On Thursday afternoon Rachel and I decided to go in search of a “cat cafe” – a phenomenon which is extremely popular here in Japan. Basically a cat cafe is business where people can pay by the hour to spend time with a multitude of cats of all breeds and colours, and can also purchase a variety of drinks and snacks.
Rachel discovered one close by in the Shinjuku area called Cat Cafe Calico, so I headed over to meet her there. We found the place fairly easily, but were a little surprised when we discovered we needed a reservation. We were told the wait would be 40 minutes, so we decided to kill some time wandering around Shinjuku – always an entertaining area.
We spent our time strolling along back streets, many of which were part of the red light district in that area. This spot offered a wide and entertaining array of host and hostess clubs, bars, and love hotels. There were certainly some very strange businesses, such as the Robot Restaurant – the entrance of which was impossible to miss as it offered two large female robot-thrones (which moved their heads and blinked) for people to sit in and take photographs.
As I am continually learning, Tokyo in general is a place that literally has something for every kind of interest, fantasy or fetish imaginable.
I mean, just look at these hilariously absurd pair of elephant boxers that we found in in a department store – just chillin’ in the men’s clothing section.
Anyways, 40 minutes went by pretty quickly and we headed back over to the cat cafe to indulge one of those bizarre interests.
Before I continue, I’d just like to say that while I found the idea of cat cafes strange at first, and also a little worrisome as to the ethics behind the establishments – I have done some research which has put my mind at ease.
I’ve learned that in Tokyo, cat cafes are quite practical since many apartments in the city don’t allow pets, and people work long hours which would make taking care of an animal difficult. In this way, many people – locals and tourists alike – are able to find comfort among furry friends, even if only for an hour or two.
The cafes (to my knowledge) are kept very clean, and employ a fairly strict set of rules, created specifically for the cats’ health and safety. Apparently, according to Wikipedia “Every cat café in Japan is required to obtain a license and comply with the strict requirements and regulations of the nation’s Animal Treatment and Protection Law.” At the cafe we visited, we were only allowed to pet the cats – not pick them up or hold them. This allowed the cats to chose whether or not they wanted to interact with humans. There was also a separate room for the cats, where guests were not permitted at all.
Apparently many of the cats come from shelters, so these cafes help keep them off the streets, and give them lots of interaction with kind animal-lovers. Some cafes even advertise cats that are up for adoption, in case patrons are interested and able to take a cat home.
So anyways, Rachel and I spent an hour hanging out on comfy couches, with all sorts of cats, who, to be honest, didn’t show a whole lot of interest in us. But after a while, Rachel bought some treats which instantly drew quite the crowd of felines. I am personally not the biggest cat person – although I certainly enjoy their company – so I was content to simply sit and take photographs while Rachel happily took the bulk of the attention.
It certainly did seem to be a very relaxed and happy atmosphere for humans and cats alike. We even noticed a group of girls who had decided to take a cat-nap of their own, right there in the cafe.
This was little bit much for me – seeing people who are willing to pay ¥1200 (approximate $15) per hour to sleep with cats in the middle of the afternoon. To be honest, I had some trouble stifling my laughter as cats walked over, sat on, and brushed past these sleeping girls.
I will say that it was definitely an interesting experience – one that was probably a must-do here in Tokyo – but I really don’t think I’ll be paying that much to sit in a room full of cats ever again.
Apparently all the cat excitement was too much for me to handle, and I’ve spent the past 3 days sick in bed, barely moving except to use the washroom and get water. I’ll spare the details, but I’m assuming it was some sort of traveller’s bug because I’m definitely starting to feel better – although still a little weak. Mostly I’m just disappointed that I missed an entire weekend of potential adventures, but such is life. I guess I should be happy it happened to me now, rather than mid-semester when things really start to get busy. Anyways, hopefully I’ll be back at it again soon, with lots more to share!