Can Tokyoites ever get enough of cats? Not only are felines taking over the internet – they're also expanding their presence from our fair city's homes, alleyways and parks to stores, cafés and restaurants, purringly tricking unsuspecting customers into ordering yet another coffee or piece of cake in exchange for a few more minutes with his or her meowy majesty. Our new 'Public cat' series aims to find, name and shame these business-minded kitties, uncovering their whereabouts and letting you know exactly how to, uh, avoid falling for their charms.
Our first site of investigation is retro Shinjuku kissaten Cafe Arles, known for flagrantly employing felines for well over a decade. The café's original mascot, Goemon, ruled the roost here until his summer 2015 death at the grand old age of 19.
The venerable Goemon, healthy at 17
The café's human staff paid tribute to their fallen master by playing a video of Goemon virtually non-stop over a month, but the sadness eventually became too much to bear. Just when it seemed all hope was lost, one regular put Arles's owner in touch with a cat rescue volunteer, who was looking for a place ready to house a kitty – which, incidentally, bore an uncanny resemblance to Goemon. The purry newcomer arrived soon enough, bringing a friend in tow – and so Arles fell under the yoke of dynamic duo of Jirocho and Ishimatsu.
Jirocho (left) and Ishimatsu (right)
Fittingly, the wily cats' names come from late Edo-era Robin Hood figure Jirocho Shimizu and his loyal underlings, one of whom was known as Mori no Ishimatsu.
The owner scheming with Jirocho
Jirocho, a male kitty with a penchant for taking walks with the café owner and hanging out on the plush couches – just like his predecessor used to do – stays stylish with a red bow tie and well-manicured whiskers.
Ishimatsu, meanwhile, lives up to his outlaw-inspired name by rummaging around the café, occasionally stealing milk from the tables and acting completely innocent when caught.
Ishimatsu caught in the act?
Aiming for some milk...
Ever since teaming up, these two baddies have been all but inseparable, relentlessly drawing up new plans of domination while sharing food and hiding their tricks from human eyes. Don't be fooled by their seductive appearance – Jirocho and Ishimatsu are obviously up to no good...
Jirocho and Ishimatsu (both male)
Daily work schedule:
The retro furniture betrays this quirky coffee shop’s ’70s origins. Cafe Arles sits just far enough from central Shinjuku to be spared a constant influx of shoppers, meaning that you can spend a few hours nursing a single cup of coffee and flicking through the shop's library of manga and photo albums...