May 19

WIT Life is a periodic series written by professional Writer/Interpreter/Translator Stacy Smith (Kumamoto-ken CIR, 2000-03). She starts her day by watching Fujisankei’s newscast in Japanese, and here she shares some of the interesting tidbits and trends along with her own observations.

Can’t believe it’s been almost a month since I’ve written here, but two weeks of that time was my amazing trip to Japan!  I wasn’t sure how spending Golden Week in Tokyo would be, but it was actually quite nice as people tend to leave town to travel both domestically and abroad.  Most of my friends stuck around, so it was great to catch up with them without the usual work and other obligations cutting into our time together.  Thanks to them, I was able to explore some new neighborhoods and local parks I had never been to and to just enjoy taking it easy in Tokyo, a rarity when things are in normal operation.

During my second week I began to miss my cats at home, so I decided to go to a cat cafe.  For some reason I have never thought to visit one during my previous visits to Japan, but part of why I wanted to go this time is that we now have our very own cat cafe in NY so I wanted to check out the original version.  I picked one in Kichijouji as it was close to the station, but when my friend and I went upstairs we were told the wait would be a few hours.  We had plans later in the day, so I made a reservation for another day that week.

I returned to the cafe at the appointed time and was given a lanyard upon which my start time and other information was marked, and was asked to wash and disinfect my hands.  It cost a reasonable 1200 yen (about $10) for one hour, and you could add extra time in increments of 15 minutes for several hundred yen each.  There were about 20 cats in a big room, and probably just as many people.  Some were couples, some were groups of friends and some were alone like myself.

The way everyone interacted with the cats varied greatly.  Some people actively played with or petted them, while others were content to hang out on the side of the room and read manga (the bookshelves were well stocked) without paying much attention to the felines.  The cafe offers drink/snack service as well as snacks for the cats, and you can purchase these items with your lanyard.  When you leave at the designated time, you pay at the cashier.

It was such a relaxing hour that I really understood why people would want to hang out at these cafes.  Even if they weren’t there to necessarily spend time with cats, if only just to get away for a little while.  When I told all my friends about my experience, none of them had personally gone but they told me there are cafes for bunnies, owls, you name it!  I’m not sure if these versions will be coming to the city anytime soon, but I know that the cat cafe downtown is super popular with a supposed waiting list of a few months.  I’ll have to check it out someday to see how it compares with the ones in Japan.

In other cat news, the Life of Cats exhibit currently at Japan Society introduced its second round of items at the end of last month.  I took the free Friday night tour last week, and though many of the pieces seemed to be from some of the same series that had been previously displayed, there is some cool new cat artwork so make sure to pay a visit before it closes on June 7.

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