Although the idea of the cat cafe started in Taiwan, it really caught on in Japan. In Taiwan, I did get to visit a cat village, so in Japan, I couldn’t miss out on the chance to visit a popular local cat cafe, and the one I was able to get to was the Calico Cat Cafe in super shopping district of Shinjuku.
As expected, there are tons of adorable cats there to satisfy the most ardent cat lovers. Dinner time was especially fun.
My experience there, though, wasn’t exactly what I expected.
If I didn’t look up directions to the place, I might have missed it completely, as the entrance to it is marked by a midsize print-out ad lost in a maze of tons of other ads and business signs. Walking into the building, when we finally located it, still kept us skeptical, as the elevator to it was like in the back of a questionable hallway.
When we got there, there was a long wait, and in fact, you had to reserve a time slot, since they have space for only so many visitors at a time, for the comfort and safety of the cats. So we picked our slot, which was in a little over an hour, went out to grab some food and came back just in time for our turn.
After signing up at the counter, we got our little guest pass lanyard, took off our shoes, washed and sanitized our hands, and stepped into the little two-storied feline wonderland.
The cost was by the hour, which I remembered to be about 1200 yen, a little over $10 USD. You could pay more for more time, with deals for longer stays, and there were people inside who seemed to be hanging out and reading books or on their laptops. Some sat still in front of cats, waiting for them to come to them.
Also for the cats’ safety, visitors are not allowed to pick them up, but they are allowed to pet them if the cats allow it. There are plenty of toys all around. All of the cats looked plump and healthy and had really silky fur, which is usually a sign of good nutrition.
Having had cats myself for over a decade, I thought my general feeling at the cat cafe would just be one of bliss in which I would be delighting over every little bit of fluffiness around me. Instead, I surprisingly felt a little sad and even a little depressed in there. Part of the reason was because one of my cats had just passed away of cancer last year, but I don’t think that was the only reason.
Cat cafes seem like a novelty, but actually, they are filling a real need for city dwellers who can’t afford or have pets of their own due to housing restrictions. People who can’t have a cat at home basically come here to enjoy the company of these furry friends. At home with my own cats, I can pick them up, hug them, kiss their cute bellies, and just overall love them. It made me sad to think that some people who couldn’t have cats of their own may only be able to enjoy cats in a cafe like this, where they can’t pick up their favorite little furry friend give it a big hug. It kind of reminded me of maid cafes or butler cafes, where people go and enjoy the company of paid companions of the opposite sex. I didn’t get this same feeling when I visited a the Cat Cafe in San Diego, CA, as the cats there are all up for adoption and the cafe serves as a shelter.
Nonetheless, the cat cafe is still an experience to try out if you’re ever in Japan, especially if you are a cat lover, and the cats most definitely exuded their share of cuteness.
Next up, the iconic Mt. Fuji.