Sunday, 28 May 2017

Week 3: A Cat-acular Week!

Cat-stophe in Shinjuku

Hello, everyone! Welcome back to our Senshu 2017 week 3 café tour. This week’s theme is a cat café. Cat cafés are quite popular in Japan as customers are giving opportunities to play with cats in an enjoyable café environment. There we have visited Cat Café Calico, a café in Shinjuku, where we had a nice afternoon with our feline friends!

A Mew Experience: 
By: Betty & Chantelle

For pricing there was an initial entry fee of 1000 yen for 1 hour. Before we could enter the kitty wonderland we had to change our shoes into more comfortable slippers and right after we did quick scrub of our hands. The food/drink menu was in either Japanese, English and Chinese, making both native speakers and foreigners alike communicate effectively. After going through the initial cat room/reception we headed downstairs to the main room where the most of the cast of cats were hanging out. We have noticed that the café housed a myriad of cat toys and funiture, for example, a cat tower and a mini cushion, that allows customers to catch the cutest moment of cats. In addition, cat snacks were available for purchase to feed some of them, although the ones with scarves were not allowed any snacks.

After playing with cats, everyone was getting a bit tired, so we have decided to order some food. The café assistant has led us to an isolated room for food and drinks only. There we have ordered a Japanese style omelet rice and a slice of cheesecake to enjoy the rest of the time.

Are You Kitten Me?
By: Marc & Alvin

If you were a child in the western world then some of the first things you learned were animal sounds. For example, the dog goes "Bark Bark!" and the cow goes "Moooooo!". And of course for us we learned that the cat goes "Meowwwww!". However, different countries interpret sounds sometimes way different than how we perceive them. In Japan, the cat goes "Nyaaa~". Some believe that depending how intimate a culture is with a certain animal will result on the interpretation of that animals sounds. Regardless, of how a culture hears these sounds we can still hear a recognizable pattern that makes us associate that sound with a certain animal. Another possible reason for the different spelling is the limitation of the a cultures language. Japan's native language has 46 basic letters, each with its own specific sounds. While we have only 26 letters in the Roman alphabet but how we arrange them gives us a different sound. Whether, its "Meow" or "Nyaa~" we still have the ability to talk to cats... Kind of....

A Not So Paw-sitive Insight
By: Betty & Chantelle 

More than 40 cats were living in the cat café. Although the café was a great place for customers who are cat lovers and want to be surrounded by a lot of cats, it is questionable that whether the environment is good for well-being of the cats. As we have seen, the cats were not interested in neither toys nor interaction with customers. They would like to rest at the spots that are no customers rather than establishing contacts with other cats or people. We were wondering that if the cats enjoy living in the cafe. However, it is possible that cats prefer to sleep in the afternoon to save energy for the night. We visited the café in the afternoon, so they might be having rest and we were kind of disturbing them. Even though the cat café set up some rules for customers to follow in order to reduce the degree of disturbance, the living space for the cats were a bit crowded. We enjoyed the hour in the café with the cute cats and as a customer, more cats mean we can have contact with the cats more frequently. This is a joyful experience anyways and we would like to visit more animal themed cafés. 

Purr-ecious Visit
By: Marc & Alvin

The cat café we had visited is basically a mini theme park similar with Disneyland, although the mascot is changed from mice to cats. The only fee they are requiring to pay is the entrance fee, and then they solely no longer care about whatever you do in their café except terrorizing their feline friends  This Cat Café is a combination of cat and manga café which allows customers to enjoy manga and cats in the same time. There were a couple individuals here there reading a good manga but like us most of them had their attention on the cats. We took our time playing and petting the cats we even ordered some snacks to feed them. However  we found that without the snacks they would otherwise
ignore us. This reminds me how the animals are treated not only in this cat café but also other animals’ café since some animals, for example: owls, originally are not good for keeping as pet or having contact with human frequently. They are actually under high stress conditions and may develop self-injurious behaviors much easier than our house pet. But anyways, animals’ cafés are decided for people who cannot keep pets in their houses and apartments which is a common phenomenon in Japanese society by providing places for customers to play with animals in order to relieve stress. Nowadays, Animals’ café is another way, rather than playing games or watching films, to cure individuals’ harmed minds.

Well that's all for this week! Join us for our final stop, a subculture that usually comes to mind when we think of Japan, the famous anime café! Nyaa~

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Week 2: Living the Maidreamin

Akihabara: A Town Filled with Culture

Hello, everyone! Or as the maids at the cafe would say, "Nyaa~ Nyaa~!". This week the cafe tour crew headed to the electric town of Akihabara where we shared an experience that we will never forget. There we went to the Maidreamin cafe, one of the more popular and well-known maid cafes in Japan.

