Osaka is a lot like Tokyo in terms of fast-paced excitement, however it's got a little something extra. A little bit more raucous and edgy, Osaka is known to be the loudest city in Japan, which on a spectrum, is nowhere near deafening or vulgar, but stands out in this ultra-conservative country.
I found this to be delightfully true, especially in Dotonbori district, but don't expect such behavior in Osaka's cat cafes, which are peaceful, calm and quite refined!
The Neighbor's Cat visited nine Osaka cat cafes in June, 2017 and we have profiled five of the best. One word of note if you visit Osaka seeking out cat cafes. I attempted to visit twelve cafes, however ran into a bit of trouble with three. One was closed due to cat illness (and has since permanently closed), one was supposed to be open, but wasn't (Hogoneko) and one was closed due to remodeling and I believe has since re-opened (Ragdoll).
As is the case in most of Asia, cat cafes tend to open and close without much notice so do double check the status via Google, social media or The Neighbor's Cat before you go!
Circle of Friends: Save Cat Cafe
We made a friend in Sapporo who happened to be a cat lover.
At the time, it was just a fun conversation blurb, but it turned into one of our best cat cafe experiences during our visit to Japan. Thaeko, who was vacationing in Sapporo, had volunteered at Save Cat Cafe in the past and when she heard we were reviewing cat cafes, insisted we meet up in Osaka (where she lives) for a personalized afternoon outing.
One week later, on a warm and sunny Saturday, we made the twelve minute ride from Kyoto to Shin-Osaka station. From there we took the metro one stop down the line to Tenma where we met up with Thaeko and her friend for our first stop: an amazing lunch of Okonomiyaki.
But this isn't a restaurant review, so let's move on to our second stop: the kitties.
Save Cat is one of the few rescue focused cat cafes in Japan. There were seventeen kitties in residence during our visit and I was delighted at how affectionate they were as most had been living on the streets previously. We had an incredible hour of cuddling and playing with these sweet babies.
The cafe makes itself conducive for maximum cat interaction as there are no tables and chairs in the cat room. You are meant to sit on the floor with a blanket and furry feline on your lap. We happily obliged, sitting in a circle, smiling at each other while cats climbed over us to a soundtrack of soft jazz music.
In addition to the cat room, there is also a small cafe that serves a variety of drinks and snacks. With large windows separating the rooms, you can watch the action while sipping your beverage.
I was really impressed with the set up at Save Cat. The number of people allowed in the cat room is restricted to ensure plenty of one-on-one cat time. The room itself is clean and pleasant. But most importantly, the kitties are so incredibly sweet, I'm pretty sure I floated around the streets of Osaka after our time was up.
Save Cat Cafe is pure, unadultered delight!
First in Japan: Neko no Jikan (Kita Honten)
During my visit to Neko no Jikan (Kita Honten), I had no idea of the significance at the time.
It wasn't until much later I discovered it was the first cat cafe to open in Japan, way back in 2004! Not that you could tell, because everything inside is so fresh and clean, it all seems brand new.
The friendly attendant greeted me and accepted my payment, making sure I knew that a drink was included from the kitchen. After I removed my shoes, I entered the first of Neko no Jikan's two rooms, a traditional Japanese space complete with tatami mat flooring and shoji screens that felt very serene.
The other room had more of a happy cafe feel with a kitchen, bar and lounge area plus large windows with lots of natural sunlight.
Neko no Jikan's calm atmosphere is further enhanced with soft, almost lullaby-like guitar music, which probably explains why most of the cats were sleeping. About thirteen felines were in residence the day I visited, a variety of pedigrees and moggies that were fairly social, at least the ones that were awake.
After a bit of chin scratching with an enormous Norwegian Forest Cat, I grabbed an Orangina from the beverage bar and sat down to watch the action. There were a few other people in the cafe and everyone spoke quietly, almost as if we were in a temple.
The Japanese are big believers in the healing power from the presence of cats and while many cat cafes promote this, I found Neko no Jikan to be the best example. It was all so peaceful, I was shocked to later learn how long they had been open. After so many years, I can't imagine how hard the management must work to keep everything so lovely and zen-like.
When in Osaka, I strongly recommend that you prioritize a visit to Neko no Jikan Kita Honten (not to be confused with Neko no Jikan Amemura aka Cat of Liberty).
Vintage Feline: Cloud Nine
Located north of Shin-Osaka, in a quiet residential neighborhood, I didn't know I was about to experience a memorable cat cafe.
I felt a bit tentative when I stepped outside the M12 metro station Higashimikumi (exit 1 or 4) as I was quite aways from the action, but all that melted away when I walked inside Cloud Nine.
It's a beautifulIy decorated cafe, but I didn't see any cats initially so I grinned sheepishly at the barista while I posed the question 'Cats?' and while I'm pretty sure she didn't speak English, she smiled back and motioned upstairs. Once there, I discovered a small room with a two tables and five friendly felines that immediately greeted me.
