TOKYO —On the third floor of a rather plain looking building in Ikebukuro, there is a small but busy cafe called Nekorobi. Customers do not come here for the food but for the staff, a sophisticated crew of 12 that are as varied as they are beautiful.
After disinfecting their hands and putting on a specially provided pair of slippers, customers can talk to and play with Sugar, Aisha, Anko and the others for as long as they like, if they are willing to pay.
Nekorobi is one of Tokyo’s ever-growing numbers of cat cafes. Faced with a high cost of living, long working hours and the realities of life in cramped apartments, many Japanese people are unable to keep pets of their own.Cat cafes have increased in number for the Japanese population that is increasingly single and childless, and where loneliness is also a rising problem.
The world’s first cat cafe opened in Taiwan in 1998, but after it became popular with Japanese tourists, Japan’s first cat cafe, Neko no Jikan (or “Cat Time”), opened in Osaka in 2004. There are now at least 39 cat cafes in Tokyo alone, and some are so popular that reservations are required. Because of this popularity, the cats have also become mini-celebrities, starring in magazines and coffee table books.