A Discovery in Electric Town
By: Alvin & Betty

We visited the Maidreamin in Akihabara on May 17th, 2017. It is a very common chain maid café in Akihabara that you can find different stores easily there. Maids in Akihabara stand on the roadside as showgirls to welcome their customers(ご主人様 お嬢様, master & lady). In a few years maids in Akihabara become more concerned with foreign customers, they will tend to ask what language the customers want and try their best efforts to ensure that they enjoy their trips in wonderland(夢の国.

Many people may expect they will receive special services which are different than what experience in a standard café, for instance customers expecting free pictures with the maids, however, that is not true. Everything you wish to do or do with the maid will have to charge you for a certain fee. For example, live band show and cocktail show. Furthermore, the café menus are generally more expensive, but it is expected.  After our research at the café, rather than interacting with the maids, customers are willing to spend some money to get out of the reality and settle themselves in the wonderland(夢の国)through an immigration process hold by the café which is to light up the “Dream Candle”(夢のろうそく).

After we have done some research, there is a slang in Japan saying メイドはアキバのアイドル, “ maid is the idol in Akihabara”, in fact, when we were visiting Maidreamin, there was a mini-live show which we saw customers actively participate in. Maids in Akihabara basically become the symbol and idol of all otakus.

A Maid Education
By: Alvin & Betty

After going to the Maidreamin Café, we have learned that working at a maid café is not an easy task. The maids should satisfy all appropriate wishes from masters and mistresses. For example, singing and dancing in a living performance (if it was requested), and always was nice and energetic towards the customers. During our stay at the maid café, we were lucky to have experienced a living performance first-hand. Although we can tell by her face that the maid who was requested to have the performance was tired of performing, she still tried her best to perform. The maids also taught us a magic spell that would make our food become more delicious in this wonderland. All you need to do was to say, “moe, moe, cute.” before eating. Furthermore, because of some of the customers' busy life, we learned that most of them went to the maid café to relax and enjoy their time there. A maid café brings different people with same the same interests to a wonderland. It also shows you how to respect each other and make your food and experience become more enjoyable and unique.

Maids and "Moe"
By: Marc & Chantelle

While searching for the Maidreamin cafe we found a lone maid outside handing flyers, seemly targeting male audiences and that's how we discovered the cafe. As we exited the elevator we greeted with "Irasshaimase, goshujinsama~!" (Meaning, "Welcome Master") by the energetic staff, all dressed in a maid uniform. Our waitress then went through the menu, filled with cute, animal-shaped foods and desserts. The common theme between the food and the cute girls in maid uniforms can be considered to be "moe" or the Japanese slang for someone having strong feelings towards a certain topic. Kinda like how we audibly awe when we see a cute puppy, but with a more general and stronger kind of emotion/reaction. Usually, you will find otakus (The Japanese slang for someone who is obessed with computers, anime, manga, ect. There is even such things such as military otakus and train otakus) using the term "moe", geared towards their favourite anime character, however, in this case the term can be applied to maids as well and it's interesting how much to an extent the maids are willing to go to be "moe". In our outing to the maidreamin cafe the maids would end their sentences in "nyaa", the Japanese version of what a cat's meow sounds like. Or how to get a maid's attention we would have to call out "nyaa nyaa". We were also given a live performance with one of the girls dancing and singing on stage all in the name of "moe". Of course, this really was meant to draw in customers, focusing on the "otaku" demographic though other parties may be interested as well such as curious tourists or a couple of salary men looking to relax and have some fun. For us, while there were some embarrassing moments, we still found ourselves caught in this moe wave and went along with the ride.  

A Unique Memory
By: Marc & Chantelle

We found out that courage is important for being a customer in a maid café because we could not treat maid cafés like the other kinds of café. Our common sense could not apply to the maid café. The atmosphere and rules in maid cafés are so different from the other cafés we have ever visited. Every action required courage and we would be put in a more awkward situation if we did not follow the rules. In maid cafés, customers act as masters and audiences to satisfy their desires of role-playing. When a customer ordered a live show of a maid, the maid is going to perform on the stage with an original song written by the maid café and dance performance. We had the chance of being wota(maniac) of idol performer and did wotagei (cheering gestures to support the performer). Although we felt awkward doing wotagei at the beginning, we were gaining confidence by the encouragement from other maids. As we ordered a set menu, a bunny ears headband was included in the set and we could bring it home. Many customers in the café ordered, and were wearing the hairbands, we decided to wear the bunny ears to enjoy the atmosphere. 

