Let's talk cafes.
First of all, I am from Minnesota, so when someone says "Let's go to a cafe!" They're just using fancy-language to refer to coffee shops. Additionally, said coffee shop is nine times out of ten either the Starbucks just-around-the-corner, or the Caribou coffee right-at-the-end-of-the-road. If you still cannot find one there, simply turn around 180 degrees and walk 100 paces back and then 75 paces East. (If you ever go to good-ol' MN, you can join the relationship-rupturing debate of Caribou v. Sbuxs for yourself, but now is not the time for that.)
Likewise, in big metropolitan areas like Tokyo, cafes are an essential element to any and all streets, and they are as prevalent and conspicuous as fur on the black sweater of your neighborhood cat lady. Fear not; never will you lack a place to buy overpriced, caffeinated drinks in Tokyo. The difference, though, (the mystical, intriguing difference) from the Starbucks ghost that haunts the street corners in the U.S. is the variety.
Say hello to my friend, Grumpy Cat's Angrier Step Brother.
This was the first thing I saw in the window of the cat cafe I went to with a friend. (I am quite surprised they allowed Angry Cat to sit, scowling at passerby, in the shop window. I cannot image it is great for business.) REGARDLESS. You read that correctly; I wrote, "Cat cafe." As in a cafe whose main attraction, rather than coffee or pastries, is the numerous cats lazily lounging around the room, whom you attempt to coax from various beds or tall carpeted platforms for a designated amount of time.
My own experience at a cat cafe went something like this:
At the door, we were initially asked to wait for twenty minutes because the cafe was too crowded to accommodate anymore customers. (It was a ちょっとせまい <choto semai i.e. slightly narrow> shop, after all.) When we came back, we had to decide at the entrance how long we were going to stay (thirty, sixty, or ninety minutes; we decided thirty minutes was time enough), and were directed to a tiny counter at back of the shop, where both my friend and I were required to order a drink. After that, we were asked to wash our hands, and then given a book that had pictures and cute/ interesting descriptions of all the cats that had at one point been at the store (including the ones who had "graduated" because they were too wild, and the ones who had passed away).
Mom, I am doing well here in Japan. Look! Selfies with my friends.
My friend, Alex, and his disgruntled buddy.
Cat toys lined the walls, and from the counter in the back, we had the option to purchase treats or tuna to feed to the cats. Then, for the rest of our thirty minutes, we were allowed to lounge around on the floor or chairs next to the cats, petting them, playing with them, or engaging in wary, sleep-eyed stare downs.
A Word to my Cat Lover followers: Buy the tuna.
I can honestly say that before coming to Japan I never thought I would pay money to be sassily ignored by felines. What an interesting experience.
But it doesn't end there! There are a bunch of different kinds of animal cafes in Japan: bird cafes, dog cafes, bunny cafes, even goat, reptile, and owl cafes! (I really want to go to an owl cafe; it's high up on the bucket list.) When I was talking to my Nana about animal cafes, she gave her opinion in her kind but straightforward way, "That's very... odd." True. I thought so, too. So when I had one of my CORE classes (Cultural Observation Reflection and Evaluation), I brought it up with my mentor, and we discussed why such cafes might exist. We arrived at a similar hypothesis that my Nana had suggested, perhaps the reason is because it is often too difficult for people living in Tokyo to keep pets. Maybe its because the spaces are small, and/ or perhaps keeping a pet means paying a higher rent, which some people might not be able to afford. Regardless, such cafes give animal lovers a place to go to relax beside the creatures they adore.
FURTHERMORE, there are plenty of other different types of cafes, too. Theme cafes, such as the ガンダム (Gundam) or AKB48 cafes located right next to the JR Akihabara station, celebrate pop culture and popular interests. I have also heard stories and/or see the store fronts of manga cafes, internet cafes, and even maid/ butler cafes; though, I have yet to actually go into any of those places myself. Down a more familiar road, there are also classy, expensive roof-top cafes, French cafes, tiny sandwich and coffee cafes, and, yes, there is even the occasional Starbucks. Cafes in Japan are more than just your standard expensive coffee (though, you can definitely find those places, if that is what you enjoy); cafes are places of entertainment, places to relax. Cafes can be strange and unique experiences, or calming, quiet spaces to study. If you don't like the atmosphere of one, you can always walk out the door, and pace down three store fronts into the next one.
I love Tokyo; there is so much interesting everywhere you go.
Catch you on the rays of a later sunrise!
P.S.- I apologize for the few sideways pictures. I don't know how to fix it, so I hope it doesn't bother anyone too much!