Hasta la vista, Hello Kitty. Get lost, LOL cats. Tokyo’s hot new phenom are neko cafes (“neko” is Japanese for cat). At first appearance typical, cozy coffee houses, closer examination reveals live cats lounging on the furniture, in baskets, or on laps. Which, I guess, isn’t nearly as bizarre (or kinky) as Tokyo’s maid cafes. Actually, to a cat lover like me, it’s quite appealing.
CNN reports that about 100 neko cafés can now be found in Japan, with more popping up in South Korea and Taiwan. More than 50 of the cafes are in Tokyo proper, with almost 70 in the outlying suburbs. Neko no Mise, for example, is a popular neko cafe in the Machida suburb that just celebrated its fifth anniversary.
Right about now, you’re probably asking yourself, what kind of person chooses to hang out in a neko cafe? Banish the image of the stereotypical Crazy Cat Lady from your mind, because these places are a huge hit with young professionals–particularly couples (childless, perhaps?). Far from being frumpy, many neko cafe clientele are hipsters who like to take their dates out for an evening of coffee and cat-watching. Single patrons are welcome too, however, as evidenced by the proliferation of cat bloggers.
Apparently, the neko cafe craze is accountable for many a blog starring specific coffee house felines: some have their own mixi profiles, which, I’m sorry, is definitely halfway to crazytown. And I say this as one who has been frequently dubbed a CCL (yes, that is my cat wearing a sweater in the photo, and I was trying to cut my heating bill). But not everyone is on board with the concept of caffeine and kitties. A young woman named Yuko told CNN, “My sister wanted to go so badly, she took me to one. It was weird, I thought. People just hanging out there with the cats, but you’re not allowed to wake them up or pick them up, they were just watching the cats and smiling and stuff … it was a little scary.”