You’ve probably heard of costumed coffee shops like Maid cafés, which can predominantly be found in Akihabara. These unique establishments frequently feature wait staff dressed as French maids. Gal cafés, however, are something different. I’ve been to one in Shibuya lately and it’s been an extraordinary experience, immersing myself into this very special Japanese sub-culture called Gal.
Gal (also gyaru in Japanese) refers to young Japanese girls, who are very fashion-conscious, famous for their dyed hair, excessively decorated long nails and edgy make-up to create those extremely big anime-like eyes. It’s a very exaggerated girly style, often understood as a sign of wanting to be different, of breaking away from traditional Japanese standards. You can often see these girls strolling around Shibuya, especially on the Center Gai Street, which starts right opposite of Shibuya station.
If you are interested in Japanese sub-culture or if you just would like to know more about Gal, Gal Café 10sion is a great place to go. As the name says, it’s a café, a very relaxed place where you can hang out with your friends and meet some Gal in person.
There are 7 active Gal working in this café, all being extremely nice and friendly. We were taught some makeup techniques and heard a lot about their fashion trends, their idols etc. Their knowledge and enthusiasm for fashion is incredible and talking to them gave us much more than just watching them on the street.
The inside of the café is pretty small and cozy, maybe 20 seats or so. Using keigo (honorific Japanese language) is banned here, so again, it’s a very casual atmosphere. Gal even use their own unique vocabulary and it’s called Gal-go (Gal language). However, even if you don’t speak any Japanese, there’s no problem at all. One of the Gal speaks English very well and the others are all very sociable, so that the language doesn’t really matter. They usually use their own Gal language anyway, which other Japanese people can hardly understand.
A true highlight of this café is the “Gal’s eye makeup experience” (3,500 yen including artificial eyelashes). Naturally it’s a service for women only. My friend and I tried this service. One of the Gal did our makeup, using her own special technique, and wow, our eyes looked twice as big as before; we looked just like Gal! Believe me, we are clearly beyond the young age of Gal; however, it was awesome and we had a really fantastic time.
Some other services include taking pictures with Gal (1,000 yen) or playing games. There is for example a game called shinken-shirahadori: a Gal brings a sword down towards the guest’s head and the guest has to try to catch it between their palms. If you catch it, you will get a free drink.
By the way, this place is not exclusively for women. Men can certainly enjoy the café, too, although they have to pay an extra fee of 1,000 yen per hour. I understood this is to keep them from staying too long. Anyway, visiting this café is a truly unique experience and lets you take a closer look at one of the real and active sub-cultures in Tokyo.