Fast paced. High energy. Trend setting. Leading edge. Catty?
If you are looking for the latest in culture, trends, shopping, dining, or even cats, consider Tokyo (home of Hello Kitty) the perfect muse.
But in the world's most populous metropolitan area (nearly double that of NYC), even experienced travelers can be overwhelmed seeking out inspiration.
The Neighbor's Cat traveled to Tokyo in May, 2017 with the aim of visiting every cat cafe, and found the task much like the city itself, exciting, yet daunting.
With determination and a Japan Rail (JR) pass, I managed to drop by 24 feline emporiums in ten days. But even with all that kooky kitty-ness, leave it to Tokyo to put a stroller filled with ten fluffy furballs in my path. You can't make this stuff up.
To save you the time and money, The Neighbor's Cat has selected the best cat cafes Tokyo has to offer, so you can hunt down more inspiration. Or a pushchair full of cats.
Best Overall: Monta
High above the Taito neighborhood, this cat cafe delights in many ways. So much so, it has officially made the list of Top Five Cat Cafes in the World.
Yes, Monta stands out amongst the 100+ cafes I've personally visited across the globe as it exceeds expectations in all areas- cats, coffee, facility and staff. It's everything a cat cafe should be.
First, naturally, the cats are top notch. The owner has one each of the nine cutest breeds out there including Bengal, Russian Blue, Ragdoll, Maine Coon, Abyssinian and my personal new favorite, Somali.
Each one of these cats is a rock star in his/her own right with equal measures of beauty, sociability and playfulness. I was particularly enamored of Kenta, the aforementioned Somali who is so gorgeous, I just stared at him before he finally moved out of my line of sight. Then, I made eyes at Aby, the Abyssinian and Jack, the Norwegian Forest Cat. While those cats were relatively chill, Lili the Bengal was super playful and curious, chasing a string and sniffing my coffee.
Speaking of coffee, this is another reason why Monta is getting the nod on my favorites list. I'm pretty generous with the cafe side of things, so if they are more about cats than coffee, I'm ok with that. Japan has a fairly loose definition of a 'cafe' when it comes to cat cafes, with most serving hot drinks from a vending machine that are not the highest quality beverages you will find.
But Monta rises above this with real espresso drinks on offer that are delicious! They also serve tea and beer, plus a limited selection of pizza, pasta and pastries. The cost of food and drinks is not included in the entrance fee.
The facility itself is wonderful. Super clean, nicely decorated and cozy without being cluttered, the owner has created a room that stands out as one that has been thoughtfully created to please both cats and humans. I especially appreciated the warm lighting, which so many cafes fail to get right with harsh, fluorescent overheads that are serious buzz kills. I also enjoyed meeting the owner, a genial man who clearly loves these kitties and running his cafe. He genuinely wants you to enjoy the cats and the time you spend here.
As I sat inside Monta's lovely space surrounded by nine gorgeous cats and delicious cup of coffee in my hand while overlooking the Tokyo skyline, it struck me that this is an ideal cat cafe.
Most Unique: Temari no Ouchi
Just when I thought that Caturday was going to take the title for the most creative cat cafe, along comes the fairy tale that is Temari no Ouchi.
It's not difficult to forget reality as you sip a coffee in this pint sized cat village. With a style best described as hobbit house chic, Temari no Ouchi (Temari's House) provides a destination experience that will leave you smiling.
Billed as a relaxation space, the price to enter the cafe is steep, even by Tokyo standards. One hour will set you back Y1200 ($10.97) on the weekdays or Y1600 ($14.62) on the weekend-- which doesn't include food and drinks.
It was already crowded when I arrived around 11 on a Monday morning, and was seated near the back on a bench that was made to look like faux wood. This did provide me a good vantage point to observe the activities in progress. The kitties (approximately twelve) were quite active, either scampering randomly around patrons seated on the floor at small tables or racing back and forth as they chased toys wielded by the friendly, uniformed staff. In any case, the atmosphere was festive and it seemed focused on entertainment vs. a quiet place to sip coffee and work on your laptop.
I've never heard a cat pant like a dog before, but one racing kitty did just that as he rested near me-- complete with his tongue hanging out. These fur babies certainly had lots of personality, although many resisted being petted so definitely not a lap cat place.
With a fun environment, playful cats and decent foodservice, Temari no Ouchi is a unique place to visit, especially on vacation. Be warned that it is exceedingly popular and reservations are recommended unless you go first thing on a weekday morning like I did.
Friendliest Staff: Cafe Nekorobi
Visiting so many cat cafes has proven to have a downside. I’m getting a little jaded.
