One-Eyed: Reportage From a Very Peculiar Japanese Cafe
In 2001, the first maid cafe, Cure Maid Café, opened in the Akihabara district of Tokyo. Waitresses dressed as maids served men and addressed clients as aristocrats. The concept became popular, and now there are over two hundred similar establishments in the country. In some maid cafes, male waiters work specifically to cater to female customers.
In 1995, artist Sebastian Masuda opened the 6%DOKIDOKI store in the Harajuku district of Japan. In the early 2000s, the brand featuring bright and somewhat childlike items earned Masuda the informal title of “kawaii king” and played a significant role in spreading Japanese pop culture worldwide. “When you go to London or other European cities, you enter a brown world filled with gray buildings. I believe that colorful clothing truly belongs to Japan because in the rest of the world, people wear very few colorful clothes,” the artist said in an interview.
In 2015, Masuda opened the Kawaii Monster Cafe, a venue with the same eccentric aesthetics as his brand. The restaurant’s concept aims to bring together all expressions of the unique Harajuku culture (known for its cosplay gatherings). Waitresses at the establishment dress as typical “Harajuku girls,” and even the food is brightly colored like a rainbow. The iconic location in Harajuku attracted visitors such as Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian, and Dua Lipa. Masuda expected an influx of visitors during the 2020 Olympic Games, but the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans. In January 2021, Kawaii Monster Cafe closed, and only recently has it reopened to welcome guests and host events once again.
Another cafe called Monster Party has been operating in Akihabara since 2018, and it was visited by Vera Blanche. It can accommodate only up to ten people. The main highlight of Monster Party is the staff wearing one-eyed masks. The cafe’s aesthetic is not limited to a single source of inspiration: one-eyed characters are quite common in anime, such as in the manga Anarchy in the JK or Time Between Witch and Me. The employees are friendly and engage in conversations with visitors, even encouraging conversations and selfies with the staff. Like Kawaii Monster Cafe, this establishment ceased operations during the pandemic and is gradually returning to life.
The employees are friendly and engage in conversations with visitors, even encouraging interactions and selfies with the staff.
— The cafe is very small: it has only three tables and a small counter. Three women work in the establishment, one of whom is the founder and she makes masks for the staff. The visitor was also wearing a mask, but not with a single eye. The others simply silently ate their ordered dishes. The entrance to the establishment costs about 200 hryvnias. The girls are open to being photographed and interacting with them, Vera says.