Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dreaming of a Japanese Cat Cafe

Can "cats" be a theme for a cafe? If so, does that make it a "theme cafe"? Or can you really even call it a cafe if there is no food or drink served? Isn't it just an indoor petting zoo?

These were my questions upon entering the cat cafe. I'm sure some people go to Japan and think, "I can't freakin' wait to visit a cat cafe."

That wasn't the case for me.

Instead, confused and hungover on a Wednesday morning, I wondered the streets of Shinjuku with some friends until we came across a cat acfe. I asked if we should go in.
"Well, what the hell else would we do?" was the reply.
So we went in. 

For about $10 you get one hour in what feels like a crazy cat-lady's living room. There were about 30 cats that I counted, all of different breeds. That was plenty of cats for me, but my friend seemed disappointed.
"I wanted it to be a sea of cats. Thousands and thousands of cats."

So what it the point of a cat cafe? My understanding is that it is extremely expensive to have a pet in Japan. The pet shops I have visited have all sold regular dogs and cats for prices well over $500. Even if you can afford to buy a pet, the maintenance is very expensive and cumbersome in Tokyo. Not to mention, most apartments are too small, and people work too much to give a pet a decent standard of living. So to satisfy the urge to be surrounded by cats in an urban jungle, people pay for time at a cat cafe. This is just one example of how Japan truly has a means of satisfying any desire. And I mean, any desire

cat as cashier

So the way it works is that you enter the building, remove your shoes (a Japanese norm) and put your stuff in a locker. Then you get a time card from the front desk, and they review the cat room rules with you in Japanese (of which, I only understood half). You can pay extra money for cat nip and cat food, but you can't feed the cats outside food.

The cats were all cozy and people-friendly. Not like your neighbor's cat who hides under the couch every time you show up. They all look pretty happy and healthy, so I know they are being treated well. They all seemed to get along well with each other too.

So what kind of people go to a cat cafe? I mean, besides bored hungover people such as myself. Well, it looked like a lot of young couples. Now, I personally don't think of this as a hot date-type of activity, but I'm no expert on romance.

But the most interesting character of all was a man known as "The Humidifier Watcher." This was a man, probably in his mid-forties, who was there before we arrived, and probably long after we left. He stayed in the same position the entire time, his eyes transfixed on the humidifier. He didn't play with the cats, he didn't touch them, or feed them, he just sat and stared....

The Humidifier Watcher (right)

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