Which is unfortunate because cats in any type of setting should be a joy-inducing delight. But after so many visits in Japan, pickiness had started to creep in, and I found myself mentally docking points for any hint of cat urine odor, rooms with bad lighting, apathetic staff or cups of sludge masquerading as coffee.
Then, along came Nekorobi, which was a breath of fresh air.
My initial impression of the cafe was that, while pleasant and odor-free, it had no special features that stood out. But when I stepped inside, I was pleasantly surprised by a super cheerful attendant, who seemed genuinely passionate about the cats, and gave me the details without a hint of overbearance. Café workers attitudes really make a difference in first impressions and this set the tone for a wonderful above-average afternoon.
Once my fee was paid (900 yen for 30 minutes including unlimited free drinks from a coffee machine), I was shown the coffee machine in between receiving tips on which cats like belly rubs and which like to chase string. There was a mention of a kitten that would make a playful and popular appearance later in the hour.
I particularly loved the cats here. Plenty of them (twenty total) and all manner of breeds. Most were incredibly social and many enjoyed playing. A few were dressed up in goofy outfits, which I tend to frown upon as I can’t imagine they like it, but all seemed good natured about the whole thing.
I stayed for an hour watching gleeful (and well-behaved) children play with the younger cats and gently pet the older ones. The smiles on their faces were priceless and I remember thinking this is what makes cat cafes worthwhile endeavors- they create pure joy.
The vibe at Café Nekorobi is a happy and relaxed one, and while there are few bells and whistles, the simplicity means you can focus on the adorable cats.
Friendliest Cats: Cat Cafe Nyankoto
Cat Cafe Nyankoto was the first cafe we visited in Tokyo and it stands out, luckily, for all the right reasons.
Nyankoto is run by a motivated owner who wants you to have a good time. The setting is clean, fresh and very home-like with much of the seating on the floor where you can grab a fuzzy blanket and wait for the cats to fight over your lap. These kitties are incredibly playful and social- amongst the most friendly cats I've come across in all of my world travels. A variety of feline friends await you, including kittens, which are brought out sparingly to avoid over-stimulating them.
The visitors to this cafe are less tourist and more local, owing to the very reasonable entrance fee of 800 yen/hour which include a free beverage. However, the owner has some English and is exceptionally welcoming to foreigners and locals alike, even offering everyone in the room a handful of cat treats for just 100 yen, a total bargain.
I found Cat Cafe Nyankoto to be a delight and am confident that you will walk away smiling, just as we did.
Most Relaxing: Cafe 299
Café 299 was hard to find, but once there, even harder to leave.
It came up on a random list from a Google search online but when I tried to Google map it, I couldn’t.
Undeterred as I am in my quest to visit every cat café in the world, I narrowed the area on Maps.me and after doing a double take on the street, had my aha moment. On the 5th floor of a six-story building, I enjoyed the vibe of the café, the second I arrived. Less posh than Mocha, but nicer than many of the cafes in the Tokyo area, Café 299 strikes a good balance between a slightly upscale environment that also feels completely welcoming and cozy, with tons of comfy couches and even actual beds!
Precisely the type of place you would want to cuddle up with a cup of coffee and a kitty.
The pricing system is also a bit different, which is nice for those short on time- each ten minute increment costs 200 yen ($1.81 USD) with coffee (from a machine) an extra charge.
I counted about fifteen cats, a bit on the low side considering how large the room is, and it felt like patrons were vying for the attention of the few cats that were awake.
I had a very enjoyable 40 minutes. My couch was so comfortable, I had to force myself to leave after one sweet kitty had fallen asleep next to me.
Put Café 299 on your list when you need a break from the chaos that is Tokyo.
Most Posh: Mocha Lounge Ikebukuro
In terms of sheer beauty, Mocha Lounge Ikebukuro wears the crown.
The space is aptly named as the first thing I wanted to do when I entered this cat cafe was to throw myself on one of the many lounge stations and just bask in the atmosphere.
Upscale to be sure, with prices to match, Mocha also stands out in space-strapped Tokyo for its sheer enormity. It's one of the largest cat cafes I've visited and the biggest in the Mocha chain.
Lest you think this reviewer a diva only capable of finding favor in conventionally gorgeous places, please see the excellent reviews for Cat Eyes, Momi and Miau, decidedly scruffy places that are actually charming when cute kitties and engaged staff are involved.
But alas, it is the facility that helps put this cafe in coveted 4.5 paw overall score range, and despite lower scores for staff (spent more time cleaning than anything else) and food/drink (decent vending machine drinks, but still), the stand out felines also make this place a treat. Luscious long-haired beauties such as Persians, Somalis, Maine Coons and American Curls provide plenty of eye candy while you kick back and relax after a long day of sight seeing on the busy streets of Tokyo.
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.