I had never experienced the 'neko cafe' (which means 'cat cafe') during my trips in Japan. The neko cafe phenomenon was born about five years ago, and was so successful that the concept already exported outside Japan. I even believe that in a near future, we should find these 'cat cafes' in several major cities all around the world.
The neko cafe I went to is called 'Nekorobi'. It is located in Tokyo, in the district of Ikebukuro, less than five hundred meters from the metro station (east exit). But you can find other Neko Cafés quite easily in crowded neighborhoods of the Japanese capital.
Upon entering you have to take off your shoes, wash your hands and make the order: drinks for you (quite limited choice actually and nothing to eat, sadly) and treats to feed cats with. Payment is made when you're done, also depending on the time spent in the facility.
The neko cafe is obviously very cat-centered and there are a few guidelines to follow. The practical guide clearly explains the good manners to be observed in their presence:
- do not chase cats
- do not hold them if they don't want to be tightened
- do not wake them or scare them by talking too loudly
- do not use flash cameras
Thus, atmosphere is very calm and relaxing. Cats wander around the room at will, a lot of little nooks and accessories are dedicated to them (fake trees with baskets, toys, UV lamps). A lot of Japanese people come to neko cafe not only for the cats but looking for a general zen mood. The lighting and background music points towards this.
Besides, cats are not the only attraction as one can also spend a moment reading manga, magazines or go online. People in neko cafes are mainly young adults who come in groups or for a date.
This is definitely an experience I recommend to people traveling in Japan.