While enjoying the kitties, I admired the decor. I loved the vintage-y vibe with comfy black leather club chairs surrounded by old-fashioned touches- a sewing machine, typewriter, telephone and books.
I was the only person in the room, which gave me plenty of alone time with the cats, especially the long-haired cuties with lion mane haircuts. Eventually someone provided me a menu, but I couldn't be sure if I was supposed to go downstairs to place my order or they were just accommodating me due to my lack of Japanese. Either way, my iced latte was delicious and nicely presented- definitely heads above the quality you usually find at Japanese cat cafes.
I was able to chat briefly with the gracious owner/manager while paying my bill. There is no fee if you order a beverage (which run Y850 or $7.67 USD), unless you stay more than three hours. She was surprised to see me as they don't often get tourist traffic, but I was so impressed by this lovely little place, I can't help but recommend it to everyone, especially tourists.
Cloud Nine offers a classy environment and with the friendly staff, lovely cats and delicious drinks- I will remember my visit here for years to come.
Zen Unique: Gurugurudo Neko Cafe
Located in busy Dotonbori, the neon-filled tourist district, Gurugurudo offers a respite from the chaos. The design, modeled after a zen den, combines antique Japanese furniture, green plants... and cats.
We planned to dine at Ajinoya, famed Michelin star restaurant for Okonomiyaki, but had one little task before doing so- visit this cat cafe.
It was nearly seven pm when we took an elevator to the fourth floor of the building where the cafe is located with a mixture of businesses. Inside the reception area, I paid the entrance fee and ordered a coconut chai latte, which was carefully crafted and among the best I had while visiting Japan's numerous cat cafes!
I noticed the cats immediately because they were plentiful (14-15) and beautiful, among them, several Maine Coons, a Ragdoll and two Munchkins.
I'm normally all about the kitties and they were certainly nice, but what really stood out to me at this cat cafe was the unique atmosphere. I loved the whole vibe- dark wooden floors, hint of incense and the kind of soft music you might hear during a massage, all very pleasing to the senses.
My only critique(s) would be the lighting as it was a bit too bright/harsh and the old-fashioned furniture, while beautiful to look at, was not particularly comfortable. It ended up being fine because I spent most of my time moving around the room and petting cats, but it's not the kind of cafe where you would bring your laptop and settle in with a cup of coffee.
Overall, I highly recommend popping into Gurugurudo if you are in Dotonbori and need a break. The relaxing environment, delicious drinks and gorgeous cats will be just what the doctor ordered.
Cafe Mocha Shinsaibashi
Cafe Mocha Shinsaibashi has the same standard of quality as the rest of the Mocha chain, but that's, unfortunately, part of the problem.
Tucked away from the main road in a windowless space (unusual since most Mocha's also offer fantastic views), when I walked in I was dumbstruck by the cafe's beautiful environment and equally beautiful cats. I immediately envisioned myself sitting on the beautiful plaid couch relaxing to the sounds of soft guitar music while petting my favorite cat.
It was fun to imagine, even if it didn't exactly turn out that way.
As stated before, the facility is truly stunning (and impossibly clean) with sophisticated decor incorporating light wood and a celery green palette. You know this is Mocha based its signature elements- a massive tree in the center of the cafe along with a wall lined with bird cage inspired platforms. I admire the vertical nature of Mocha's cat interiors, something I wish more cat cafes would do, equally pleasing for both felines and people.
Speaking of cats, Mocha Shinsaibashi has some of the most gorgeous kitties, mainly long-haired beauties with featherduster-like tails, but I found myself particularly smitten with one handsome Abyssinian. There was a fairly decent number of cats in residence, but most seem to be a bit 'over it' at this point and are uninterested in people, so forget about those visions of a lap visitor.
Such is the 'problem' with the Mocha experience, a feast for the eyes, but not so much for the soul. It's all a bit commercial for my taste.
The cost of Y200 per 10 minutes is nice if you are just in the neighborhood and want to do a quick pop in, but could be really pricy if you wanted to relax and hang out. The vending machine dispenses average quality drinks, which are an extra charge.
In a nutshell, if you want to hang in a super lovely space, gaze upon some very pretty cats (especially the rarer breeds), and take some Instagram-worthy photos, Cafe Mocha Shinsaibashi will do the trick. If you are hoping for a little kitty love or crave a more personal experience, another Osaka cafe might be a better fit.
The Neighbor’s Cat is the alter ego of Paula LaBine, an itinerant cat lover who writes about cat cafes and rescue/adoption/TNR, and has been featured in Miau Magazine, Katzenworld Blog and The Catnip Times. She is currently on a quest to visit every cat café in the world, 200 in 29 countries so far! Find her at theneighborscat.com or on Facebook/Twitter @catcafeviews.