If this were Vietnam, the term “cat café” might lead you to question whether the establishment offered a dubious menu consisting of feline dishes. Thankfully, Japan has no such intentions for neko. Cat cafes are common in cities here, with patrons paying to spend time with the creatures in a home-like setting- you can also enjoy a beverage (provided you can keep it free from cat hair).
I recently visited a cat café in Nagoya to see what it was all about.
Overall, the experience was satisfactory. For ¥700 (less than US$9), I spent half an hour with some furry friends. The cats seemed well looked-after. They were well-groomed and never showed signs of stress (there were informative cartoon posters telling the humans how to behave themselves). We had to sanitize our hands before entering and a woman was perpetually wiping down every surface in the place. A male patron played with willing participants the entire time we were there- he kept flicking a stick with a stuffed mouse on a string that left some of the critters mesmerized.
Without even realizing it, I had devolved into a state of relaxation. This appears to be the purpose of cat cafes- many Japanese people live in small apartments and work long hours, so while they can’t own these pets they can at least visit on occasion. For travelers, I would definitely recommend checking out a cat cafe- it’s a chance to experience something unique to Japan, and to hang out with some cute kittehs!