When you can’t keep a cat at home (small apartments, extra rental charges, precious tatami mats), Japan has the perfect solution – the Cat Café. Typically, these are places where you can chill out with a drink and some food while playing with an army of cats. You can feed the cats, or just sit down and cuddle up to one.
On our last trip, because it was my 40th birthday, and because I love cats so, we went to the Tokyu Hands store in Ikebukuro to visit the cat petting zoo there.
Not strictly a cat café, Nekobukuro is still awesome. We paid our 1000円 each for an hour of stroking, feeding and petting the 20 or so cats that live there. As we went in, we cleansed our hands with the gel offered by the cat guardian at the door. She explained the rules, and then we were off.
Some of the cats were sleeping in the themed rooms around the edges of the main room, but there were plenty of kitties lounging in baskets, playing with toys and eating treats from the hands of the other cat guardians monitoring the room. There were all kinds of people there – families with young children, couples out on dates, and one older lady who was singing to one of the cats while it tried to sleep in a sort of kitty pod.
The Russian Blue was my favourite. It loved that scratching unit that it’s lying on in the picture. It also loved the cat guardian who was treating the kitties to snacks. And having its tummy tickled.
Having been away from our own kitty in England for almost two weeks, it was lovely to spend time with the cats at Nekobukuro. It’s one of the most relaxing hours I’ve spent in my life, wandering from kitty to kitty, giving each one a stroke and an ear rub.
There are loads of other cat cafés in Tokyo. The Guardian recently did a city guide to Tokyo and visited one of the more famous ones – Calico. There’s a video introducing the cats at Calico and the ethos of cat cafés here.
There are also cat cafés in Kyoto. I quite fancy going to Nekokaigi next time we’re there and having the true café experience of having a snack and a drink while being pestered by a cheeky cat.