Japan’s capital city can be a tough place for a cat lovers to live. Small apartments, long work hours and restrictive housing codes make it difficult for Tokyoians (Tokyoites? Tokyoids?) to keep cats at home. No wonder then that the city is seeing an increasing number of cat cafes—lounges where the felineless can drink coffee and find some catisfaction. Tokyo has seven different cat cafes that we know of (and there are probably many more than that). Here’s a look at our three favorite:
Calico Cat Café
Two dozen or so cats purr, scratch and pounce upon plastic mice within the confines of the comfy, lounge-like Calico Cat Cafe. Customers pay ¥800 yen (~US$9) an hour, or ¥2,000 yen for three hours, for the right to be there. Once inside, they can play with the cats, order food or drinks (a cat-puccino perhaps?) or simply hang out in a comfy chair.
When the Calico opened in early-2007 it was little more than an oddity and a refuge for crazy-cat-ladies-in-waiting. Since then the concept has gone mainstream. It is now so popular that the Calico Cat Cafe has opened a second branch and is considering a third. On weekends it is so packed—families, old women, and couples on first dates are especially previlent—that the poor cats seem rather overwhelmed with all the attention.
If you are wondering: The entire cafe (as well as the cats themselves) are kept meticulously clean the cafe’s six air filters and by the Calico’s small army of “feline staff” that have themselves become something of an attraction. There’s even a bestselling coffee table picture book dedicated to the workings of the Calico’s cat minders.
If you go: Be aware that you can touch, but not pick up, the cats wearing the handkerchiefs. Also, both Calico Cat branches are packed on weekends—for Saturday and Sunday afternoon visits reservations are virtually required.
Tokyo locations: Kichijoji, Shinjuku
This establishment has “only” eight cats but it might be our favorite of the cafes on this list. From the outside the Neko JaLaLa’s Akihabara branch looks more like a fancy private residence or an architect’s office. Only the cat claw doorknob betrays this place’s feline predilections. Inside, the Neko JaLaLa resembles a combination of a children’s bookstore and the set of Barney—there are bookshelves and padded cat playground equipment all around.
If you go: Ask for an English copy of the (unintentionally) hilarious bios on each of the cats here.
Tokyo locations: Takadanobaba, Akihabara
As well as being a cafe home for felines, Nekorobi is haven for wicker and burlap furnishings; there’s almost certainly no other cafe on the planet with as many scratching posts per square meter. Nekorobi distinguishes itself from Tokyo’s cat cafes in other ways too: Most of the cats here are rescue animals. Nekorobi has more of a singles and pick-up scene than Tokyo’s other cat cafes. Some customers seem to come here not so much to play with the cats but to play with the cafe’s Nintendo Wii. And Nekorobi is a relative bargain by Japan cat cafe standards—the ¥1,000 (~US$11) fee won’t only get you in for an hour but also give you access to complimentary cookies and unlimited drinks from the vending machine.
If you go: Check out the detailed cafe rules (in English as well as Japanese) posted at the entrance.
Tokyo location: Ikebukuro
Other cool Tokyo travel ideas from Spot Cool Stuff:
Eat at The 100% Chocolate Cafe
Shop at Gashapon, One of the World’s Best Toy Stores
Order a Sake From a Buddhist Monk Bartender
Get Served by a Monkey Waiter
Climb the Skytree: The World’s Tallest Tower