Maid cafe servers turn girl band

This six-member girl group used to be waitresses, but not just any regular service staff - for the past three years, they having been dressing up as Japanese maids and working at their own pop-up cafes at various places like anime events, existing cafes or community centres.

Singing, dancing and looking kawaii, these women used to be called Pika Pika Meido Cafe.

But now they are relinquishing their roles as "meido", or maid in Japanese, and making a real show-business debut as a girl band called Tokimeki Jump.

On Sunday, they will dance and sing J-pop tunes and anime theme songs in a 30-minute show at the the Anime Festival Asia Singapore.

Expect an energetic line-up befitting the group's name Tokimeki, which is Japanese for heartbeat.

The six members are in their teens and 20s. Most have entered the workforce and their clashing schedules made it harder to organise maid events - which is part of the reason for Pika Pika Meido Cafe breaking up.

The girls from Tokimeki Jump (bottom row, from left) Elin Ng (Naru), 18; Moon Ng (Natsumi), 24; Jessica Wang (Yuika), 25; (second row, from left) Trina Lim (Yuki Mao), 21; Regina Lai (Reiko), 19; (top row) Joslyn Ang (Suzume), 22.
The girls from Tokimeki Jump (bottom row, from left) Elin Ng (Naru), 18; Moon Ng (Natsumi), 24; Jessica Wang (Yuika), 25; (second row, from left) Trina Lim (Yuki Mao), 21; Regina Lai (Reiko), 19; (top row) Joslyn Ang (Suzume), 22. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The oldest member, Jessica Wang, 25, aka Yuika, a freelance illustrator, says she will miss her maid persona. In her role as a super cute, understanding, patient and entertaining waitress, she often lent a ear to cafe diners.

"The customers would complain about their stressful day at work and I would listen. They come to the cafe to destress. Perhaps it is an escape from reality."

But performing is another way of bringing people joy, she adds.

For polytechnic student Regina Lai, 19, joining the maid cafe was a way of overcoming her shyness.

She says: "The people who come to the cafe often share the same interest in pop culture, so it's easier to have a conversation. Now I'm not so self-conscious."

For the record, there are strict rules in the cafe: Customers cannot ask for the waitress' contact details and no touching is allowed.

Lai says: "People always think there is something suggestive, something extra going on, but that is totally not the case.

"We are just there to make conversation with the customers, especially when people don't talk to one another these days. It is our way of cheering people up."

The other members are feeling a little nervous about their upcoming performance. After all, as founding member of the group Joslyn Ang says, the anime festival is "one of the biggest J-culture events in Singapore".

"I'm pumped up for it," the 22-year-old adds.

Ang, aka Suzume, who recently started work in the travel industry, hopes that their former customers will attend their debut performance.

"Fans left sad emoticons on our Facebook page when we announced we were closing down our group," she says. "Many have said they will continue to support us."

•Catch Tokimeki Jump's performance on Sunday at 6pm at Akiba Mini Stage at Anime Festival Asia Singapore.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2016, with the headline 'Maid cafe servers turn girl band'. Print Edition | Subscribe