You eat pizza, it turns out. Or curry, or rice, depending on what you’re craving. There are even more choices for drinks. With many iced choices on the menu, it is a great place to visit on a hot summer afternoon. One can order tea, coffee, soda, or food, or simply forget all that and just focus on the felines.
As soon as Tony told me about the Cat Cafe south of Hiroshima, I knew it would be on the agenda when my daughter, Tara, arrived in Japan for a visit.
But what is the deal with the cats? I had to ask. I had never heard of a place like this.
A Cat Cafe is a cafe that has a bunch of resident cats who freely roam the establishment. Patrons pay a fee to enter (typically by the hour), and then can interact with the cats.
The first Cat Cafe in Japan was opened only 8 years ago in Osaka after one in Taiwan became famous with the Japanese. Today these cafes are wildly popular in Tokyo, even requiring reservations, but we found a relatively undiscovered one very close to Yokogawa Station, south of Hiroshima.
Just inside the door of the tiny Cafe Maneki Neko, we slipped off our shoes and placed them on shelves. We washed our hands at the sink, then a staff member doused our hands in disinfectant gel, which we rubbed in till it evaporated. We paid 1000 yen each for a full hour of kitty time.
We were shown down the narrow cafe past bar stools at the front, and a table in the rear, to a room in the back, then were asked where we wished to be seated. It was explained to us that the benches were to hold drinks or cats, but no people butts. We sat on the floor in the back and ordered iced drinks from the menu.
At first the cats were all dozing in the warm midday lull, but the staff gently roused them. A boy and girl came in and began playing with them as well.
With time, more and more cats woke and came to investigate us. We were able to see around 18 cats, and we were able to pet 12 of them. One lovely and soft Natta-chan let us pick her up, but most of them were not in the mood for laps.
The felines who really wanted to avoid people stayed behind a glass wall that ran the length of the cafe. There was a narrow entrance that allowed cats to pass through, but was not large enough for people. We could see them, but the cats behind the glass knew they wouldn’t be mauled by kitty-loving humans if they stayed back there.
The cafe was clean and comfortable due to the attentive staff. When they weren’t cleaning or looking after a human, they also helped the cats entertain us. They handed out sticks with feathers at the end, and little rattly balls, to tempt the cats to play. And when that didn’t work, they rolled up an aluminum foil ball to toss around. Now *that* did the trick! Cats in Japan are as tempted by foil balls as cats in the states.