It seems like there is no stopping the phenomenon that is Japanese female idol group AKB48. The group’s popularity continues to snowball in both Japan and overseas, they recently launched their own sketch comedy program, and just about everywhere you go you’ll find merchandise labeled with the girls’ smiling faces.
Keeping up with this unrelenting march is AKB’s newest attraction, the AKB48 Café & Shop, which had its grand opening September 29 in Akihabara, Tokyo.
The venue, located right outside the Denikigai Exit of Akihabara Station, is a large, one-floor space that holds a theatre area with regular showings of AKB48 concert videos and a buffet to eat while you watch, a shop stocked with exclusive AKB48 merchandise, a private event room where it is said members will come and visit, and a café.
Customers may enter the café portion without reservation and entrance to the shop is limited to café customers. The theater area and private group room require reservation and cost 2700 yen and 10,000 yen respectively.
On opening day eager fans waited to get in the cafe in a line that didn’t get any smaller even after it turned dark.
To be honest, I only know about AKB48 as the average person. However the café is about much more than just eating and does an excellent job at providing an enjoyable experience – even if you aren’t a die-hard fan.
Based on my visit, I’d like to offer 8 reasons why even non-fans should check out the café on their next trip to Akihabara.
1．All of the girls working there are cute
Though you’re not actually guaranteed to see one of the members during your visit, there is no need for disappointment! Not only is the interior decorated with pictures and monitors running video footage, all of the girls working there are as energetic and adorable as the group members themselves. The atmosphere in the café is always lively and the sound of male customers’ hearts beating rapidly is almost audible.
2．You can speak with the girls freely
This café is highly recommended for my brothers who don’t have the courage to go to even go to maid cafés. When you sit at your table one of the girls brings you a menu and explains the drink bar system and that your stay is limited to 90 minutes. Finally, your waitress introduces herself, makes small talk, and politely answers your questions. This is probably the longest I’ve spoken with a female aside my mother, compelling me to cry tears of both joy and sorrow.
3．The food is tasty
The menu is full of items that you’re guaranteed not to find anywhere else, including dishes contrived by the members themselves. For example, we sampled the “Atsuko Maeda’s Thick and Fluffy Curry Rice Omlette” and the “Yuki Kashiwagi’s Pasta of Black Pig’s Passion.” Both dishes, which are 1480 yen and come with a side dish, do not disappoint in presentation or taste!
4．If you choose the drink bar you get a free coaster
The café is also equipped with a drink bar, where you can receive free refills of anything from the bar at a price of 500 yen, 300 if you order from the food menu. Customers who opt for the drink bar also receive an exclusive coaster with a random picture of one of the members on it. With a little good luck and a lot of money, you can collect them all!
5．There is a sense of community
When I was in the store I noticed that many customers were asking the people next to them about which drink bar coaster they received and trading them. I realized then that this café provides an environment where complete strangers, united by their love for AKB48, can feel comfortable talking to each other.
6．Café customers may enter the shop freely
Those who order something at the café have the privilege of visiting the shop, which is stocked with exclusive official AKB48 merchandise. With all of the reasons I’m giving you for the café alone, how could you complain!
7．You can purchase alcohol (ages 20+)
Wine and beer are available for purchase, and being able to speak with such lovely girls while drinking a cold one is a good experience indeed. Or is it because I was drinking that I had the courage to speak with such lovely girls? In either case, it’s a nice change of atmosphere from the pub stool!
8．You can take pictures with the girls
Wanting a memento of my wonderful experience but familiar with the bitter taste of rejection, I hesitatingly asked the girls if I could take a picture with them. To my surprise, they willingly consented on the spot and I went home with photographic evidence that girls can stand around me without bursting into tears.
Hopefully this is enough to convince you to visit the café. Regardless of age, gender and nationality, this is something I recommend to anyone interested in experiencing one of Japan’s largest pop-culture phenomena.
Original author, photographs: Hidenori Satoh
1-1 Kanda Hanaoka-cho
Located right outside the Denikigai Exit of Akihabara Station, near the Gundam Café.
Theatre Area – 11:00-23:00 (Doors open at 10:45)
Café Area – 11:00-23:00 (Last order at 22:00)
Private Room – 11:00-23:00
Shop – 11:00-22:30 (Take-out corner closes at 22:00)
▼ AKB48 CAFE&SHOP
▼ The bright lights make the shop stand out even more at night
▼ The drink bar menu. Alcohol served separately.
▼ Atsuko Maeda’s Thick and Fluffy Curry Rice Omlette
▼ Delicious curry-flavored rice topped with a thick and fluffy omlette!
▼ Yuki Kashiwagi’s Pasta of Black Pig’s Passion
▼ Apparently pigs are passionate about penne
▼ This could be you!