Japan’s newest incarnation of the “meido cafe” steps away from the moe stereotype and depicts maids a little closer to reality: conservatively-dressed, stern-faced, and brooks no argument from coffee table spills and naughty charges alike.
Café Rottenmeier has opened in Ikebukuro — a district of Tokyo more popularly associated with butler cafes and BL shops. Named after the disciplinary housekeeper from the 70s anime series Heidi (Alps no Shoujo, Heidi), the cafe has been attracting throngs of customers every weekend.
Guests are greeted with a terse “Welcome Home” by an unsmiling server in Fraulein Rottenmeier regalia; guests are also reprimanded for bad table manners and posture while taking their tea. There are 30 women who play “Rottenmeier” — which include students, office workers and retired real-life grannies; the younger servers wear heavy make-up and prosthetics to look the part.
The cafe was mounted as an interactive exhibit for the Festival Tokyo contemporary arts gathering being held until the end of November. It was meant to be a tongue-in-cheek commentary on Japan’s aging population, as well as a tribute to Heidi as a cultural artifact.
Many of the customers were children when the Heidi anime first aired on Japanese television in 1974. The eponymous animation series was based on a 19th-century novel by Johanna Spyri, about a young girl named Heidi whol lived a pastoral life in the Swiss Alps, watched over by Fraulein Rottenmeier.