The Edo Neko Chaya has a beautiful interior, charming kitties, and a heartwarming mission.

With so much cool stuff to do in Tokyo, it’s easy for your schedule to get jam-packed. So while we’ve been busy running around getting robot-cooked fried chicken at the convenience store and haircuts at the by-otaku, for-otaku hair salon in Akihabara, we almost missed our chance to stop by Tokyo’s samurai-style cat cafe.

Luckily, though, the Edo Neko Chaya has had its run time extended until January 27, so we hopped on the train to the Ryogoku neighborhood to frolic with the felines.

▼ Edo Neko Chaya entrance

The unique cat cafe is designed to resemble a teahouse from the Edo period, the historical era that slots between the end of Japan’s civil wars and the opening of the country to the rest of the world. After purchasing our tickets and spraying sanitizer on our hands and shoes, we were let inside, where we discovered not just a teahouse for cats, but an entire feudal period townscape, compete with storefronts for an imaginary kitty public bath, pleasure quarter, and shrine.

As we walked about, we spotted cats gazing down at us from the eaves of the pseudo-buildings, and also relaxing on traditional zabuton floor cushions.

One of the cutest touches was the design of the shrine’s altar, which has cat-ear-like protrusions across its top and a sleeping space inside.

There’s also plenty of inventive artwork in the style of ukiyo-e woodblock prints, but with some decidedly feline flourishes.

▼ If you’re wondering what’s up with the knife in this picture, the woman is using it to grate katsuobushi (bonito flakes), and doing a much more elegant job of it than our own Mr. Sato did.

We’ve been to a lot of cat cafes, and we were impressed by how spacious the Edo Neko Chaya is, but the bigger surprise is how incredibly friendly its cats are.

We didn’t have to do any coaxing with treats or toys to get them to come over to us, and we asked the staff if they’d managed to luck out by assembling a team of naturally carefree kitties.

Actually, though, it’s just the opposite. There are over 40 cats at the Edo Neko Chaya, and they’re all rescue animals, having been abandoned by their original owners. Because of that, most of them were initially extremely wary of human contact, the employees told us.

So to help them get over their trauma, the staff doesn’t immediately put new cats into the cafe’s open area. At first, they’re kept in a place were they can watch other cats happily interacting with humans, and once the cafe closes for the night and the customers go home, the cats are allowed free run of the open area, letting them feel at ease in those spaces. Only once they’ve gone through these phases and are ready to play with visitors without feeling any stress do they make their official cat cafe debut.

The animals’ rescue cat status is the reason why the Edo Neko Chaya’s operation has been extended far beyond the originally planned two months (the cafe has been open since last June). Not all of the cats have found new homes yet, and the staff wants to keep the cafe going just a little longer, since its unique, attention-grabbing aesthetics are great publicity for their animal welfare cause.

▼ Like we said, you don’t have to give the cats treats, but setting out some snacks for them will make you extremely popular.

“These cats have gone through so much, and they’ve worked so hard to get back to the point where they can trust humans,” said one of the cafe’s employees, her eyes welling with tears, so here’s hoping a few more of them find loving humans willing to give them a permanent home.

Cafe information
Edo Neko Chaya / 江戸ねこ茶屋
Address: JR Ryogoku Station westside event plaza, Tokyo-to, Sumida-ku, Yokoami 1-3
Open 11 a.m.-8 p.m.
Until 27 January 2019

Photos ©SoraNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]