|Leon of the eponymous NekoCafe in Yokohama|
At the request of a regular reader here, I have betaken myself and the kids (intrepid reporter that I am) to the Neko Cafe Leon in Yokohama. Yes, there really is such a thing--a coffee shop with a separate room filled with kitties to play with...for a sizable chunk of change ($6 each for 30 minutes, and an additional $2/10min each after that--and you have to buy at least a drink).
|click any photo to enlarge!|
...this poster of Leon was hilarious. It says "I turn into a Prairie Dog when I stand up!", and the white cat is thinking "Now you're the same size as me!"
Leon, in fact, is more than an attraction--the cafe website lists him as Ten Cho--Store Manager, whereas all the other kittehs are Staff...
Here's some video footage of Leon awake and walking around and playing with one of the Abyssinians:
(that's not my video--Leon was asleep while we were there...but it's a cute video, and it gives an idea of how munchkin kittehs move around.)
The NekoCafe was crowded the Saturday we went--we had to leave our name and take a walk while waiting to get in (about a 25 minute wait, though the waiter had said the wait could be up to an hour). Fortunately Cafe Leon is just around the corner from Ishikawacho Station in the heart of Yokohama--and Yokohama's Chinatown is just on the other side of the station.
One of the Chinatown gates is pictured at right...
Fortunately (or unfortunately), we didn't have to walk around too long before the NekoCafe called me to say the wait would just be a few more minutes and would we please wait just outside the door. The Chinatown Nikuman would have to be another time...
This was the first time we'd ever gone to a cat cafe, although I'd heard of them. The first one opened apparently in Taiwan about a decade ago and quickly became a hot tourist attraction, especially among Japanese tourists. A coffee shop full of cho kawaii kittehs? It didn't take too long before similar cafes began opening in Japan--Tokyo now boasts almost 40 such cafes, Yokohama has maybe a dozen...and they can be found elsewhere, from Hokkaido to Kyoto to Kyuushuu to Okinawa. According to Yokohama Walker magazine, February 22 is "Kitty Day"--2/22, the number two in Japanese being "ni" and the word for meow being "ni-yao" or "ni-yan", hence "ni-yan, ni-yan, ni-yan" (meow, meow, meow) Day... get it?
Most cafes charge a base rate for an hour (of kitty-time plus cafe-time), usually around Y1000 ($10).
Sometimes a drink is included, sometimes you have to purchase drinks separately. Weekends seem to be particularly crowded, with waits of up to a hour and correspondingly higher prices. And, like most places, be prepared to take your shoes off and leave them in the kutsu bako (shoe box) by the genkan.
Some Neko Cafes stay open fairly late (Cafe Leon is open 11am-11pm), maybe catering to business people on their way home from work. Cat cafes have become a popular way for tired Salary-men and -women to relax after work, especially for those living in apartments where no pets are allowed.
Some Cafes ask customers to sit while staff bring a cat to you, or not to pet sleeping cats. Cafe Leon is a free-type cafe, where cats roam freely around the room (which is separate from the coffee shop area--probably due to health regulations) and customers may pet or play with any cat they like (asleep or awake).
The main rule (the staff goes over the rules when they bring you the menu) is "Do not do to the cats what they do not like"... a sensible extension of the Golden Rule. All the cats at Cafe Leon were friendly and unafraid (most likely chosen for their personalities). None of the cats seemed nervous of children, either--that's Cici and Teddy there on the left petting one of the "staff".
|Ceiling Cat is watching you...|
"....Kitty is all curled-up under the kotatsu!" (a favorite Japanese children's song about snow ends with the dog playing happily outside, and the cat curled up warm under the kotatsu, a low table covered with a blanket and an attached electric heater underneath--clearly the best place in the world for a Kitteh to be;-)
While we were playing, the waiter was fixing our order-- a Leon pancake (dusted with cocoa powder to look like that), and drinks...
...even the bill was appropriately cute, with a Kitty-mark in one corner and a Bunny-mark in the other...
You wanted to see some video, too--right? I thought so, so I did my best to walk around with the video camera without stepping on any tails or catching any of the other customers on camera (much)...oh, and no flash photography (so's not to startle the kitties).
If you're ever in Yokohama--let's play at the Neko Cafe! Mata asobou, ne!
Alert reader Jerry found an additional, not-to-be-missed, video of Leon getting a bath...in the sink where the customers wash their hands! He also notes that Munchkin Cats come in four sizes--Standart, Super-Short, VW Microbus, and Rug-Hugger. The smart money is on "Rug-Hugger" for Leon...