Japan is expensive. Tokyo and Osaka consistently rank among the most expensive cities in the world. With the strong yen, Japan is even pricier for foreign visitors. It's no steal for nerds, either. It's highway robbery.
Geek mecca Akihabara has a bevy of maid cafes to tempt otaku with cutesy food. Popular dishes include "rice omelettes" or "hot cakes", which are usually somewhere between ¥700 to ¥1000 ($9 to $13) at Akihabara maid cafes — well, ones staffed by dudes dressed as anime chicks. At normal restaurants, you can get a rice omelette — which is rice, eggs and ketchup — for around ¥500 ($6.50)
Portions, of course, aren't usually as generous as they are in the US.
AKB48, Japan's most popular idol group opened a pricey, new cafe in Akihabara last week. Rice omelets cost ¥1480 ($19) — ditto for unappetising pasta. The menu was drawn up by the AKB48 girls, something that costs patrons a premium.
The photos of the food don't look appetising at all!
Anyone who's been to touristy theme restaurants in the US or Europe can vouch for crazy high prices. The point usually isn't the food, but the experience.
The cafe has a private room or "secret base", which is covered in doodles and signatures by AKB48 members. Fans can also doodle in a designated space on the wall. The room has AKB48 DVDs and magazines available for perusal. It costs ¥10,000 ($130) to rent the room for two hours.
In the top photo, Tomomi Itano scribbles her signature on the private room's wall.
You'd probably be better off at a regular old maid cafe. Then again, you might not be a hardcore AKB48 fan, willing to shell out hundreds of dollars for stacks of CD singles for the group's handshaking events.
Apparently, around 200 people turned up when the cafe opened its doors.
Whether it be sports or idols, otaku fans are hardcore. They obsess and love things to bits. That shouldn't be a licence to fleece them. Sadly, though, it is.
Culture Smash is a daily dose of things topical, interesting and sometimes even awesome — game related and beyond.