November 22, 2011
A cat cafe is not a place that serves cat sandwiches. It is a cafe… with cats.
Cat Cafes in Japan were very popular in the early-mid 2000s and still remain peppered throughout Tokyo. Building on the otaku culture of manga, maid and mimikaki (ear cleaning) cafes, cat cafes provide solace for people who love cats but can’t have cats in their apartments. Unlike the maid and butler cafes, cat cafes entice both sexes and are much cleaner and innocent than some of the more gender specific cafes in Akihabara (i.e. imoto or “little sister” cafes).
Cateriam is a cat cafe located near the west exit of Shimokitazawa station. Kayoko and I were walking to Second House for coffee and cake, when we stumbled upon Cateriam’s curiosity-inducing signage “3rd Anniversary: 300 yen for 15 minutes.”
After laughing and pointing at the sign for a few minutes, I suggested that as Umamimart (a media machine that brings you pressing issues in Japan), it was our duty to patronize a cat cafe.
Upon entry we were given a short, concise run-down of the rules.
Take your shoes off…
Wash your hands in the sink provided…
It is the customer’s responsibility to keep track of the clock.
Scan the menu…
Don’t mistreat or startle the cats.
Photos are OK.
Kayoko and I intended to stay there for only 15 minutes so we wanted to explore as much as we could, quickly. The general scene include about 15 cats draped all over cubbies, nabe (clay pots), book shelves and shoeboxes. Kayoko and I quickly found our favorites and admired their clean coats and pink paws.
Meanwhile, the server took our order and came back with a tray of our beverage and a little snack sized Aero chocolate.
I would say the most bizarre aspect of the cat cafe was how sedated these cats looked. Garfield would have been proud of these cats — pampered day and night by strangers whispering sweet nothings in their little, furry ears, eating Japanese canned cat food and having an array of toys to choose from. They were so out-of-it that I couldn’t tell if they were even looking at me. Their food must be really special…
“Why are you bothering me?”
Going to the cat cafe made me realize how cynical I can be. The staff and patrons seemed so genuine, not finding any part of this to be silly. Erecting shrines for cats that have gone “bye-bye” and setting up twitter accounts for some of the cats, there was something perfectly innocent about this whole operation.
Shrine for deceased Caterium cat…
Birthday illustration from fans…
Follow your favorite cat on Twitter…
Or friend them on Mixi (Japan’s Facebook):
Some cats have their own DVDs.
We asked the staff person how the cats reacted to the earthquake back in March. She said that all of them piled into the corner of the room and refused to come out for a few days. These cats have recovered nicely, sleeping out in the open and providing therapy for their human admirers.
Montblanc Building 2F