 blocks north of Kanda Myojin Dori, 1.5 blocks west of Chuu-ou Dori, on the 3rd floor of the building with Royal Milk and Kokumaro Milk.
Price: Moderate High.
Cover: 500 yen lets you stay 1 hour.
Food: The menu tends to change up every so often and there are monthly special dishes and desserts. It's best to check the online menu in advance. But, as of this writing, the entrees are between 1000 and 1650 yen; sodas for 500 yen, coffee and tea for 600; desserts around 900 yen; and salads for 700.
"Love": Standard "welcome master" greetings, writing on the curry rice in catsup, modifications on the added-flavor chants for certain entrees.
Outfits: Peach skirt and blouse, black vest, and white apron.
Photos: As part of certain menu sets.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: Random 1-day events (cosplay, singing, etc.) Some video game tie-ups. Various branded items (small hand towels, CDs and DVDs) at the cash register.
Recommendation: Recommended. Pinafore #1 has more character, being the older location, but the staff at #3 are very friendly and easy to talk to. The food's good, but on the pricey side.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Moe Map Wall

Every so often I'll see pictures on the net, or in one of the Akiba map brochures, of the "map wall". AKA "Moe Map", this wall is located on the outer north side of the Donkey building, along Chuu-ou Dori, on a little side street running west from the Tully's coffee shop at the first floor of the UDX building. If you look at the picture with the big map, the Donkey building is marked by the penguin.

Just about every maid cafe, or maid-related business, has a flier available here advertising their place. So, if a new cafe pops up and you haven't heard about it yet, the Moe Map wall is a good place to go to find out what and where it is.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Review: Cafe and Bar Pray

A while back, I was returning to the Akihabara train station from a work-related event when one of my co-workers noticed me accepting a flier for a maid cafe from one of the maids on Chuu-Ou Dori. My co-worker (Japanese) was stunned that someone she knew would actually look at these fliers. But, it's the only way to keep up with the comings and goings of the new cafes. Thing is, not all cafes have staff out advertising specific shops all the time, so it's still easy to miss fliers for places I haven't been to yet. Fortunately, I recently picked up the flier for Pray, and since I really liked the the artwork on it, I decided to visit the next time I had the chance. The coupon for a free drink helped a lot, too.

Cafe and Bar Pray is a themed cosplay bar. Although it says "cafe" in the name, the evening menu is primarily geared for mixed drinks, with a small selection of snacks available for 400 yen. The pricing varies based on the age of the whiskey, the size of the drink, etc. Essentially, it's 600 yen for beer, 700 for a glass of wine, and mixed drinks are 800 yen on up. If you arrive before 6 PM, there's no table charge. You do need to order a drink occasionally. Soft drinks are 400 yen each. After 6, it's 300 yen/30 minutes to sit at the tables along the outer wall; 500 yen/30 minutes to sit at the counter. There are about 4-5 2-person tables and the counter can sit maybe 10 people (to be honest, I forgot to count). I couldn't tell how many customers were on the angels' side because the counter was in the way. The devils' side had one guy in full heavy metal face make up. I think he was annoyed with me because I ruined the mood on his side of the bar.

With a name like "Pray", you kind of have to expect some form of religious theme ala St. Grace Court. And you'd be right. The maids are dressed up as angles and devils. One half of the cafe is done up in black, with lace and a painting of the bar's mascot characters. The other half is all in white, with more lace. You decide if you want to be with the angels or the devils. I've always been a little perverse, so I picked the devil's side.

Worked out well because one of the devil's happened to have lived outside of Japan for a few years and could speak fluent English. A second devil, and the one that acted as "my" devil, was very eager to practice English and between the two of them I was able to carry on conversations for the entire time I was there. The menu and rules card are only in Japanese right now, but that may change at some point.

Since I had to work afterward, I just got an ice coffee and asked for a maid photo at the same time. My drink came out quickly in a small, fancy glass, and my devil poured the cream and sugar for me before also stirring it. Almost immediately after, my devil asked if I wanted to get the photo with her. The menu lists the price as 1000 yen for 2 photos, but indicates that it may be possible to only get one shot. However, the emphasis was on the 1000 yen deal, and I decided not to argue about it. We spent a few minutes trying to figure out where to stand in order to get the best contrast (having a devil wearing black in front of a black wall bodes poorly for the resulting photos). Then we also debated what pose to go with. For the first shot, my devil suggested just the heart pose. After that, I described the Detroit Metal City "heavy metal demon horns" gesture, which went over really well. My devil seemed happy to vamp it up for the shot.

The time flew by pretty quickly and I forgot to use the free drink coupon. I didn't get an itemized receipt so I'm not exactly sure what all I was charged for (1000 for the photos, 300 for the table charge and 400 for the coffee doesn't quite add up to the 2200 yen bill presented to me). I'd gotten to Pray a little before 6 PM and left before 6:30. Prior to 6 there's no table charge and I should have only been charged 300 yen for 30 minutes. But, I'm willing to shrug off the 500 yen overcharge because I did enjoy myself, and I like the photos a lot. Just be aware of the possibility of "mystery" charges and react accordingly.