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Week 1: A Familiar Feeling

From a Recommendation

Credit: Marc

Hello everyone! And welcome back to another week of the Senshu 2017 café tour. This week's theme is a normal café that you would find anywhere else in the world. Before cafés and coffee shops Japan had a place called 茶屋, Chaya, meaning tea shop. These places sold tea and other light menu items, which shared common traits with cafés. Coffee was introduced to Japan in the 1800s by the Dutch trading ships. The Japanese term for coffee shop is 喫茶店 or "kissaten", which can be loosely translated to coffee lounge, and in 1888 the first "kissaten" was opened by a man named Tei Eikei. Ever since then, cafés and coffee shops grew in popularity in Japan. So we sought after Japanese who frequents cafés and after talking to our RA, Tatsuhiro Suzuki, he recommended we go to a café called "Komeda's Coffee". And so we went to our first café in Japan. 

A Common Menu
By Betty and Marc

Credit: Marc
When we say "standard" café we mean a pretty basic café. One without any standout themes, serving the what represents a café, coffee. And by definition, a café is simply a small restaurant that serves light meals and drinks. These kinds of café can range from brand names, such as Starbucks, to smaller shops in rural areas. All of them share a common drink menu of coffee and its many variations of such. So if you visit any café in any part of the world you can always order a nice, hot cup of coffee. 
The patrons that come to these cafés do so for various reasons. Some simply like to come alone and enjoy a cup of coffee, others come to study, and these seems true whether you're in Canada or Japan.  It is also a social common place that friends, co-workers and everything in between can engage in small talk over a cup or two. 

West meets East, Diner meets Café
By Betty and Marc

Credit: Chantelle

When we first approached Komeda's Coffee we were greeted by a sign with the café's name in neon lights. While the name was of Japanese origin, our initial thoughts was that outside aesthetics has a very western feel to it. With the architecture of the building giving a familiar, nostalgic feel of home. However, as we entered inside we found that the interior was still a western-style but with Japanese-style of service, such as having a convenient button to call the waitress, you would find in family diners.  Komeda's Coffee is a chain store, and it seemed to combine some aspects of a Japanese family restaurant and café. After taking a quick look at the menu we saw burgers, sandwiches, and pancakes which is more diner-like in one menu, as well as slices of cake, and danishes on a separate menu which represented the café side. 

A (Un)Professional Review
By Chantelle and Alvin

Credit: Betty
We ordered ice cocoa(アイスココア), mixed juice milkshake (ミックスジュース), cinnamon coffee(シナモンウィーン), and café au lait(カフェオーレ). For food, we ordered Danish pastry with ice cream on top(ミニシロノワール) and a piece of lemon cake(瀬戸内レモンケーキ). The ice cocoa had a good balance of sweetness. The ice cream part was sweet, they balanced the sweetness by making chocolate part lighter in taste. We all agreed that the lemon cake was too sweet and had only slight taste of lemon.

A Second Home
By Chantelle and Alvin

Credit: Betty
The café has a relaxing atmosphere. Most customers were dining alone and using their laptops, so the overall environment was quiet. In addition, we also recognized that there is a magazine corner with updated magazines and newspapers for customers to read. The staff there were very nice to help and to answer inquiries. When we requested the staff for photos, they were so happy to help us. This café is not a place to have a full meal but it is great to have some snacks with friends or alone. 

Credit: Alvin
The amazing part in Japan is their restaurants were separated into the smoking and non-smoking areas. The server asked us which side we were staying, so we picked the non-smoking area. A nice western style small café with a balcony decorated with foliage plants on it that built up a very quiet and relaxing atmosphere. Possibly, we visited the café at night, most customers were on their own, listening to music, playing with their smartphones, studying and reading books. The seating was super comfy allowing us to reach max relaxation. The deserts and drinks were prepared from the open kitchen which makes a big contrast with the customers’ side. The cooks were vivid to prepare food. The noise made by the collision of the dishes was the only noise we could hear in the mostly quiet setting.

Credit: The waitress

So that's it for week 1 of our café tour, you can check out the rest of the photos here! Next week we transcend customer status to master status as we dive into Akihabara's maid café scene! 

Sunday, 7 May 2017

The Start To An Adventure

Credit: Yasuhiro Kawaguchi

Hello everyone! And welcome to our café tour blog! For the month of May we will be visiting some of the various cafés during our stay in Japan. The reason why we chose to write about Japan’s cafés is because when you think of Japan somewhere along the lines cafés (more specifically, maid cafés) comes to mind and when we looked deeper into it we found out that Japan’s café culture is really diverse. With Japan being 3rd in terms of total coffee bean consumption among importing countries it speaks volumes of how surprising this coffee craze has quickly developed over the years and integrated other aspects of Japanese culture into their cafés. Our secondary objective is to have an in-depth look at Japan’s social culture. Mainly we will look how Japanese youth like to spend their time, and the norms that occur within cafés. Whether you want to play with animals (such as cats, rabbits or even goats!), read manga while you have a cup of coffee, or even relax and take a nap because you had a long and stressful day, there is a café for you.

