Coffee or cats? For some people, deciding which of the two they love more is tough. For people like these, Tokyo’s cat cafes are the purr-fect hangout spot.
But wait, what is a cat café? Don’t panic. It’s not a café that serves cats. Cat cafes are coffee shops around Japan where visitors can get their caffeine fix while playing with cats!
Cat cafes are prevalent in Japan, so there are really plenty of these to choose from. But since we were staying at Ikebukuro, I visited the one closest to it, which happened to be a cat café called Nekorobi – the very first cat café I have ever visited. I had not made any reservations prior to coming, although I did arrive late at night so it wasn’t too crowded. The kind staff welcomed me, but before stepping inside the café, I was asked to take my shoes off and wash my hands and put alcohol on them for sanitary purposes.
I stepped inside the cat café and was amazed. It was LITERALLY a cat café! Humans were enjoying a cup of joe while petting the furballs! Those who weren’t playing with the cats were doing something else, like playing games or working on their laptops, just as they would if they were in Starbucks; only, this time, they were surrounded by cats.
Even those who are not fans of cats and just want to chill in a different kind of coffee shop would probably enjoy spending time at Nekorobi. The ambiance is quite relaxing and conducive to working, reading, or just unwinding. The place is also very clean and well-maintained. That song by Phoebe Buffay from the show ‘Friends’ that goes “Smelly cat / smelly cat/ what are they feeding you?” That’s not applicable here because there is no funny feline funk here!
At Nekorobi, you can call the cats by saying “Here, kitty, kitty…” OR you can call them by their first name. The café has a little booklet that shows the basic “profile” of each of the cats, which includes their name, birthday, breed, gender, and profile photos (yes, just like Facebook!). It also has a short description of each of the cats so you can get to know your fluffy friends better.
I’d like you to meet some of the feline friends I’ve made at Nekorobi!
The entrance fee at Nekorobi is inclusive of free drinks from their vending machine. The machine has an extensive collection of drinks that visitors can sip on while getting cozy with the cats. Not only do they offer coffee but also juices and sodas.
I find it so adorable that Nekorobi has toys for the cats! Most of the toys are even shaped like cats. Isn’t that the cutest?
The concept of this cat cafe is really a cool one. Aside from sipping lattes and frisking about with the cats, there are plenty of other activities that guests can enjoy at Nekorobi. Here, guests have access to books and magazines, various games (playing cards, Uno, Jenga, etc.), a TV, DVDs, Wii, and PCs with internet. It’s really just like being at home, and the kind staff at Nekorobi really know how to make guests feel at home. Whenever I approached them to ask questions, they would patiently answer me. They volunteered to take my photo with the cats. Nekorobi feels like a happy home — a happy home with 11 cats lazing or loitering around!
However, while the staff are all sweet and friendly, sadly, most of the cats in Nekorobi aren’t as amiable. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not evil cats. They are all very well-behaved. They won’t just scratch you or hiss at you (or maybe they didn’t do that to me because they were in an okay mood at the time of my visit?) but don’t expect them to come nuzzling up against you while purring dotingly at you. Some of them will try to get away from you if they sense you approaching, while some will let you touch them but will just lie there in a frigid manner. My surmise is that because they are so spoiled and so used to people fawning over them, they’ve become so indifferent, whereas an abandoned cat that probably gets less love would probably be more excited about receiving attention and affection. There are still a few cats in Nekorobi that are engaging though. And regardless of how the cats respond, a visit to Nekorobi or any cat café is a must-try adventure when in Tokyo!
Nekorobi was a little hard to find for a Tokyo first-timer like myself. And since not all Japanese people can understand English, they didn’t know what I was talking about when I was going, “Where is the cat café? Cat café, you know… meow!!! (yes, with matching pawing and meowing sounds. Hahaha!)” But when I said “neko,” they immediately understood (“neko” means “cat” in Japanese. As in like the maneki-neko, which literally means “beckoning cat”). Nekorobi is located at the third floor of a building so it’s not that easy to spot, but it’s only a 4-minute walk from Sunshine City. From Sunshine City, walk northwest, take the crosswalk, until you see the Tact T.O. Building, which has a restaurant at the first floor (Nakau) and another at the second floor (Saffron Ikebukuro Indian Resto Bar). You can also view the building in Google Maps.
Curios about this cat café? Visit Nekorobi’s official website to see why this cat café is one of the best ones in Tokyo. Nekorobi Cat Café is really the cat’s meow!
Nekorobi Cat Café
Address: 3/F Tact T.O. Building, Higashi-Ikebukuro, Toyoshima-ku, Tokyo
Entrance Fees for the first 1 hour: 1,100 (weekdays) / 1,300 (for weekends and holidays)
250 (weekdays) / 300 (weekends) for an extension of every 15 minutes
Weekday special course: 2,400 for 3 hours
Opening Hours: 11AM – 10PM on weekdays, weekends, and holidays except the year-end and New Year holidays