Maid Cafe Meets Shooting Range - Welcome to Friendly Fire!
Reece Scott, our newest contributor, holds a B.A. in Japanese from Georgetown University, a Master’s in Modern Japanese Studies from the University of Oxford, and is currently a graduate student at Tokyo's Digital Hollywood University in the Digital Contents Management program. He is passionate about otaku culture and trends.
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Friendly Fire: You’ve Probably Never Even Heard of Something Like This
If you know Akihabara, you most likely know about the many maid cafes that it’s famous for. What you might not know is that there is one particular maid cafe that is truly the first and only one of its kind: a combination maid cafe & airsoft shooting range!
- Editor’s Note: Yes, really. -
This maid cafe, aptly named Friendly Fire, just a short walk directly north of Yodobashi-Akiba, is easy to miss because it isn’t located directly in the heart of the electric town. However, that doesn’t stop Friendly Fire from enjoying a large following of regular customers. Hiroshi Emura, the owner of Friendly Fire and an avid airsoft enthusiast, opened the cafe on January 11, 2011, with simple intentions:
“I ran out of room in my house for all of my airsoft guns and I needed a place to put them.”
Looking around, clearly this was no exaggeration.
The interior of Friendly Fire consists of a cafe on one side and a shooting range on the other, separated by a windowed wall so customers don’t have to worry about BB pellets falling into their food. As for the menu, Friendly Fire offers a wide range of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages as well as dishes ranging from various donburi to the more standard omuraisu (omlette rice, pictured).
The two maids working this evening, who go by the names Anna and Cylinder, are dressed in Japanese-style school uniforms. I asked Anna what made her decide to work at an airsoft gun-themed maid cafe.
“I used to work as an event companion for car shows and so on, I’m also a fan of the anime Black Lagoon, and when I heard from an acquaintance that this place was recruiting maids, I decided to give it a try.”
For customers who want to use the range, Friendly Fire has a system in which you can either bring your own airsoft guns or use the cafe’s, including a very large and very heavy minigun (Yes, you read that right!). You can shoot a magazine’s worth of BBs at a standard target, or you can challenge yourself to a shooting match in which you use a handgun and try to shoot five heart-shaped targets (four pink and one green - in that order) as quickly as possible.
Like-Minded Friends & Survival Games
The cafe has a friendly atmosphere and all the regulars know each other, and for good reason. Emura intended for the cafe to also serve as a social space for people who share an interest in airsoft to meet like-minded friends, and also to form teams for survival games, or Sabage, as they are known in Japanese.
Survival games are team-based and usually consist of two teams dressed in military-style fatigues shooting at each other with airsoft guns and using military-style tactics to accomplish objectives. These games take place at parks all around Japan that are built specifically for survival games.
There is a message board on the wall at Friendly Fire where customers can write messages or post flyers to recruit team members for survival games. Occasionally, Friendly Fire staff will also organize games for customers.
Because participants in Friendly Fire’s survival games usually have to get up very early in the morning and take a bus to the game grounds, the staff allow the customers to spend the night in the cafe. They tell me it’s a tradition that started on March 11, 2011, when Japan was hit by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
“The trains weren’t running and customers couldn’t get home,” says Anna. “So we allowed them to spend the night.”
All Good Things...
Sadly, it turns out that Friendly Fire will be closing its doors less than a month from now, on May 11. Emura also runs his own company, and due to circumstances at his other job, he “no longer has time” to manage both, but he did leave the door open for finding a new space somewhere else for his loyal customers to use.
Friendly Fire is planning to make a bang as it goes out with raffle drawings for free airsoft guns and other prizes, including the minigun(!), so if you want to try something very different from the usual maid cafe and happen to be in Tokyo between now and May 11, you may want to take a shot at Friendly Fire!
Go to Friendly Fire (before May 11!)
Address: Tokyo-to, Chiyoda-ku, Kanda Neribei-cho 68-2, Dai 2 Yokoshima Building 3rd Floor
Hours: Monday-Friday 18:00-23:00; Saturday, Sunday, and National Holidays 13:00-23:00
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Photos & Video: Reece Scott; Friendly Fire