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Away from the desk - October 2015

30 Sep 2015

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An experience maid in Japan

I recently returned from a trip to the land of the cherry blossom, Japan.

Although I didn’t get to see any cherry blossoms (it’s a seasonal thing), I did get to see the blossoming of Japan’s tourism industry.

I was amazed at the number of attractions, the delicious food, the efficient transportation system and the friendly people. Japan truly is a tourist’s heaven.

Despite what some people may tell you, almost everyone can speak English (at least in the touristy spots). That really pleased me, seeing as I forgot to bring along my old-school Lonely Planet phrase book.

In the main cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, there were tourists everywhere. And I mean everywhere. Sometimes I actually forgot where I was.

I heard a plethora of Asian languages being spoken, including Chinese and Korean, as well as pretty much every European language under the sun. As one of the tour guides proudly proclaimed, “Japan’s tourism industry is booming!”

So what’s this got to do with Docklands? Well, if you wanted to emulate a world-class tourist destination and draw people in, you’d look to places like Japan.

While Docklands is still developing, wouldn’t it be a good idea to benchmark against the best and then try to better it?

I digress. Back to Japan.

I decided to follow one of my boss’s recommendations for a truly cultural experience. “Mike, you must go to the maid cafe,” he told me.

Not knowing anything about this phenomenon, I booked a ticket online which got me a meal, a photo of a maid (i.e. a waitress dressed as a maid) and a “performance”.

Now before you start huffing and puffing, this is an all-ages experience. Touching is not allowed, let alone taking a photograph!

I arrived at the cafe mid-afternoon to avoid the lunch rush. I was the only customer there, which was probably a good thing as one of the maids welcomed me by attaching a pair of pink, fluffy bunny ears to my head. Not a good look.

My meal came out soon after, which comprised of a few beef rissoles in the shape of a teddy bear’s head. To make the teddy more realistic, the maids had drawn on some eyes and a mouth using tomato sauce. It was cute, in a weird kind of way.

What threw me off, however, was when a number of men sauntered into the cafe. Old, seedy men. Men who smoked inside (which is legal in Japan, by the way). Men who probably had wives at home and wanted to be served by young, giggly girls.

I probably shouldn’t judge them – they could very well have been non-seedy, single men who have a thing for eating teddy-shaped rissoles. Who knows?

The performance, which I had been eagerly awaiting for almost an hour, was lacklustre. Would you deem a go-go dancing, lip-synching maid, good entertainment?

I quickly slipped out of the cafe. Sayonara, seediness.

Did I learn anything that day? Absolutely. A maid cafe is exactly what Docklands doesn’t need.

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