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catCreativecommons.org/Ari Helminen

Once considered a passing fad, ‘neko’ (cat) cafés are now extremely popular in Japan.

Customers pay for the time they spend with the kitties, while caring staff make sure everyone gets along. Fees are similar across the city and longer packages (three hours or more) are usually a better deal. For $10-$15 an hour you can spend some time relaxing with a purring companion while sipping a cup of tea on a sofa.

The cats are well cared for and rules are strictly enforced: Sleeping cats are not to be disturbed and no cat is to be forced to endure petting. Customers can coax and call, but chasing down the felines is not allowed.

If there are a lot of customers, you may not get as much fur-time as you were hoping for. After work is the busiest time of day as tired professionals use the soothing kitties to relieve the day’s stresses. Try to visit earlier in the day to increase your chances of interacting with a lot of cats.

Calico Cat Café

calicocreativecommons.org/ Ari Helminen

More than 20 felines rule this lounge-like café that’s decorated with comfy chairs and a lot of soft sitting areas. For an active visiting experience you can get settled on a padded rug, start wiggling a toy mouse and wait for the kitties to come visit you. Alternatively you can order a drink and spend the afternoon relaxing with a book, hopefully with a happy cat purring on your lap.

Calico Cat is popular with young couples on dates – so popular that they’ve opened a second branch to accommodate all the visitors. Weekend afternoons are so busy that those without reservations may not be allowed in.

Neko Jalala

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This café looks a little more like a child’s daycare centre with cubbyholes for books and cats, and a lot of small, wooden furniture that can either be scratched or lounged on. With only eight felines it can be difficult to walk in without a reservation, but you can do a little sightseeing around the Akihabara region while waiting for your time.

Although a little less home-like than Calico Cat, Jalala does have café tables and serves a small selection of teas and snacks. They’ve also opened a second location in the Takadanobaba region of Tokyo.

Asakusa Neko-en

Rather than provide pure-bred cats of many breeds, Neko-en has cats that were previously abandoned by their owners. All the kitties are socialized and domesticated, happy to be part of a new home with lots of attention.

Not only do they take in abandoned cats, Neko-en tries to find foster homes or even permanent placements for some of the cats that come into their establishment.

In addition to food and drink for people, the café sells cat food and treats in limited quantities.

Nekorobi

The rooms seem to have been decorated for the feline residents rather than as an inviting place to spend hours relaxing. It tends to attract young singles and has gained a reputation as a great place to meet someone or just hang out and play the café’s video game or use the free wifi.

Vending machines provide free snacks and beverages, but the lack of comfortable seating doesn’t encourage multi-hour stays.

Neko-maru

This café is filled with kitty beds and toys, but it also has a few tables for people to sit at. Like most of the cat cafés, Maru can be crowded in the afternoons and reservations are recommended. They have a small selection of food and drink, but the main focus is the felines. Cat bios in both English and Japanese on the tables introduce you to both the ‘active staff’ of cats as well as those that have ‘graduated’ (gone to private homes). For special occasions you can arrange to rent an entire floor for private events.

Curl Up Café

A small place that only allows eight visitors at a time, Curl Up is so popular that visits are often limited to three hours only. A small kitchen services the café and large orders may take time, but with a cat-to-person ratio of 10-to-eight, you can entertain yourself with feathers and stuffed mice while waiting.

Temari no Ouchi

Temari’s house is a whimsical, fantasy cat land with playhouse-type rooms for visitors to have a little more private time with the kitties. The artistry of the design will entertain you even when the 17 furred ‘staff members’ are otherwise engaged.

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