Cat cafes, places where you can order a drink while enjoying the company of cats, are common in Japan. As someone who spends way too much time on the Internet giggling at cat videos and pictures (because cats operate the Internet, they paw at the keys), I had to visit a cat cafe in Tokyo.
There are two cafes that I knew of in Asakusa, the area of Tokyo where our ryokan (Japanese inn) was located. One was Cat Cafe Asakusa Nekoen, the other was Cafe Calaugh. Admittedly, I didn’t closely read all of their websites, but we decided we would go to Cafe Calaugh because you can order a beer with your cats after 6 p.m. (You can also have a beer with cats at Neko Cafe. Hopefully, my editorial decision making is much more sound than my cat cafe decision making.)
We — the Kiwi, a friend who also left Washington, and myself — climbed up to the second floor to find a cafe styled like a coffee shop: a couple of areas with loveseats and coffee tables for groups, a few cafe tables for couples, a library of Japanese books to read… and cats. There were nine cats running, or rather sleeping, around the cafe.
An employee directed us to one area of loveseats, where two cats were having a snooze. After we sat down, we paid the $5 cover and ordered drinks. At this cafe, you had to order at least one item off the menu, which had standard coffee shop fare. We ordered a round of tea, then proceeded to watch cats.
I sat by an orange cat, Oniruku, who let me pet him a couple of times before he got up and walked away to a cat tower where he can sleep in peace. The cat near my friend was much more tolerant of company. I think her name was Miki. Miki stuck around on the couch for most of our visit.
The cats were standoffish (as cats can be). The cats who fancied a wander would wander over to where we were sitting, stop and watch us from a distance, then decide they were not interested in any entertaining any Americans or Kiwis. After a few instances of this cat-tease, we started comparing the experience akin to situations where your preferred sex would reject you without a care: junior high dances, strip clubs… One person even said that these cats were like strippers, in that you have to work to get their attention, but the difference is that cats don’t care about your money.
The staff at Cafe Calaugh was lovely. They recognized our struggle with the fairer species. An employee came over to our sitting area with a toy, and proceeded to play with a black cat with some sweet cat-jumping moves. That black cat stuck around our area, as long as we had a cat toy for him to tweak, I mean play with.
After about 45 minutes, we had finished our drinks and felt like we had a satisfactory cat cafe experience. We were tired after a long day of touring, and perhaps the cats were tired and just wanted a night of couch (and Cat-flix?) to themselves.
During checkout from our ryokan the next day, we told our host about our cat cafe visit and mentioned that the cats were a little anti-social. He told Kiwi and I that Neko Cafe is more like a living room, where you can spread out on the floor with the cats. I’m not sure how much the environment would change the experience. I didn’t hesitate to spread out on the dark hardwood floor to play with cats at Calaugh, but then again I’m a shameless American. But it’s an interesting thought, one that I won’t explore because one cat cafe visit is enough to satisfy my curiosity.
Cafe Calaugh is located at 2 Chome-19-13 Kaminarimon, Taito, Tokyo 111-0034, Japan. If you’re interested in visiting a cat cafe in America, but you’re not going to Japan any time soon, you will soon be able to visit one in Oakland, CA, this October. Photos by the Kiwi (photo 2) and Cathy (photos 1 and 3).