Monday, February 09, 2009

Neko Cafe

From the country that brought you maid cafes (coffee shops where nerds go to be spoon-fed hayashi rice by staff dressed as maids) and host clubs (overpriced bars where lonely women go to be fawned over by guys with spiky hair and eye makeup) comes a new breed of uniquely Japanese business innovation: The neko cafe.

Neko is Japanese for "cat," and a cat cafe is just what it sounds like: A place where customers can drink tea or coffee while playing with the cats that "work" there. These businesses have begun to spring up in numerous locations in Japan, a country where most people are prohibited by their landlords from owning pets. One such neko cafe, called Coccolare, recently opened in Shimokitazawa, close to where we live. Yesterday, Fiance and I made it our duty to investigate the neko cafe and subsequently BLOW THE LID OFF it.

As I expected, the interior of a neko cafe turned out to be little more than an oversized "living room" full of chairs, sofas and scratching posts. Customers pay by the hour (¥1300 yen a piece, one drink included, in our case) to lounge around in this room and enjoy the company of about twenty full-grown cats. A laminated card at each table shows a "rogues' gallery" of their kitties, giving each cat's name, age, breed and a brief description of its personality. Off to the side sits a rack full of cat toys. There are bookshelves full of cat-related literature, and a screen on which looped video images of cats being aw, so cuuute! are projected non-stop.

My main concern after first hearing about neko cafes was that having a constant stream of strangers coming in all the time would be very stressful for the animals. Contrary to my expectations, however, the cats all appeared very relaxed and -- in true feline fashion -- indifferent to the presence of the customer. Not that they were antisocial...they just didn't seem to pay much attention to us for the most part. One or two customers even had cats jump up on their laps. And, not surprisingly, at least half of the cats were asleep for the entire hour we spent there.

This "wiener cat" was the newest addition to Coccolare's staff

A gigantic tabby that looked like a lion

When a cat falls asleep in a Japanese earthenware pot, it's called neko-nabe


b? said...

A little different than the place I went, they had the food/drink section on a different floor than the cats. Seems more sanitary to me. Any cats try to drink out of your cup or eat your food?

carey said...


Jesse Jace said...

This place only had the one room. Considering the number of cats, there was surprisingly little hair lying around. The cats were also very well-behaved, although the staff warned us that one in particular was fond of stealing people's used coffee creamer containers.

Robert Owen said...

It's like some sort of crazy cat brothel. [insert obvious pussy joke]

Waking up from a severe blow to the head and having just your old creamer containers missing is MUCH better than having them steal your wallet/internal organs. In fact, it's kind of convenient.

MeoOw! (extra "O" added for sassy emphasis)