The area around Akasaka-Mitsuke Station isn’t exactly the first place in Tokyo that springs to mind when you think of ‘soothing’: the scores of hotels, glass-and-steel structures and, of course, the elevated highways crisscrossing through make it quite ugly and unnerving. However, beneath Benkei Bridge, there's actually a place where you can while away the time and forget about the pressures of city life – namely, the Benkeibashi boating pier.
You can either sit on the floating pier and fish from there, or get in a boat and try your angling luck along the moat. Although a great way to get a slight feel for nature in the middle of the city, that’s not the only chillaxing benefit offered at the pier. Descend the steps leading towards the water and you’ll be welcomed by Torami, the cat-receptionist – our named and shamed 'Public cat'.
Originally, it was Torami’s mother, Kuro (now aged ten) who wandered onto the Benkeibashi pier when she was between three and six months old. Mr Asanuma, the pier owner, took her in, and after Torami was born, the mother-and-daughter pair soon took over advertising activities at Benkeibashi.
Unlike her diligent daughter, Kuro is known to relax around the office without doing a lot of work, and is therefore less likely to be spotted. However, once in a while she’ll stretch her paws and go for a wander, so if you do meet her, consider yourself lucky.
The rather cute combo of jet-black cat and red collar
In contrast, Torami seems to like most humans – especially those who spend money at the pier, we suspect – and enjoys being an active hostess outside on busy weekends. On the comparatively quiet weekdays, she joins her mum in lazing around the office, but as soon as Asanuma calls, she deftly descends from her little nook.
Some time ago, a few ill-mannered stray cats managed to rough up Kuro pretty badly, so Kuro and Torami now both sleep in the office for safety reasons. They've truly made the place their home – perhaps they're already plotting to take over the business altogether?
When placed on the reception desk, Torami attentively stands guard without moving a paw. But once in a while, she’ll have a little yawn or a slight stretch – an extremely laidback receptionist, this one.
Checking the time while stretching
At the end of the day, Torami is quite serious, as you'd expect from a true business kitty. There's no playing around on the boats or eating the freshly caught fish on the pier with this one – apparently she doesn't even like raw fish, preferring anchovies and Sheba packets instead.
Look up from Benkeibashi pier and you’ll see a typical city scene, but lower your eyes and you'll witness a quite different spectacle. Three mischievous characters – Torami the walking billboard, Asanuma the boss, and Kuro the shy puppet master – working together to seduce unsuspecting anglers, boat enthusiasts and random passers-by.
Photos by Kisa Toyoshima