Love your neighborhood coffee joint but feel a lack of feline energy? Check out Japan's cat cafés, where cat lovers can pay to play with furry felines all while enjoying a relaxing beverage or snack.
The concept began in Taiwan in 1998, but has found a special foothold in Japan, where more than 150 cat cafés have opened in the last ten years. While it might seem like a gimmicky fad, the cafés actually attract a large number of tourists and locals alike. In Japanese cities, many residents lack the space or time to care for their own cats, and the cat cafés offer animal interaction for a minimal investment.
"It's definitely a stop for tourists. The one I visited in Shinjuku was mainly full of foreigners," says Sharla Hinskens, a Canadian student living in Japan. "But when I visited the smaller shop outside of the big city area, I was surprised at the number of local Japanese business men that were there. I talked to one of them, and he said cat cafés are a great place to relax and forgot about work, so he comes at least once a week."
Prices vary, but a visit to a cat café isn't cheap: one of Tokyo's most popular charges 900 yen (around nine U.S. dollars) for an hour of cat time. Drinks run another 200 yen (cheaper than Starbucks). For the safety of the cats, the establishments have rules, like forbidding visitors to wake a sleeping cat or take pictures using a flash camera.
To learn more about the cat cafés, watch Hinskens' video, below.