July 25, 2013
By Matt Wong
Recently, Japan’s various “theme cafés” have become widely known due to their depiction in anime and television programs, but perhaps relatively few people have actually set foot inside a ghost café, cat café, or maid café, to name a few that exist. (I was also told by a chef in Tokyo that bird cafés exist which feature various parakeets, but only near Hiroshima).
Immediately before coming to Japan I had just finished watching an anime which described the cat café as something akin to a “paradise on earth,” so it was the first item on my list of things to do in Tokyo. A few other USC students also were interested in cats, so on our first free day we head off to Shibuya’s「ハピ猫」(Happy Cat) Café as soon as it opened in the morning.
There was a waiting room between the entrance and the actual café. A posted sign explained that such a precaution was necessary so that the cats don’t leap out and escape. (In the photograph below, this waiting room was located immediately outside of the window at the reception desk.)
Upon entering, we were greeted by several varieties of cats, all of which were extremely well groomed and unafraid of humans. Some of them were wearing shirts, and the ones with pink shirts we were not allowed to touch, although we weren’t given an explanation as to why.
The pricing system was relatively simple: we each paid for a period of time to stay in the café (about an hour if I remember correctly), which also included one drink (different types of coffee and tea were available) and some small sweets. I paid an extra amount for a container of food to feed the cats.
Because the cats were well familiar with what these food containers contained, they would enthusiastically approach any human who held one, even if it involved jumping onto tables or shelves to get to a higher position. I was surprised that they were agile and polite enough to avoid knocking over tea on the tables.
Perhaps the most spectacular aspect of the café was that the wall opposite to the entrance was a large window. Because it was located on the third floor, we were given a wonderful view of the busy street outside, which contrasted nicely with the cozy interior. The natural light pouring in from this window gave the entire place a peaceful, sheltered feeling. Most of the other customers were couples on dates looking for a quiet place to spend their morning, and all of the staff were cheerful and pleasant, which didn’t surprise me at all since they were surrounded by cats all day. Although the interior was small (compared to a Starbucks in America, for example), it was perfectly clean, and decorated meticulously with various cat-themed items and books. Because playing with the cats was so fun, it was difficult to step away from them for a moment to drink our tea. I ended up eating the sweets as we were walking out the door.
Overall, I felt that the café lived up to my expectations, and I plan to visit it again in the future.