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.
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!
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!”
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!
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.