The points card is 1000 yen per point, with some kind of present for 15 points. There was no mention of extra points for a "rain day" (it was raining that night). One of the devils was excited about my birthday being the same as hers and demanded that I come back for that. So, if my schedule works out, I'll see about doing that. At a minimum, I should go back at least once to get a photo with an angel just to see how the other half lives (and to get the other half of a matching set).

Name: Cafe & Bar Pray
Location: Across the street from the UDX Building, just north of the Donkey Building. From the Tully's coffee shop at the first floor of the UDX, head north 1 block. It'll be on your left side on the 9th floor.
Price: Moderate.
Cover: Depends on when you arrive. Before 6 PM, seating is free. After 6, table seating is 300 yen/30 minutes; counter seating is 500 yen/30 minutes.
Food: Although the name says "cafe & bar", Pray is primarily a bar with a small selection of snacks. Soft drinks are 400 yen; a regular beer is 600 yen (Angel/Devil beer is 900 yen); and other alcoholic drinks are 600 yen on up.
"Love": Standard greetings when you arrive and leave. Staff will pour sugar and cream in your coffee and stir it for you.
Outfits: White dresses and wings for the angels, black black outfits with bat wings and top hats for the devils. Mixed outfits for the "fallen angels".
Photos: 1000 yen for 2 photos with the maid of your choice.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: A bar serving moderately-priced drinks (for Tokyo), with an Angel/Devil theme.
Recommendation: If you like talking to the staff at maid cafes, and you like cute girls in skimpy outfits, Pray can be a fun place to hang out. At least one of the devils can speak English, and there may be a plan to make English versions of the rules card and the events list (may not happen right away though.) Just be careful about the "mystery" charges showing up on your bill.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Cirque de la Lune, You can go back

I'm running low on new maid cafes to visit. Most of the remaining places are bars, and at least one of them (Queen Heart) seems to have gone out of business before I could get to it (I wrote in a previous blog entry that I'd gone to Queen Heart a while back only to find out that they wouldn't open until 7 PM, and I had to be at work at 7:20, so I hadn't actually entered the place then). I've been trying to get to Pure Heart, which is a conversation lounge (4000-6000 yen to sit and talk to a maid for a while) that seems to have a cafe attached to it. But, every time I visited the area it's supposed to be in (just around the corner from Yodobashi Camera on Showa Dori) I couldn't find signs for it. I was about to write it off as having gone out of business when I saw a chalkboard for it on the sidewalk one Sunday afternoon. So, the following Tuesday I went back with the intent of reviewing it as a cafe, and it happened again - no signs anywhere. I'm thinking it's only open specific hours on the weekends, so I'll try again later.

Anyway, with only 45 minutes remaining before having to go to work, I decided to try returning to Circe de la Lune for something off their African special menu. For the month of May, Circe de la Luna had two entree items that were African inspired - the dry curry and the meatloaf. Normal Japanese curries have a consistency close to gravy, so a "dry" curry is something similar to cooked hamburger mixed in with a thick sauce. If you've ever been to an Ethiopian restaurant, then you've probably tasted berbere, a spicy powder mixed in water, cooked with meats or vegetables. The Cirque dry curry has a little bit of that flavor. It's not that spicy-hot, but it does taste good and the serving is fairly large for the price. The dish has a few pieces of lettuce on the bottom of the bowl, with a pile of rice, the curry, shaved almonds and a couple slices of hard boiled egg on top.

I accompanied the meal with "mizu dashi" coffee. In the U.S., this is Toddy coffee. You take a pound of coarse ground coffee and let it soak in a bucket of water over night. There's a filter at the bottom of the bucket and you let the coffee flow out into a carafe underneath. This makes a quart of coffee concentrate that you can then mix with water, milk or syrups to get the taste you want. I used to make this all the time when I was living in the U.S. Great stuff. Cirque's version is a little more mild than what I made, but it is tasty. 900 yen for the curry, 500 for the coffee ($15 USD total). Not bad for a Tokyo restaurant.

Again, Cirque was playing some vaguely disturbing music in the background. I asked what it was this time, and the maid brought out the CD - Takako Tate's "Ikimono-tachi" (VAP, 2007). Turns out that I'd just seen her on TV recently, and she'd delivered an amazing performance. Ikimono-tachi isn't available on youtube, but you can get a feel for her songs with "houseki", which I also like. Support her - buy her CDs from jpopasia or whatever importer you prefer.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review: Cirque de la Lune

Cirque de la Lune (Cafe 月夜のサアカス in Japanese) is one of the harder cafes to classify. The location itself is just north of the Akiba district, in the general direction of Hiyokoya. Exit Akihabara station at the Yodobashi side, go north past the taxi circle, then jog a block east to Showa Douri. Continue north past Kuramaebashi Douri one block and you'll see the stairs leading down to it on the left, just past Lawson's.

