Trending in Tokyo: Cat Cafés

by Gigi Guerra (Madewell)

On a recent trip to Tokyo with some of Madewell’s designers, I caught wind of something called a “cat café,” which is basically a living room–like teahouse filled with friendly felines. Though I’m a die-hard dog person (and happen to be highly allergic to cats), I became obsessed with finding one of these cafés. Apparently they’ve been popping up all across Japan, and in no time, we stumbled across one (fittingly called The Caterium). Here’s a tour.

We knew we’d struck gold when we spotted this telltale sign on the sidewalk outside a nondescript office building. Our highly anticipated cat café experience was within meowing distance, three floors up. So I popped a Claritin and we started our ascent. In the stairwell, we were greeted with feline-themed banners, arty snapshots of the residents and a calendar documenting that month’s cat happenings.

Once inside, we were greeted at the reception counter by a content tabby (seen below lounging on a stack of papers), who lazily watched us pay the entry fee, 300 yen (about $3.50) per 15 minutes.

After removing our shoes, we were escorted by a friendly staff member to a sink nook and asked to wash and sanitize our hands. (As a germophobe, I very much appreciated the sickness-thwarting efforts they made on the cats’ behalf.)

Over the next half hour we padded around the compact carpeted nursery-school–like space, mingling with everyone from businessmen to a group of teenagers, all playing with cats and sipping a variety of teas (we went for a nutty brew from Okinawa). The whole vibe of the place was quiet and mellow. It was so relaxing, I was half tempted to take a cat nap (OK, bad joke).

A big basket of cat toys were provided to play with, which Kin happily took advantage of.

Some of the cats were feisty and ready to play; others opted to curl up in big ceramic bowls, nestle in boxes or hide under tables and silently observe. Another notable quirk? One of the cats had recently passed away, and a shrine—complete with the cat’s ashes in an urn—was arranged on a nearby shelf.

After 30 minutes, it was back to the streets. On the way out, we were each handed a commemorative, wallet-sized picture to remember our visit. Here’s the one I got:

For more on Japan’s cat cafés, check out this awesome feature. Next on my list? A dog café called Bau House that I just discovered in Seoul.