I discovered this small cat cafe while en route to Yamatane Art Museum one day, and have been diligently clocking up on their point card since.
The Japanese seem to be market leaders in selling spas for the soul, inventing service industries that provide emotional support and fulfillment like no one else can ever think of doing. The cat cafe is one example of such ingenuity.
Cat cafes are generally spaces furnished to provide cats with playing and resting places, and also set up to fulfill the general function of a cafe. In fact, if we think of cafes as places where people go to soak up ambience and feel relaxed, then that is essentially the same as the function of a cat cafe.
Nyafe Melange is located just a short walk from the west exit of Ebisu JR station, and it has around 20-odd cat staff members. Some were from pet shops while others were picked up as strays, and they generally started working in the cafe as kittens, growing up quite used to interacting with guests.
According to the human staff, the cats are most energetic in the evening after 6 or 7pm, but there's more people visiting after work, so you might also want to go on weekday afternoons where there are fewer customers, even though the cats are mostly sleeping then. At the cafe, you can take photos (no flash), groom the cats (brush provided), or play with them (toys provided).
The cafe has free WIFI and some magazines. One side of the cafe, which is essentially two connected rooms, has a large window, which lets in plenty of light and has a very nice view of the streets below. If you're like me though, you're going to be watching the cats all the time anyway. If you're interested in getting to know the cats better, there are also albums of them from when they were kittens, and that might help you get to know their names. Find them on the magazine shelf below the ordering counter. Also, if you talk to the staff, they'd be very happy to tell you about each cat -- personality, who's related to whom, and so on.
The cafe in Ebisu doesn't have an English website, so I'll just briefly write about the standard protocol for this cafe in case the staff members don't speak much English.
Enter the cafe and register with the counter staff. You'll be asked which "course" you want: 1000yen/hr or 1500yen/1.5hr, and be politely requested to wash and sanitize your hands; the washroom is the door on the right close to where you entered. You'll also be asked if you need to use a locker, or you'll be given locker keys straightaway if it looks like you have big bags. On weekdays there's a free drink, and they have an English menu.
Leaving and Paying
Payment is made upon departure, so after registering you'll receive a name tag with the time of your entry printed on a card inside. You'll need to keep track of the time yourself (there's a clock on the wall). Time extensions are at 200yen per 10-minute extension. When you've sufficiently recharged yourself on the feline cuteness, you can retrieve your belongings and pay at the counter. Do lock the empty locker after you finish using it to prevent cats from getting into them, and do take care not to let any cats out when opening the door. There's a small spread of cat-related merchandises you can buy, just next to the cashier.
- Photographing is allowed, but the flash must be turned off.
- You cannot bring your own cat toys.
- Pre-school children are not allowed, and children must be supervised by adults.
- The cafe is not responsible for any problem caused by allergic reactions to cats.
Studies have long shown that stroking the fur of dogs and cats lowers blood pressure and provides stress relief, but it may not always be possible for people to provide a good environment for a pet to live in. A cafe where cat-lovers can visit and experience time with cats by making a contribution to their upkeep seems a good arrangement. Do make a trip over if you're tired from shopping or sight-seeing in Shibuya or Shinjuku, for this unique culture of the cat cafe in Japan.