The spot to be: “Royal-T,” a fusion of a Maid Café and contemporary art gallery just opened this April in Los Angeles!

Royal-T: Maid Café-cum-Gallery in Los Angeles

Anime, comic figurines or cosplay were once confined to the world of the Japanese Otaku, enthusiastically celebrated within such neighborhoods as Tokyo’s Akihabara. However more and more, this subculture has become internationally recognised, just like the ubiquitous Mt. Fuji, geisha and cutting edge technology are trademarks of Japan. Still, we were surprised to stumble upon a newly opened Maid Café in Los Angeles of all places, the spot where celebrities and geeks meet! But Royal-T is not your average Maid Café. Instead, it’s a fusion of café, shop and contemporary art gallery. PingMag quickly investigated the first ever authentic maid café/shop/art space in the United States.

Written by Chiemi
Translated by Natsumi Yamane

Culver City, a twenty minute drive west of LA’s downtown, is home to many film studios and was originally known as “the Heart of Screenland.” In recent years, the city has gained a new reputation as “the City of Arts” where the streets are lined with a series of up and coming galleries. There, the art space “Royal-T” opened its doors in December 2007 — and the long awaited maid café just made its debut this last April. On the outside, when compared to japanese maid cafés, the atmosphere of Royal-T’s façade, covered in green artificial grass and a glass-fronted entrance, rather resembled a high-end interior shop. Moreover, this staggering 10,000 square feet (3,048 square metres) space would be inconceivable to maid cafés in Japan.

Clearly visible from afar, Royal-T’s quite impressive glass-fronted entrance.

Many of the art objects displayed inside the shopwindow belong to the collection of the shop owner and art collector, Susan Hancock. For the past few years, she has been mesmerised by contemporary Japanese art and is now showing internationally renowned artists including Takashi Murakami and Yoshitomo Nara in this maid café… sorry! art space.


The grand opening of the maid café in April…

… has been quite festive. By the way, this is a Japanese artist, Mitsuhiro Okamoto with his own work “Tiger Rope Pattern”.

Once inside, waitresses, dressed in the familiar maid costumes, welcome you with bright smiles. And as you glance over the menu, you notice that there is even a note next to the Soup of the Day saying “Please ask your maid for more details!” How cute!

However, the most remarkable thing is its special menu. Just as you might have gathered from its name, Royal-T, its selection of fifteen different types of tea is lined with unique names such as “Tokyo Breakfast” and “Kyoto Sunset.” Ah, this sparks ones curiousity!


Their menu of sandwiches includes “Spicy tuna tar tar with avocado on toasted sourdough sandwich.” Yummy!

A healthy salad with “Yuzu shrimp with asparagus, tomatoes and avocado.” Healthy foods based on Japanese cuisine with a touch of Californian flavour!
Two maids standing in front of “Your Dog” by Yoshitomo Nara. Note their poses!
The shop attached to the café, its shelves filled with Japanese manga.

In the meantime, how did this amazing maid/art gallery combination come about in the first place…? The owner, Susan explains:

“Two years ago, I went to Yoshitomo Nara ’s Graf A to Z exhibition in Japan with Yukie Kamiya, who is now the chief curator of Hiroshima City Museum of Contemporary Art. Yoshitomo Nara had a café and store on-site with his show and everyone was enjoying going to eat and having something to drink, and then shopping in the attached store. Then Yukie introduced me to Goto Design who had worked for Takashi Murakami for many years. I wanted to put my contemporary art collection on display with a tea house and a store and they came up with the brilliant idea of having the maid café. Since then, they created the name, the logo and made much of the merchandising in the store which carries unique products from Japan and from artists shown in my collection. I had always wanted to share my art and let others enjoy it. It makes me happy to be around and heals my soul. So good food, great green tea and wonderful art would be a fantastic experience!”

The art space of Royal-T. It’s huge!

Enormous photos of Japanese girls in eccentric fashion by photographer Masayuki Yoshinaga. Take a closer look!

The famous “The Little Pilgrims (night walking)” by Yoshitomo Nara.

Since its opening, people use to pay attention more to the maid café. Don’t forget that this is obviously also a genuine art space introducing contemporary Japanese art to the folks in Los Angeles. Susan also told us that in the future, she would like to see Japanese artists visiting Los Angeles to utilise the space too. So, if you are a Japanese artist visiting L.A., don’t forget to get in touch before you travel! And for those of you already residing in L.A., don’t miss their current Roya-T’s Just Love Me exhibition!

The owner of “Royal-T,” Susan Hancock, surrounded by the maid waitresses. We want to have tea with you!

Royal-T
Address: 8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City, CA, 90232, U.S.
Open: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., closed on Mondays.
Phone: +1-310 559 6300.

  • MK

    The girls look awesome. They give the Japanese counterparts a run for their money.

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  • isako

    I wonder though if they could have put a Western spin on the theme, being Los Angeles and all. Maybe manservants for the female patrons?

  • http://note.aimeeisdrawing.com Aimee

    It’s a cute idea, but I think the whole maid thing is derogatory towards women. Where are the butlers? Oh yeah, they’re not a huge fetish. I really like the idea of a shop/gallery/cafe though, and it looks like a good place to find hard to get Japanese art.

  • Eric

    Aimee: actually, there are quite a few Butler Cafes in Japan. In fact, there’s even one that is entirely “foreign butlers”.

    http://www.japanprobe.com/?p=3888

  • PeteNoSLeep

    ..Can’t wait, and I can’t believe I havent seen or heard of it earlier..

    Nevermind if the food is good or not, i mean, the girls and Nara’s ‘sleepwalkers’ are reason enough to go…

  • earl

    How gimicky.

    And I don’t get the whole maid thing; the costumes look always look rumpled and cheap, and the women look foolish. How is that hot again?

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  • jen

    Went and the food was okay, but expensive! I would recommend anyone to go to check out the art, but the whole cafe part is over hyped

  • giz

    I read about this in the NYTimes… sounds great!

    to ‘earl’, the Times said it’s not meant to be hot or erotic like its Japanese counterparts; the girls act more cute than sexy here. :)

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  • crystalfish

    Nice concept. My only complain is that while the NYTimes article makes it clear that Royal-T does not try to be the ‘real deal’ the homepage suggests otherwise. It might also help if Ms. Hancock would visit an actual maid cafe in Japan to correct what seems to be a slightly distorted idea of what the real deal is like. And people should start taking Mr. Macias words with a grain of salt.

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  • earl

    to ‘giz’
    I don’t mean hot as in erotic, I mean hot as in generally appealing, cool, innovative–sure, throw sexy in there, too.
    I also don’t give a fig how The Times chooses to interpret this, but I’m at least one dude who isn’t a fan of women being literally packaged up. It looks asinine. I’m sick of the nerd fanbase that eats this sort of shit up.

  • Anonymous

    I kind of want to work in a made or host club/cafe… no sex though! Fun way to make money and meet people.

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  • mona sisa

    i’m gonna visit that when i come to CA. well, like two years later. lol…

  • sk

    It is derogatory.. and we like it : )

  • Kitty

    I’m a girl, 15, love japanese art and I would looooove to work at a maid café. Tihii, ^^

    “Can I take your order, master?”

    I’m going to order a maid costume from bodyline now. <3

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    I don’t mean hot as in erotic, I mean hot as in generally appealing, cool, innovative–sure, throw sexy in there, too.
    I also don’t give a fig how The Times chooses to interpret this, but I’m at least one dude who isn’t a fan of women being literally packaged up. It looks asinine. I’m sick of the nerd fanbase that eats this sort of shit up.

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