One of Akihabara’s most beloved maid cafes, Schatzkiste, will reopen for business at a new location next to Jonathan’s on Kuramaebashi Dori from May 20.
Opened three years ago on in a loft on the fifth floor above a doujinshi shop, the quiet, creative atmosphere and polished old-school maid staff made Schatzkiste a favorite hide-away for Akihabara otaku. Many seriously grieved when it closed March 2009.
Its revival is more than just a happy occasion, but the advent of the first “Culture Cafe” in Akihabara. This has a few meanings, but one is the strengthening of the workshop theme. This is not the first workshop cafe, or place to relax, sharpen hobby skills and meet people with similar tastes. In fact, the style has become very popular among industrious middle-aged housewives with crafty hobbies and time to burn (think “culture center”). But Schatzkiste is bringing it to Akiba.
“This is the otaku version,” explained Arii Emiko, the owner of the establishment. “A lot of people have come to me saying that after they became salarymen, they had no place to continue their hobbies or couldn’t find a place to meet other hobbyists and so they had to stop being otaku. I would be so pleased if this could be a place for such people.”
Arii stresses another meaning of “culture cafe” – a cafe to introduce and spread otaku and Akihabara culture, everything from anime and manga to games and figures. At Schatzkiste, otaku can draw doujinshi or build models. Also, Akihabara or anime artists (there are plans to call in industry pros and creators) can use the space, complete with PC and projectors, to display and discuss works. With three times the space as the original cafe (30 seats), it’s set to be a veritable gallery of geekdom.
As part of this grand plan, Schatzkiste wants to be more accommodating to tourists than its previous hidden 5th floor location allowed. While regulars might be a bit taken aback, Arii expects this will be a way for cloistered otaku in Japan to build bridges with their international counterparts, and vice versa, for foreigners to get to know Japan from the inside.
But despite the opening up, the space still maintains much of its homey charm. The brightly lit, open, squared room is dominated by two long worktables coated in a thin green paint that looks hand-applied and well worn. The walls appear like textured stucco. Exposed wooden beams and wooden bookshelves are stocked with antique tomes, dolls and artifacts. Chandeliers evoke a rustic cabin feel, taken further in a more private, raised dining area surrounded by shelves.
Schatzkiste was always unique for its devotion to atmosphere, with scrupulous attention to the details of the storybook setting (literally) of the cafe and its characters. Thankfully, the new location will maintain this tradition, with a twist.
“The staff all decide a character, which they then become in the cafe,” Arii explained. “These characters are part of the four-panel manga I draw, and customers can look forward to meeting them in the cafe. This is part of the worldview we create at Schatzkiste and one way to enjoy the experience.”
In case you were wondering, the male characters in the story are present, played by girls in butler danso (male cross dressing).
In addition to the workshop and character elements, Schatzkiste will continue to offer a selection of food “like a dinner table at a small cottage.” The system of time pay for bottomless drinks and free reading material and games is expected to be intact.
6-11-2 Hasegawa Building, 1F
Tokyo-to 101-0022 JAPAN
12:00 to 22:00 (first Tuesday of the month is holiday)