Our Members

First off we like to quickly introduce the members of the blog,

“Hi! Hello! おはよう!こんにちは!こんばんは!ごきげんよう!
Hi everyone! My name is Alvin, a third year student at the University of Calgary, majoring in East Asian Language Studies. I believe this is my eighth time visiting Japan. I have been to Hokkaido, Osaka, Tokyo, Fukuoka, and Okinawa for sightseeing before but this will be my first time to be placed in an academic situation in Japan. So, I think I can say that I am new to Japan! 

I love cycling. I enjoy the speed and the wind on my body. One of my dreams is to travel Japan and other countries on my bike.”
- Alvin

“Hello everyone! My name is Betty and I am majoring in Commerce. I like singing, taking photos and travelling. I have been to Japan twice already but I would like to discover more about Japan!”
- Betty

“Hello everyone! My name is Marc. A third-year computer science student at the university of calgary. This will be my first time going to Japan and I am very excited to share this experience with everyone! I am mainly excited to visit Akihabara and visit the many games/anime stores there! Ideally I would like to visit as many places as I can in Japan.”
- Marc
Credit: Chantelle

"Hi everyone! はじめまして!I am Chantelle, a second year East Asian Studies major at the U of C. I have been to Okinawa and Osaka so this would be my third time visiting Japan. I became fascinated with Japanese culture in junior high because of anime and cute idol groups. During my free time, I like watching anime, Japanese variety shows, and dramas. I did some cosplay in the past but I feel like I am getting tired to do all the preparations….
I love cats! Although I have visited a cat café in Kyoto last year, it is never enough for a cat lover! My dream is to visit all the cat cafes in Tokyo. I also visited an owl café in Osaka.
Credit: Chantelle
Our project is about cafes in Japan and I am looking forward to visiting some cute animal cafes and some weird themed cafes. I have never been to maid cafés in Japan and I would be happy if the cute maids call me “お嬢様”(Lady). As a tourist, I visited cafes for drinks and the unique themes. In the Senshu program, we are not only tourists but also observers of Japanese culture. I am interested in the reasons why Japan has all kind of cafes and what type of people would like to go to there. We will be investigating the Japanese café culture in depth. "
- Chantelle

A Brief Description


The images of cafés in Western culture is very different than cafés in Japanese culture. In Japan, all cafés have a theme, depending on what kind of customers they are targeting, whether it is for normal, otaku, or a particular audience who are looking for unique and innovative ideas. Normal cafés are basically western style cafés. Coffee and western snacks are served. Japanese visit these cafés to display their social status and enjoy a break time in western wonderland. In Otaku cafés, such as maid café, waiters or waitresses are dressed in butler or maid attire respectively to serve their “master” in other words, the customers. Otaku cafés are also intended to provide a wonderland for customers to get away from the reality, live out their fantasies, and enjoy a moment of relaxation. Another example of these otaku cafés are the anime themed café, by having characters from anime, fans can enjoy their meal with familiar faces with food and drinks based off the character themselves or . Finally, the creative cafés, generally, it is referring to animal cafés which customers can interact with them while visiting, such as rabbits, cats, dogs, owls, etc. However, it is simply a small chunk of it. Special cafés such as Japanese doll cafés and cafés that customers can play with computer parts also exist in Japan. Visit one of them if you are interested!

The Plan


Our plan is to visit one café per week for four weeks. We plan on visiting a standard, anime, animal, and maid café. We have several criteria for choosing the café. First, we will visit cafés near train stations. This will help us save time and gives us ease of transportation around the city. Second, we will try to find one that is relatively cheap as cost is a major part where people decide to go. Lastly, while it is not necessary finding an english friendly environment would greatly appreciated. In this blog we will write about our initial thoughts, interesting facts about the theme of the week, partake in their menu and other highlights during the trip. As well, we will be studying how customers and staff interact with one another, and interviewing university students to get a sense of their social life and how cafés play a role in that.

I hope you will follow us on our café adventure! As well check out some photos of a themed café courtesy of our friend in Japan, Yasuhiro Kawaguchi, by clicking here!

Week 3: A Cat-acular Week!

Cat-stophe in Shinjuku Hello, everyone! Welcome back to our Senshu 2017 week 3 café tour. This week’s theme is a cat café. Cat cafés ar...