For a generation, Anna Miller's was more than a coffee shop. For a generation, it inspired video games, anime, and countless cosplay. For a generation, it's quickly becoming a memory.
This week, the second to last Anna Miller's restaurant closed its doors in Yokohama, leaving one open in Tokyo's Takanawa Wing. This is it, the last one standing in Japan.
The American diner, with its big pie racks, once captured the country's imagintion. Anna Miller's, originally a Hawaiian chain, spread through Tokyo during the late 1970s and early 80s.
Anna Miller's was staffed with young waitresses who wore iconic uniforms that accentuated their chests. For its day, Anna Miller's was similar to Hooters, but less aggressively sexy and a place families could patron. (Here's a photo account of visiting one.)
As previously posted, the restaurant was a "proto-maid cafe", existing before there was such a thing. It quickly became an otaku hangout. The skirts were short, and diehard regulars would hang out in Anna Miller's hoping to catch glimpses of underwear.
During the 1990s, Anna Miller's got its second wind. While the food was overpriced, the staff's uniforms, with their heart nametags, inspired video games and anime—such as how adult PC fighting game Variable Geo aped the Anna Miller's uniform and how visual novel Welcome to Pia Carrot is set in an Anna Miller's style eatery. Even the recent DS game Love Plus features waitress uniforms inspired by the restaurant's iconic outfit.
Yet, even with that nerd cred, Anna Miller's begin closing one by one en masse after the turn of the century. By the time maid cafes, which were no doubt inspired by the chain, begin hitting big in 2003 and 2004, around sixteen Anna Miller's had shutdown.
While Anna Miller's was a proto-maid cafe, it was never able to capitalize o Akihabara street cred. During the turn of the century, Akihabara was not mainstream as it is today (the notion that Akihabara idols like AKB48 could overtake the country was mere fantasy), and perhaps the chain was reluctant to officially brand itself an otaku coffee shop with a prime Akihabara location. Otaku took their business elsewhere, frequenting maid cafes, and as the decade pushed forward, the remaining Anna Miller's closed diner by diner.
The last one standing opened in 1983. It's survived the collapse of the Japanese economy and the rise of the maid cafes, and it's all that's left of Anna Miller's in Japan. Here's the address. Visit it while you still can.