A café in the heart of Tokyo provides soothing feline therapy
When we were looking up wacky and wonderful things to do in Tokyo we learned about the cat cafes. In Tokyo, where flats are more like an American walk-in closet, residents are often not able to keep pets. In fact, the Tokyo lifestyle is such that one works until 9pm (or later), grabs a bite to eat and then often just heads home to sleep. Most entertainment, dining and relaxation happen outside the home – and this is where cat cafes come in. In a city packed with people where one nearly body surfs the subway everyday, people are in need of a place of respite. And almost nothing is as soothing as spending time with animals…reading a book and having a cat curl up beside you…and this is why people come to cat cafés. We dropped in around 5:30pm on a Monday to see what it was all about.
Just around the bend from the electronics and anime district of Akihabara in Tokyo lies Neko JaLaLa Cat Café. Actually neko = cat in Japanese and eight of the furry creatures reside behind the brass-paw door handle of Neko JaLaLa. We had a little bit of trouble to find it initially, since the website had no formal address (at least not in English), but no worries…the owner was super helpful on the phone and in fact talked us through the directions as we walked from the subway station. Purrfect!
We were then greeted at the door by the owner who warmly ushered us in to meet the kitties. As I was sipping a ginger and lemon iced tea, I started to look around. Part kitty playground and part café, there were cats on bookcases….in plush kitty beds…on stools….on upholstered cat trees and lining the walls. There was…on a footstool…the biggest Maine Coon I have ever seen and I seriously doubt I will ever see one bigger. He was the size of a dog and had a rather humourless look about him. An orange Persian with a squished up face slept and stretched and slept some more. A tabby Scottish Fold awoke from a nap and peered at us with one eye. And “Jack” a black cat, also known as the manager of the place, made his way over to us as if to welcome us to his humble operation.
A café full of cats may seem like a disconnect in a city so concerned with cleanliness…where even public toilets have liquid sanitizers inside stalls, masking music to hide the inconvenient embarrassment of having your urination heard by others and push-button warm-water bidets. But in fact Neko JaLaLa was quite tidy and hygienic…with shoes being removed at the door (common in private homes but not necessarily in public spaces), bags put up into cubby holes and hands sanitized with a 2-step process. And only then, does one get to meet the kitties.
We were a bit shy at first, but soon we got into the swing of things with the help of a basket of toys. All the kitties were friendly…even the ferocious looking Maine Coon. (Make sure to ask for the cat bios – they have in Japanese and English). All the felines were friendly but we did notice that some of the customers seemed to uniquely bond with certain cats. For example, kitties that only showed passing interest in me, latched on to a neighbour and kept him company the entire time. My favourite was a coquettish round-faced Abyssinian named Anne who loved to play and snuggle and chase the string no matter where or how high it was dangled.
When we decided it was time to leave, I realized I had a smile on my face, a spring in my step and that achy feeling in my neck was lessened. Hey, maybe there really is something to this idea of feline therapy. Leave it to the Japanese to outsmart the rest of us not only on cuteness, but also on relaxation! Purrrr……rrrr……rrrr.
(2 iced teas + 2 people 1.5 hours in the café was $26 USD)
Akihabara, Tokyo, Japan
2 minute walk from the Suehirocho stop on the Tokyo Metro
Telephone: +81 (0)3 3258 2525
Open 11am – 7pm