Today’s blog comes from Nick Chesterton, a Round the World Expert in our Manchester store.
Okay, so on average you work more hours than any other country on earth, you’ve just slogged to the end of another long day, it’s 33 degrees outside and sticky… where do you head to? The pub? The beach (or a pool if you’re lucky)? Bed? A nondescript building and then up to a random room on the 6th floor that’s home to 30 cats? That’s the one! What could be better?
Wait, cats? What?
The Cat Café is one of those weird and wonderful Japanese oddities that used to appear on those ‘TV from Around the World’ programmes many years back, but it’s still thriving alongside an owl café and a ‘dog and human interaction area’ all hidden in the mega metropolis that is Tokyo. After finally winding our way through the maze like streets to find the Shinjuku cafe building and ascending in the lift, we are shown a sign with the rules, given a locker for our shoes and shown a mugshot of a rather sinister cat who’s ‘a biter’ and must not be approached! Ok…The cats rule the roost in this particular establishment, and the ten or so humans arranged on the floor and seats inside are an eclectic mix; a couple of single businessmen in full suits, a few intrigued tourists, a Japanese couple on a first date and a couple of lone locals.
How to catch a cat…
Once inside you find your spot on a chair or curled up on the floor and begin to try and entice these pampered felines over to you for a tickle. However, as cat owners will profess, cats are fickle – especially when they realise that the massive Persian in the corner is being handfed titbits by one of the smitten businessmen. Then your chances of a free stroke are pretty slim. Cat warfare escalates pretty quickly when the little box of chicken comes out and the ever so smiley and polite couple on a date start desperately trying to poach other people’s cats. The second businessman is looking particularly smug with his collection of five moggies surrounding him like he’s being worshipped. His smugness quickly dissipates once the cats realise the food’s gone and they return to their individual sleeping platforms. Disappointingly, there is no sign of ‘The Biter’ – I think he’s biding his time before striking again.
Where to go when the fur settles
Tokyo is one of those cities where a surprise lurks around every corner and it’s hard to get beyond the street front a lot of the time. But the best way to tackle it is to smile, push open the door and plead ignorance. Try to manoeuvre your way into one of the tiny bars (seating an average of six people) around Shunjuku or in slightly seedy Kabukicho and you start to see a completely different side to the shy, smiling business man of earlier. This is where you will get the most interaction from the locals – it’s amazing how a couple of drinks makes people fluent in almost any language. Most of the bars have a small charcoal griddle from which to serve skewered meats or Yakitori which can be anything from pork or chicken to the more unnerving giblets or ubiquitous offal offerings. The smoky little alleys and archways are packed with these tiny bars and a great place to see and experience a different side to Japan rather than the usual temples and gardens of Kyoto.