What makes Lune a challenge to classify is that it seems to have several inspiration sources. First, as you go down the stairs to the entrance there's the classic Alice in Wonderland picture. On the other hand, the name is French. The interior has a Victorian feel, with the subdued lighting, fake wooden slat floor, bookshelves all over, and black wrought iron lanterns on the tables for holding candles (unlike Mai Dreamin's electronic fairy candles, these are the real thing). Dollfie dolls can be found in various nooks, and complete sets of the "Alice" manga, along with various other shojo titles are on the shelves and in crannies in the walls. The six large round wooden tables, with bench seating on one side and padded rattan chairs on the other can seat 4 people each, and 2 square tables in the middle of the floor can handle another 4 people.

The small kitchen, just past the entrance, is open to view, and one of the maids works at the stove to prepare the food by hand (instead of just microwaving it). Nearby is a stack of various liquors for the mixed drinks. The chef was wearing regular clothes, while the maids taking orders were in stiff-looking full-length black dresses and white aprons. The sound system played an odd mix of Japanese modern classical ambient house music. And, at the back of the cafe is a small fish bowl, next to an antique sewing machine, with a small exotic fish.

The chalk board on one wall advertised the month's specials, which were African-inspired dishes, including an African curry. Regular entrees are in the 800 yen range. Lots of different teas and soft drinks between 600 and 1000 yen. Some beer, and the ability to make upwards of 100 different mixed drinks for 700 yen each. Side dishes for 400 yen, and thick desserts for 600 yen. Lune also has a lunch menu. Normally, I try to visit the cafes on Tuesdays before starting work, but my schedule was about to change and I'd be working later on Saturdays as well. So, I decided to stop by after work Saturday at 5 PM. Lune was already pretty busy, with 5 guys sitting by themselves, and one couple at one of the tables. It was a little early for dinner, so I just got a bottle of French Berry Lemonade, produced by French beverage maker Lorina, and a slice of chocolate torte.

There's lots of books to look at, photo albums and manga, so I was standing up and wandering around to see what they had when the food arrived. The beverage was a berry-infused carbonated lemonade, and went well with the torte. The torte, in contrast, was a small thick wedge of bitter chocolate topped with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream with a sprig of mint and a scattering of raspberry bits. Believe me, it was good. And for 1200 yen total, in keeping with Tokyo prices. There's no table charge, which is good, but I couldn't find anything referring to maid photos.

The maids were kept busy with the kitchen and bringing orders out, so I didn't have much chance to talk to them. For the most part, they stayed out of the way when not busy. The cafe does have periodic events, including one associated with some of the dolls a few weeks ago. The next event will be in June, and is tied in to a new release of a Cirque de la Lune mini album. Just as a note, the one maid taking my order did speak in English, but was obviously relieved when I answered in Japanese. There weren't any tourists in sight at the time, but they are welcomed. There's none of the standard maid cafe stuff - no maid games, "welcome master" greetings, or writing on the foods. But, the maids are very polite and walk you to the door and bow as you leave.

There is a points card, but you have to ask for it. 1 point per 1000 yen. 15 points gets you a one-time 500 yen discount on your bill. And check out the website - the photos for the blog definitely give off a goth vibe.

I had fun and plan to go back some time for dinner. I wonder what the African curry tastes like.

Name: Cirque de la Lune
Location: One block north of the Kuramaebashi - Showa doura intersection, on the left going down the stairs a little past Lawson's.
Price: Moderate.
Cover: No cover.
Food: A range of entrees in the 800-900 range. During early May, these included African-inspired curry dishes. Soft drinks from 600 to 1000 yen and mixed drinks and beer between 700 and 800 yen. Desserts, including a small slice of unsweetened chocolate cake, around 500 yen.
"Love": No love.
Outfits: Long black dresses with white aprons.
Photos: Not advertised.
Wireless Internet: (?) (No laptops in evidence when I was there.)
Specialties: A French/Victorian-style restaurant with a comfortable setting and odd-looking dolls staring at you.
Recommendation: For relaxing places to just sit and chill, Cirque de la Luna is great. There's no cover, the chairs are nicely padded, the lighting is subdued, the food is prepared on site (instead of just being microwaved), the prices are reasonable and the ambient music is just vaguely disturbing. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A rant

A lot of noise is made about maids standing out on the streets in Akihabara handing out fliers for their cafes. But, no one talks about all of the other people standing out on the streets or near the train stations in standardized uniforms doing the exact same thing for other kinds of shops and restaurants. Akihabara, Ikebukuro and parts of Shinjuku are famous for the noisy sales people using bullhorns to get customers into electronics shops or shoe stores.

Here, we have people promoting Kanebo cosmetics.

Of course, a whole new blog entry could be written up just on the people handing out packages of tissue papers outside the train stations, advertising hair stylists, used bookstores, and pachinko parlors. My point is that in a country where shops advertise by putting people out on the streets to promote their products or services, there's nothing weird about women wearing maid uniforms handing out fliers. Eye catching, yes. Weird? I think not.