It’s no secret that the Japanese love the kawaii or cute character Hello Kitty, but also wildly successful has been a more tangible rendering of cats — the cat café.

While pet ownership is up in Japan apparently — pet shops are everywhere and small breeds of dogs are hugely popular here — many apartment blocks in Tokyo forbid pets, so these cafes, started in Osaka in 2004, are on the rise in Tokyo.

The business model is simple really: provide a long menu of cats from an array of different breeds to cater for all tastes, a short menu of drinks and snacks, and charge people by the hour to sit back and pat a kitty while they sip a coffee.

We’re cat (and dog) lovers, and one thing we’ve been missing from our holiday rentals so far this year is having something cute and fluffy to cuddle on the rare occasion that we unwind in front of a television, so we couldn’t resist paying a visit to this ‘cat petting zoo’ as they’re sometimes called here.

We opted for one of the original Tokyo cat cafes, which we were told had the most interesting range of cats — Calico Cat Cafe in Shinjuku. Here they charge Y600 per person for an hour or Y900 for 90 minutes. We planned on spending just an hour, but if you’re a cat lover you’ll understand how easy it would be to let one slip into two… the cats are just so adorable.

When we visited around 8pm one evening (the place was packed with locals), all of our favourites, the Persian cats, spent most of the time sleeping, and there’s a rule (among many) that you have to let a sleeping cat lie, so we had to settle for dangling toys in front of the others instead.

Curiously, the most popular breed that the locals like, is the ‘Scottish Fold’, the ones above with their ears bent forward — probably because they most resemble the kind of cute characters that the Japanese love so much — even when they’re real!

See for a list of Tokyo cat cafes compiled by Melinda Joe.

Looking for eccentric activities in Tokyo besides the cat cafes?

  • Virtual Golf Bars — enjoy a few swings in front of golf simulator while you swig a beer at one of the many Golf Bars popping up all over Tokyo. There are a dozen alone in our neighbourhood of Akasaka.
  • Pachinko Parlours — as bewildering as it seems to us to want to gamble away your savings on a pointless game of vertical pinball, Pachinko Parlours are incredibly popular in Tokyo and worth a visit at least once if you fancy yourself as a bit of an amateur anthropologist. You’ll find them in every area of Tokyo.
  • Maid Cafés — geeky guys can have a game of cards, a back rub and even get their ears cleaned (gross, we know!) as they chat to a waitress in a French maid’s costume about the latest manga release. There’s a list of maid cafés here on CNNGo.

Got any tips on quirky things to do in Tokyo? Let us know in the comments below.

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