So! Everyone already knows that maid cafes have become really popular in Japan, right? Did you know that “shops with maids in them” don’t have to just be cafes? Now in Japan, the Otaku Empire, there are all sorts of stores with maids working in them, such as bars, BBQ, and fast food restaurants, as well as massage parlors, aromatherapy, and beauty salons. In this column, I’ll introduce you to the popular brand Candy Fruit.
As a maid clothing specialty brand, Candy Fruit uses very high priced and high quality materials. Their cute and unique super-high quality designs are very popular, and the company began making them seven years before the maid trend became a widespread phenomenon. The number of fans who adore the maid outfits of Candy Fruit just keeps increasing.
So just what kind of services does Candy Fruit operate and perform? To introduce them, I’ve taken their store in Akihabara hostage and forced the information out of them!
Mr. Tetsuya Ono, the owner tells me, “The maid clothing of Candy Fruit isn’t something you just happen to pass by and decide to purchase, so we’ve dared to construct the store so that it doesn’t stand out. We did this on purpose, allowing our customers to be at ease so they can carefully select what they desire.” Even though there isn’t any big sign or anything, I found it right away because it’s such a cute store!
On the first and second floors you’ll find Candy Fruit Optical. The third floor is the maid specialty clothing shop. When you enter the store you are immediately greeted by the smiling face of a maid. Moe!
I’ve gathered information from the maid manager of the specialty clothing store, Ren-san. I was greeted by her smile with a warm, tender, healing aura.
The stylish mansion-like interior is really cute! With all the adorable maid outfits and European-style clothes, accessories, and goods lined up in rows, I forgot that I’m supposed to be working! There are not only maid outfits, but also socks, shoes, underwear, headbands, cat and bunny ears, and so on. It’s exciting just to see all the must-have items for the maids as well as casual outfits and various accessories and outfits for the dolls all lined up together! Candy Fruit’s maid clothing is famous for its cute and original designs. Each piece is made by hand and is really wonderful!
The designer also says the appearance, feeling of wearing, and silhouettes of their products are clearly different from mass-produced maid uniforms. When I tried an outfit on, it was so wonderful that I couldn’t help taking it to the register! The customers who come in to purchase maid clothing aren’t just women, but are also quite a lot of men too!
Ren, the maid manager, has a message to all Otaku USA readers: “We are very glad to have our maid clothing worn overseas. When you come to Japan, please come to our store!” And there’s also a message from the designer, Mr. Shiozawa: “It’s not something that’s only in anime or manga, but the way the maid does her best with the spirit in her service, is like it’s something that just might be able to save the world. I weave and design with that expectation, and will steadily create more beautiful maid outfits. I do my best so that the maid clothing of Candy Fruit can be loved all over the world!”
Now, our next assault is on Candy Fruit Optical downstairs! It’s the only “optician in Japan where maids work with customers.” The maid who is helping me with the interview is the miraculously cute and funny glasses girl, Shione-san. Besides the cute maids in the shop, there is an optical professional at the store. April 23 was the second anniversary of the store opening, and surveying the store interior, not surprisingly there were plenty of otaku who came with the sole intention of getting a full set of optical goods!
Around US$115 is a high price for a pair of glasses for a doll, but it’s because the lenses of this niche item are coated with a special anti-reflective material specifically made for photography! Since the manufacturer uses the same materials for these as in regular glasses and makes them one-by-one, there’s a high- class, luxurious sensation drifting throughout them.
There are a lot of features of the service, and while you’re waiting for your glasses, the maid will pour you a cup of tea, take a souvenir Polaroid included with your purchase, and if you can beat a maid at a Wii game, the lenses are free! The most appreciated service is getting a letter from a maid. It usually takes 30 minutes to an hour for the glasses to be completed, but for the customers who just cannot wait there is a mailing system where the maid will write you a letter of notification and mail it to you as soon as they are done. There also seem to be a lot of visitors who want to get letters from the maids but dare not to get the glasses! Yeah, it must be great to get a handwritten letter from a maid! This is a fun service!
In this shop there seems to be a lot of male customers, and returning customers are the majority. “I’m glad that there are a lot of customers who come here often, and when I can satisfy a first-time customer, it’s worth it just to see how happy they feel!” says the maid Shion-san. Well then, please tell us a message for the all the Otaku USA readers! “After you’ve enjoyed Akihabara in Japan, please come to Candy Fruit Optical and pick out some glasses!” says optical professional Mr. Nakazawa “When you come to Japan, sushi, tempura, and Candy Fruit Optical! I’d like to introduce you to new Japanese culture!” Thank you!
It doesn’t end there! There’s still Candy Fruit House Maid Service, and the maid clothing specialty shop for dolls, Candy Fruit DOLL.
Here I had another conversation with Mr. Tetsuya Ono:
Q: Please explain the whole story on how you opened a store like this. Also, were you originally interested in otaku culture?
A: When I was a salaryman, I was a consultant for an online store. Instead of being a consultant, I thought that managing my own online store would be better, and now it’s been seven years since I’ve taken off the white collar and started my own business. At that time, nobody paid any attention to an online shop specializing in “maid clothing.” I don’t know much about otaku culture, just to the extent that I knew there’d be a big market for it.
Q: For this service, what parts make it worth doing, and what parts are difficult to deal with?
A: If customers include their thoughts with an order, I think to myself a simple, “I’m glad I’m still doing this.” The difficult part is preparing the employees to be able to address the needs and expectations of our customers.
Q: What sort of expansions are you planning for the future?
A: Well, for starters, I’d like to get the website fully in English, with the aim of getting the brand known by customers throughout the world. Also, we’re planning on opening a maid cafï¿½© in March. We’re also preparing to launch a new apparel line named Candy Fruit Princess. Our designer, Mr. Shiozawa, is really into it and proposed the princess-style clothing, and we’re actually planning on doing a photo shoot in France one of these days. Since we’re announcing so much gorgeous clothing that all girls are yearning for, please look forward to it!
Q: Do you have a message for the Otaku USA readers?
A: I’ve established an enterprise fussing over maids. Of course, we want you to enjoy the world of the Japanese maids, too.
So, how was being introduced to Candy Fruit’s outlook and the store’s enjoyable atmosphere? It looks like it won’t be long before I’ll be going to buy maid clothes there! It’s good that they make glasses too, and I really want to call a maid to come and clean my home! If you come to Japan I recommend going to check out the store!
Next time I’ll introduce you to more of Japan’s otaku culture. Hold on until then!
Translation by Kyle Serra.
Candy Fruit’s Website: www.candyfruit.com