What you'll find on Storybook Days

The Home page displays all my musings on life in Japan and a few other things (baseball and children's books are distinct possibilities). For highlights only: "A Day in the Life (edited)." "Tabemono (Food)" is exactly that. "Big in Japan" is my completely biased and oversimplified list of what is popular in Japan, and "Kimono Count" is a day-by-day record of the people I see in traditional dress. "Editor's Delight" catalogs the unintentionally amusing and apparently quite complicated world of Japanese-English translation. "Uncle Tucker" tracks our sightings of a certain cat following us around Japan.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Raining Cats (and Dogs)

It's rainy season in Tokyo, so why not take a walk in the pouring rain to the local cat café?

How does one find a cat café?  With a cat café map map, of course.  I'll admit, I was a skeptic.

Following up on a lead from my Tokyo-savvy, cat-loving friend, Annie, I looked up the neko café (cat café) culture in Japan, and here's what I learned:  The cat café phenomenon is relatively new (less than 10 years old) and was started to give people a place to relax and cuddle felines when they can't afford to have their own.  (Space is limited, esp. in cities like Kyoto and Tokyo, and pets are quite expensive.  CNN reported on it, so it must be true, right?)  Guess what?  It turns out that cat houses are fun for the whole family!

Different neko cafés charge different amounts.  The one pictured above is in Kyoto, and it was over 1,000 yen for 30 min.  (FYI, 750 yen = $10).  We didn't go in.  However, the one we found in Tokyo was about half that price (530 yen for 30 min.):  Neko JaLaLa:

Cute logo, isn't it? nekojalala.com  (It helps if you read Japanese.)  Here's the price structure:

First, pay.  Then tuck your shoes away and head straight to the bathroom to wash your hands.  (You wouldn't want to bring in any germs, would you?)

We had this creepy little fella ensure we washed properly.  (Turns out he continued to follow us all over Japan in different guises, but that is for another post.)

I know what you are thinking:  Did it smell? (No, not really.)  Was there cat hair everywhere?  (No, not at all, even though most of the cats are long-haired cats.)  Where do the cats live?  There was a cat door on one side of the room where the cats could "escape" when they had had enough.  The cat cafés are pretty well regulated, with cats being ensured adequate time alone without human contact, allowed to roam freely, and not overexposed to light (in other words, lights out at night).

After we are nice and clean, we head out to meet the cats and order our drinks--it is a café after all.  Two Cokes, a Sprite and at least 20 cats.  Now THAT'S a recipe for fun!

Choose a toy or two and then it's up to you to find a friend or two to share your 30 minutes.

There are (at least) 4 cats in this picture. Can you find them all?
Here a cat,

I called this kitty Lovey Love.  She was my favorite.  Note awesome cardboard bed.

there a cat, 

This luxury high rise is about the size of the average Tokyo apartment.
EVERY(freaking)WHERE a cat, cat.

I know.  I know.  ADORABLE.  We called him Teddy.  He didn't look real.  Impossibly cute.
With so many cats to choose from, it was helpful to have this handy souvenir take-home folder with (almost) all the cats' names on it:

This little fella, Jack, was a huge hit, because he looks like our own Jojo, whom we miss very much:

But, in the end, one cat stood out from all the others.  His name was Coo, and he is the biggest (tallest) cat I have ever seen.  He's the Manute Bol of felines--at least as big as an adult Blue Healer (my family's dog of choice).  I tried over and over to get pictures that would give a sense of his size.  I really do think you had to be there, but at least I tried.  I'd hate for you to miss out:

At first, Coo was perched on top of the bookshelf and didn't want to come down, but the lovely cat lady helped get him down:

Coo finally agreed to come down and meet his adoring (or simply awestruck)   public.

A few photo ops

See how huge Coo is next to all the other cats in the café? 

and then the cat lady handed me this:

a ball to use when playing with Coo.  A hairball, that is.  Made entirely from Coo's fur.  Suddenly, enough was enough, and our little visit came to an end.  We said farewell and promised to visit again soon (assuming we can avoid the hairball) and headed back out into the rain singing Ja-La-La!

(And yes, dog lovers, there appear to be dog houses, too.  But I ask you: who wants to be in the dog house? A cat house is much more fun.  But just for you dog lovers out there...a moment of Japanese dog café video zen.)