Tokyo can be overwhelming for anyone. The crowds, the signs, the neon lights, the traffic etc. all add up to a lot of sensory overload. So what do you do when you need to unwind? Heading back to your hotel room is an option (but boring). How about unwinding like many Japanese do? Head to an animal cafe and spend some time playing with a borrowed pet. After an extensive search, I found a wonderful cat cafe where my kids and I spent a couple of hours hanging out with some adorable cats.
Visiting A Cat Cafe with Kids
It’s not easy to fin a cat cafe with kids in tow. Many places have a restriction saying you need to be 12+ to be allowed inside the cat cafe. These places are worried about overly rambunctious children terrorising their beloved kitties.
We chose Cat Cafe Nekorobi which is a small cat cafe with about 14 cats on their roster. We went early afternoon (post lunch-time and before the after-work crowd). We were there with only a few other Japanese people. Contrary to what I expected, it wasn’t all young unmarried women but some couples and some single men.
Some of the cats were sleeping and others did not want to be bothered. There were enough cats though that wanted to play to make the experience completely entertaining. They all had different personalities and we each quickly found our favourites. My daughter and I loved the one that we called Grumpy Cat because his face made him look like the famous Grumpy Cat of internet fame. My son liked the dumb kitten who would chase his own tail and always wanted to play.
You are asked to put away your belongings in a locker. Then your hands are disinfected before you are allowed to play with the cats. The cafe has lots of cat toys at your disposal. There are two small sofas as well as a table and chairs if you just want to sit. Wifi is free and excellent as is the vending machine providing drinks. Although you are only a couple of floors above street level on a busy Tokyo street, the atmosphere is quiet and chilled.
Animal Cafes in Tokyo
So, why cat cafes? We learned that many people in Tokyo live in apartment blocks that have pet restrictions. If you are an animal lover then the only way to get some pet cuddling time is to go to one of these cafes. Hence, why they are very popular. I’m pretty sure my brother (owner of 3 cats) and my husband (known as the Cat Whisperer in my family because he can charm any cat) would both be regular attendees at these cat cafes if they lived in Tokyo.
There are about 30 cat cafes in Tokyo which are probably the most popular type of animal cafe. There are also other types of animal cafes for rabbits, birds, owls, snakes, reptiles, dogs and even penguins. Basically most types of pets are covered by some sort of cafe. Where in Tokyo and The Japan Times have a handy list of animal cafes – you will need to check individually though to see if they allow children to visit. We wanted to go to the Dog Cafe (Dog Heart) but ran out of time.
Animal cafes need to be booked ahead of time if you want to go at peak times like the weekend or in the evenings. We went to a rabbit cafe, R.a.a.g.f in Harajuku which had the most adorable (really fat) rabbits. Unfortunately, we went after the Halloween Parade on a weekend. The only time slot R.a.a.gf. could give us was inconvenient with dinner plans we had made with friends. They were incredibly kind though and saw the disappointment on my children’s faces. They let my children coo over the rabbits for a few minutes even though there was a line of people waiting to get in for the next round of rabbit cuddling.
I had to insist on my kids leaving the Nekorobi Cat Cafe after a couple of hours. After all, we didn’t come to Tokyo to spend hours on end hanging out in a cat cafe. My children thought it was one of the best experiences they had in Tokyo. We tried to attend some other animal cafes but ran out of time. I have promised my children that we can schedule more animal cafes when we do a return visit to Tokyo at some point in the future. Yes, we will be returning! My children loved Tokyo.
Useful Details for the Nekorobi Cat Cafe
The Nekorobi Cat Cafe is located on Higashi-Ikebukuro which is a main street in the Ikebukuro neighbourhood of Tokyo. There is a Higashi-Ikebukuro stop on the subway which I suggest you take. Then follow the handy map on their website for a few blocks and the Nekorobi Cat Cafe is on a corner building. The building is called T.O. Building and is right on that main road. Go in through the side entrance and go up a couple of floors.
We got really lost trying to find the cat cafe but had some lovely Japanese people who helped us. We made the mistake of using the Ikebukuro subway stop which made it unnecessarily hard to find Higashi Ikebukuro.
Nekorobi Cat Cafe is open 11:00 AM to 10:00 pm 7 days a week. As I said, previously, however, evenings and weekends tend to get booked quickly by the regulars who come after work.