Japanese diners are getting weirdness fatigue.
As far as we can tell, it's impossible to get a cup of coffee in Tokyo without being served by a maid, a grandma, or a robot. But the Japanese love of themed restaurants has finally hit peak fetish. With the cat cafes, reptile restaurants, and bunny bars that comprise Japanese food-and-drink culture, it seems that no niche is safe, no concept unfetishized.
Except, of course, for the absence of theme itself. Japanese themed cafes have finally jumped the shark. The proof? Someone managed to fetishize the lack of fetish.
The company website ensures its clients that none of their servers smoke cigarettes. They won't hire women who used to work in nightclubs or bars. The concept targets customers who are sick of the seemingly ubiquitous cosplay that defines so many Japanese eateries. At the same time, some observers find these restrictions unfair, judgmental, and even sexist. You be the judge. All we can say is that this place exists.
But don't take our word for it.
Naturalia recently pulled off a successful crowdfunding campaign to open a second location in Tokyo. The crowdfunding page explains the concept best, and, thanks to the magic of Google Translate, we can stand back and let the owners of Naturalia tell you all about their "natural" cafe. Sort of. Google Translate has a long way to go.
We couldn't have said it better ourselves. It's worth noting that the crowdfunding campaign quickly raised twice its goal. The second Naturalia location is now open in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building in Shibuya.
"Many girls were told, but many girls gathered and they are all ordinary girls, so they get along well and are easy to work," the translated Campfire page says, and we're happy to hear it.
The non-themed theme of
Naturalia isn't the only innovative thing about it.
Rather than charging by the drink, like every other cafe in the universe,
Men can chug all they want within 10 minutes for 300 yen (or about $2.72 in U.S. dollars). Women only pay 200 yen (around $1.82) for the same service. That's a heck of an affordable way to get your daily coffee down.
This all might sound a bit out-there to American audiences, but don't forget that we're the culture that brought Hooters to the world. We're even slowly following in Japan's footsteps by opening our own cat cafes. Even in less obviously themed restaurants and cafes in the U.S., owners often hire women based on their looks. It's just that they usually don't ban makeup outright. Point being, don't rush to judgment on poor Japan.
Representative Masayuki Ogawa is an administrator at Naturalia. He wrote a "concept" description for the company's website. You'd better believe we ran that bit of prose through Google Translate.
You can thank us later.
"A flashy girl is not good," Ogawa writes, as interpreted by Google Translate. "Why are the girls working at girls bars, etc., blond, smoking cigarettes and nails are awesome. There are no shops where normal-looking children work. I would like to talk to a child who is working at Starbucks and a fancy cafe. It was useless to go to a shop that holds an amateur. It is boring to give up. Then I will make it myself. Then, I was able to create a shop that I had imagined for a long time. It is not a shop focused on looks. Not just beautiful people. However, it is only children who are really talking and healed."
It's important to note that "children" is a translation error. There must be some sort of Japanese word that either means "children" or "women," depending on the context, and Google Translate picked the wrong context. That's what we have to believe because, otherwise, this whole thing is even more disturbing than we thought.
Anyway, next time you're in Japan, stop by
Naturalia for an all-you-can-drink 10-minute chugfest.
Both locations are open 3 p.m. to 12 a.m. Why does this cafe close at midnight? We'll let that Campfire crowdfunding page fill you in on that.
"Opening hours by 24 o'clock," it reads. "In
What a commitment it is. Thanks, Representative Masayuki Ogawa. We guess.