November 22, 2011

Tokyo JUNKtion: Cateriam Cat Cafe

by yoko

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A cat cafe is not a place that serves cat sandwiches. It is a cafe… with cats.

Cat Cafes in Japan were very popular in the early-mid 2000s and still remain peppered throughout Tokyo. Building on the otaku culture of manga, maid and mimikaki (ear cleaning) cafes, cat cafes provide solace for people who love cats but can’t have cats in their apartments. Unlike the maid and butler cafes, cat cafes entice both sexes and are much cleaner and innocent than some of the more gender specific cafes in Akihabara (i.e. imoto or “little sister” cafes).

Cateriam is a cat cafe located near the west exit of Shimokitazawa station. Kayoko and I were walking to Second House for coffee and cake, when we stumbled upon Cateriam’s curiosity-inducing signage “3rd Anniversary: 300 yen for 15 minutes.”

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After laughing and pointing at the sign for a few minutes, I suggested that as Umamimart (a media machine that brings you pressing issues in Japan), it was our duty to patronize a cat cafe.

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Upon entry we were given a short, concise run-down of the rules.

Take your shoes off…

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Wash your hands in the sink provided…

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It is the customer’s responsibility to keep track of the clock.

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Scan the menu…

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Don’t mistreat or startle the cats.

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Photos are OK.

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Kayoko and I intended to stay there for only 15 minutes so we wanted to explore as much as we could, quickly. The general scene include about 15 cats draped all over cubbies, nabe (clay pots), book shelves and shoeboxes. Kayoko and I quickly found our favorites and admired their clean coats and pink paws.

Kayoko’s fave:

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My fave:

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Meanwhile, the server took our order and came back with a tray of our beverage and a little snack sized Aero chocolate.

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I would say the most bizarre aspect of the cat cafe was how sedated these cats looked. Garfield would have been proud of these cats — pampered day and night by strangers whispering sweet nothings in their little, furry ears, eating Japanese canned cat food and having an array of toys to choose from. They were so out-of-it that I couldn’t tell if they were even looking at me. Their food must be really special…

Zzzzzzz…

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Zzzzzzz…

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“Why are you bothering me?”

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Going to the cat cafe made me realize how cynical I can be. The staff and patrons seemed so genuine, not finding any part of this to be silly. Erecting shrines for cats that have gone “bye-bye” and setting up twitter accounts for some of the cats, there was something perfectly innocent about this whole operation.

Shrine for deceased Caterium cat…

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Birthday illustration from fans…

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Follow your favorite cat on Twitter

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Or friend them on Mixi (Japan’s Facebook):

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Pink paws…

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Some cats have their own DVDs.

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We asked the staff person how the cats reacted to the earthquake back in March. She said that all of them piled into the corner of the room and refused to come out for a few days. These cats have recovered nicely, sleeping out in the open and providing therapy for their human admirers.

Map

CATERIAM
Montblanc Building 2F
2-26-6 Shimokitazawa
Setagaya-ku, Tokyo
T: 03-3468-8114

FAT MAP

8 Comments

  • Anders
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 2:40 am

    Super cute. I hate to ask but.. do you think they are sedating the cats? Like fx camels and elephants are sedated in India and Africa to accomodate tourists?

    We have around 5-6 cats living at our farm and they spend most of the day running around screaming, pooping and scratching everywhere. I don’t think they’d last 15 min as employees at that cafe unless they were drugged up real good.

  • yoko
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

    Yeah, I am suspicious of that too. Maybe there’s an anti-catnip type of herb or medication… Someone also told me that cats adapt to their environment/living quarters– maybe they’ve just accepted their fate. Any cat lovers care to shed some light?

  • allison
    Posted November 23, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    This cracks me up. I would like to go to an ear cleaning cafe. Really.

  • Posted November 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Yoko & Kayoko,
    You can come play with my cats anytime.

  • Kayoko
    Posted November 26, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    @Anders, this excursion was dedicated to you.

    @Allison, we will bring the sedatives. These cats were definitely under the influence. Life is SO HARD.

  • Posted November 30, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    this is amazing and has totally inspired me to open a pug cafe in LA.

  • Christy
    Posted December 6, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    Cats are nocturnal animals, so maybe they chill during the day and run around like crazy at night?

    This makes me think that perhaps I’m missing an opportunity to rent out my apartment over Christmas to some Japanese tourists — Catastic Holiday in NYC, anyone?

  • Posted August 12, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    Where’s Sugar? I missed him. I wish he is still alive!

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