That one time…
Most of the world’s best stories start with the same four words: “Remember that one time…?”. Say these four words out loud and I’ll bet that your mind fills in the blank the same way google suggested answers pop up in your web browser. This column is dedicated to some of my “that one time” moments. Some (most) of these moments are embarrassing, some are hilarious, some are truly moving, and all of them are truly memorable.
That one time I became a crazy cat lady
I didn’t think it would come to this. Not so soon at the very least. After all, I’m a young, good looking (?), adventurous traveler, on a trip to “discover yourself” and the world. And yet here I was, sipping matcha out of a dainty teacup, and completely surrounded by cats, the only meaningful contact I’ve had in weeks. I’ve found myself in one of Tokyo’s famous cat cafes and I’m asking yourself, is this my final form?
On a recent trip to Tokyo, I somehow convinced my parents that we had to go to a cat cafe. Mom, as always, was game. Dad on the other hand took some convincing.
“If we see one we’ll go,” he said, “but I’m not going to walk around specifically just to find one.” As luck would have it, we saw one in Shinjuku. And so we went. You know, it was a “if you build it, we will come” sort of deal. The Mocha Cat Cafe was complete with food, drinks, and of course, cats. The whimsical spot was a great respite from the overwhelming hordes of people and the big city vibes of Japan’s biggest metropolis. Upon entering, we took off our shoes, paid a time-based entrance fee, and found ourselves in a incredibly cute little space with a literal tree of cats.
To my slight disappointment though, the feline stars of the show barely looked up to acknowledge me. I suppose they’re used to the attention and frankly don’t give a fuck. Nonetheless, I was enchanted and found myself trying to draw as many of the kitties to me, stroking, patting, and bringing out my best “baby talk”.
Though the world’s first cat café opened in Taipei in 1998, the concept really blossomed in Japan and is now engrained in Tokyo culture. Now don’t jump to the conclusion that this is just a Hello Kitty fetish gone too far. Cat cafes make sense in a city notorious for small apartments, pet-forbidding landlords, and lonely people. There’s a cat café for everyone in this city. There are some that specialize in obscure breeds, in fat cats (hopefully just referring to the cats and not the customers), and even in ex-stray cats. Some cafes even create online profiles for their feline residents, complete with headshots and baby kitty pics that put your Tinder page to shame. PETA freaks can rest easy knowing that every cat café in Japan is required to have a license and is regulated by the country’s Animal Treatment and Protection Law.
Strict regulations have not stopped cat cafes from opening at an astonishing rate, and honestly, after about five minutes in one of these magical little establishments, I totally understood why. There’s a simple joy in being a crazy cat lady, even if just for an hour or so. As I left, I felt revitalized. And yet I wondered, was that just a brief break from the real world? Or was it a dry-run for the inevitable?