Did you know that Tokyo has a 'cat town'? The quaint, traditional neighbourhood of Yanaka, which stretches southwards from Nippori Station, is home to plenty of friendly stray cats. As such, you’ll find many businesses here inspired by or simply celebrating these adorable felines, including cafés, gift shops and even a gallery. Here are four of Yanaka’s best cat-friendly locations, plus four more pawsome venues in other parts of Tokyo.
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Things to do in Tokyo if you love cats
Venture out to Mizonokuchi Station in Tokyo’s neighbouring prefecture Kanagawa – only a 15-minute train ride from Shibuya Station – and participate in a one-of-a-kind yoga session. At the rescue cat café Neko Shiki you can relax, stretch and pose in the company of charming felines on the third Sunday and fourth Saturday of each month from 10am. As yoga mats are provided, you only have to bring some comfortable clothing, a towel and water. It’s okay to interact with the cats during the 60-minute class (¥2,990) – but you might want to avoid striking a downward dog pose.
Snacking along the Yanaka Ginza shopping street is a must when visiting Tokyo’s ‘cat town’, and Manekiya should definitely be on your list. This little take-out joint sells taiyaki in the shape of lucky cats, which it calls ‘fuku-nyan-yaki’, and you can watch the staff make the classic dessert in large cast-iron pans. The little crunchy cakes come in four different fillings: red bean paste, custard cream, matcha with red bean paste or pizza flavour. So make sure to get at least two different flavours for comparison – you won’t regret it.
Neco Sekai, close to Kichijoji Station, sells everything a cat-parent’s heart desires. This speciality pet store carries a large selection of toys and collars for your cats as well as more luxurious items including hammocks, chalice-shaped bowls and automatic water dispensers. It even has trendy bags and backpacks to carry your fur-kid in. If you’re looking for cat-themed gifts for the owners instead, Neco Sekai also offers tote bags, accessories, coin cases and more, all featuring adorable cat motifs.
Set in a renovated 90-plus-year-old wooden house in Yanaka, Café Nekoemon lets you paint your own maneki-neko figurine over a cup of tea and some sweets (set with small figurine ¥1,650, or ¥2,200 for a bigger moggy). If you’ve already purchased a cute beckoning cat at its sister shop next door, then just come for the kitty-shaped pastries and cakes: Mont Blanc, cheesecake (both at ¥495 each) or the black or white éclair (¥440). Japanese-style desserts are available as well – think anmitsu (jelly in sugar syrup topped with red bean jam) or ice cream with red bean paste, both of which come with wafers in the shape of a cat’s head and a cup of green tea (¥770 each).
Tucked away on a side street in Yanaka, Gallery Necomachi holds exclusively cat-themed exhibitions. An ivy-covered stone staircase, adorned with realistic-looking white cat figurines at the bottom and on top plus a feline-shaped fence, leads to the three-storey building. The storybook setting brings to mind Studio Ghibli films, in particular ‘Whisper of the Heart’ and ‘The Cat Returns’. Exhibitions change regularly, covering a wide range of mediums from ceramic art and sculpture to painting and photography. Note that the gallery is only open from Thursday through to Sunday.
You can spot Neco Action easily from afar – two comical black cats with yellow eyes greet you from the large sign above the entrance. Step into a shopful of kitty-themed souvenirs, spanning from stationery, T-shirts, towels and socks to tumblers, mugs, magnets, phone cases and much else besides. You can even shop for items created in collaboration with local cat-loving artists, such as hand-painted and realistic-looking maneki-neko (lucky cat) figurines by illustrator Hitomi, paintings by Japanese artist Inukai, and unique cat figurines made out of clay by artist Rie.
Standard latte art is unlikely to make much of an impression after you've laid eyes on the 3D foam cats decorating the drinks at this cute café. That's not to say it's all show and no go, either: the coffee, tea and hot chocolate at Oshiage Nyanko are expertly crafted, while the molasses and black sugar matcha soy latte is a thing of beauty.
This charming cat café introduces you to a whole new level of cuteness. Located within the themed shopping and food ‘village’ Kichijouji Petit Mura, the facade looks like a magical cat-kingdom castle straight out of a fairy tale. A selection of 20 cats are on hand to be cuddled, and offer highly Instagrammable photo opportunities, especially at feeding time. When it comes to snacks, the smart money’s on the tasty parfaits garnished with cute cat-shaped cookies.
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