Thanks to Japan’s relative isolation from other countries, the Japanese have managed to create a distinctive and unparalleled culture for themselves. This is a country which sells everything from shoes to umbrellas out of vending machines, has three separate alphabets (kanji, hiragana and katakana) and where KFC is the nation’s favourite Christmas dinner.
These are just a handful of examples of Japanese culture which intrigues foreigners and draws them to the country. Witnessing the famous springtime Sakura (cherry blossom), to enjoying the restorative effects of natural onsen hot springs, and even revelling in the “champagne-powder” snow found in the ski resorts on the northern island of Hokkaido are other common motivations to visit Japan. Yet, out of the plethora of cultural activities on offer, visiting a rescue cat cafe is another reason to add to the list.
Saving Cats in the City
Visiting a cat cafe may sound jarring to most westerners, with the idea of pedigree felines kept in cafes to reel in tourists feeling a bit unfair (as with fashionable dog, hedgehog or owl-themed cafes). But the concept of a rescue animal cafe is something entirely different. Neu Cat & Vegan is one type of animal rescue cafe, run by a local woman in Osaka who is on a mission to save the cats in her city. There is a nationwide problem with stray cats on the streets of Japan, and the owner of Neu Cat & Vegan strives to resolve this by rescuing street cats (with the help of a few friends), bringing them to safety in the haven of her cafe. Here, visitors are welcome to cuddle and play with these kitties, and even apply for adoption. Visiting Neu Cat & Vegan certainly provides a true Japanese experience. As with Japanese custom, shoes must be removed before entering a building, and the cafe offers visitors slippers to wear inside. Playing with the cats (often referred to as “children” by the Japanese) is paid for by the hour, with the option of adding on extra time. The cat play area is pristine, with litter trays in a separate room for the cats to have some privacy (and to retreat if they are feeling a little shy), plus a selection of toys are free to use. There are around 16 rescue cats enjoying the cafe space, each with a photo and their name displayed on the wall, ready for adoptive cat parents.
And a Great Menu Too…
Visitors can also opt for a vegan lunch at the cafe. Neu Cat & Vegan has a menu offering a delicious variety of Japanese dishes, all cooked fresh by the owner. Dishes range from sweet and sour crispy soy meat to quinoa rainbow vegetable medleys and bean burgers, all served with miso soup, rice and salad. The dining area is located upstairs where the cats aren’t allowed, so visitors can enjoy their meal in peace before or after their playtime. The moggies in Neu Cat & Vegan are unlike the sleek pedigree breeds found in other cat cafes. In comparison, these rescue cats all have distinctive characters, with some having physical reminders of their past lives on the streets, from bitten ears to missing tails. It can be a sad sight, but it brings an additional sense of joy to see how delighted the cats are for their new home and for the affection they receive from visitors.
Capture the Culture
Japan is full of incredible experiences and a unique culture, and visiting a rescue cat cafe is part of this. Not only can you enjoy an equal exchange of joy between you and the cats, visiting a rescue cat cafe will give you a different insight into Japanese culture.